How to Fly
Since time immemorial man has dreamed of flying, of stretching out one’s arms and soaring high above the earth, looking down with a mixture of pride and pity at the state of those lowly beings below. But, no, I am not writing about that kind of flying. Summer is upon us, and I am speaking about vacation-type flying on our nation’s commercial aircraft, entrusting our country’s airlines to navigate the “Friendly Skies” for us. One would think that once we have purchased a ticket and presented ourselves at our local airport we can be virtually assured of getting to where we want to go, but recent history has shown this to be a false assumption. In reality, we must call upon a combination of experience and skill to enable us to secure a seat and take off from the tarmac.
The first hurdle that must be cleared is safe passage through security. Considering the wide variety of items now subject to close scrutiny, it is no wonder so many would-be travelers have a difficult time reaching their departure gate. In order to have a chance at success, think in terms of the Big Three: shoes, belt, and laptop. Each one of these objects could be the reason you are stopped in your tracks. You must shed both your shoes and belt, and openly present your laptop computer for inspection at airport security. If you bungle any one of these three, chances are the TSA on duty will be inspecting a lot more of you than you would care to imagine. Even a clumsy presentation of shoes, belt, or laptop may mean trouble. Consider the TSA watching some clod stumble out of his shoes, get his belt hung up on one of his pant loops before whipping it out and accidentally striking the woman behind him with the buckle, then proceed to drop his laptop on the floor while pulling it out of its case. These are obvious signs of extreme nervousness which the TSA will take as sure indications of deviousness. Next thing you know, this unfortunate individual is selected for an intimate body search in which much more than his laptop will be groped.
You may ask yourself why not avoid this kind of embarrassment by showing up at the airport without shoes, belt, or laptop? Wear a tank top, cutoffs, and a pair of flip flops. But it is precisely this type of passenger who is selected most often for full body searches. Why? Because if you look like you have nothing to hide, it is a clear signal to security that you MUST have something to hide. As you can see, the passage through security is a psychological trial unlike any other. The best thing to do – show up fully dressed, armed with a laptop computer, but possessed of the skills of an experienced traveler. Stun the TSA by, in one fluid motion, gracefully and elegantly removing one’s shoes with one hand while simultaneously extracting the belt from trousers with the other, then placing both in a tray beside your laptop for inspection. Be careful not to glare triumphantly at the TSA or you might arouse his/her ire. A mere complacent, knowing smile is sufficient. Of course this tricky, two-handed maneuver will take some practice to master. I suggest viewing the YouTube video “Art of the Shoe/Belt Extraction” then practicing assiduously for at least 14 hours in advance of your trip.
Clearing security inevitably results in a euphoric rush, but do not imagine that your troubles are over. Your most serious problem still awaits you. You flight has been overbooked. Your airline must identify 4 passengers to be bumped. You are offered money to give up your seat, but you do not want money. You want to fly to your destination as you assumed you would be entitled to do once you purchased your ticket. Little do you know that the airline can legally require you to surrender your seat if it does not succeed in buying enough back. How can you avoid being bumped? You must have a vital reason for flying. A vacation does not qualify. The last thing you want to tell the airline is that you have a pressing need to stretch out on a sunny beach with a Mai Tai in your hand. Tell them instead that you are a renowned surgeon whose skills are needed by a desperately ill patient tomorrow morning. Wait! That was pretty much the case with Dr. David Dao who was beaten unconscious by security and dragged off his flight with a concussion and broken facial bones because refused to give up his seat. You must come up with a better excuse. Yes, you are Donald Trump’s hairdresser, and he cannot make any public appearances unless you are present to expertly craft his follicles into the bouffant upsweep that is his trademark. Or, you are DJT’s tweetmaster, and he cannot communicate with his adoring base unless you are present to type out his messages. Even though his hands are unusually small, his thumbs are inordinately clumsy, so he needs your digits to transmit the real news to his fans. If neither of those work, you can always resort to Steve Martin’s foolproof retort: “Well, excuuuuuse meeeeeee! Yes, that should do it.
As you can see, air travel today is replete with hidden pitfalls. But that is no reason to forego the pleasures of flying. With proper preparation you too can soar with the eagles, and if you are lucky there will be no bird strikes. But that’s another story.