Talk of the Town - The angina monologue December 11 2003

Now stressing at Gate 6

"Good afternoon, and welcome to All-Talk Air, the airline that won't shut up from the minute you arrive at the gate to the moment, oh so many hours away, when we finally land.

"If you're trying to change your seat assignment — especially if you want to prevent life-threatening blood clots from forming in your calves and speeding to your heart, lungs and brain by obtaining a seat that has more than 2 inches of legroom — forget it. All the good seats have already been parceled out in an arrangement more mysterious and inscrutable than the Skull & Bones society.

"At this time, we invite all ticketed infants, persons in need of special assistance, members of Mensa and the Academie Francaise, extended family of Queen Victoria, anyone whose last name is Wright, first class, business class and platinum, gold, silver, bronze, or other semi-precious alloy fliers to board the plane. Any simple adult working stiffs who paid hard cash for a regular ticket can board after the pets have been loaded.

"All luggage brought on the aircraft should adhere to guidelines which require you to stow baggage securely in one of the overhead bins. None of which will matter to the Hawaii-bound eejut who shows up at the gate with a dismantled hang glider two minutes before we pull away from the jetway. You can rent that oversized narcissistic crap when you get there, sir.

"Before we take off, please turn off any audio and video devices. With all the billions of dollars in technology that went into creating this aircraft and the worldwide transportation/communications network supporting it, isn't it disturbing that one phone-addicted moron who refuses to get off his cheap cell could send all of us into a graveyard spiral?

"We'll begin cabin service shortly, by which we mean to say that you'll get a bag of party mix — peanuts are banned because one-hundredth of one-thousandth percent of the population is allergic to them — and a half-can of soda. Remember when even comparatively brief trips were accompanied by an actual hot meal? Now you have to fly to Pluto before rating anything more than a bag of Doritos.

"If this is a particularly long trip, however, we're going to show an in-flight movie and charge five bucks for the privilege of taking your mind off the fact that you're strapped into a tube of sheet metal hurtling three miles above the earth at 550 miles per hour. Funny thing about those movies. They're never really bad — but they're not very good, either. In-flight mediocrity might be a more descriptive term.

"And good luck trying to use those headphones, which have the consistency of overcooked linguini and make everything you're hearing sound murkier than a Radio Marti broadcast that's been heavily jammed by the Cuban government.

"The more literate among you can opt for a selection from our magazine library, which always seems to focus on golf and computers, two subjects that have always been the stuff of exciting journalism. And why is it that you never see an article about wind shear in an in-flight publication? It's a highly relevant topic.

"In case you don't opt for magazines or so-so cinema, now would be the ideal time to get on the nerves of fellow passengers. Shoving your seat back into the lap of the person behind you, playing a noisy video game, and getting rip-roaring drunk are all methods that come highly recommended by the Federal Aviation Administration.

"And speaking of aviation: How safe are you right now? Sure, those security guards stripped a 78-year-old epileptic grandma of her manicuring scissors back at airport security, but every 10-cent Action News TV station in the country has its investigative reporters smuggling everything on board from box cutters to explosive bullets — all while the feds are actually laying off more airport screeners. If Osama bin Laden is alive and well, forget the Afghan-Pakistan border and start looking along the Virginia-Maryland state line. This guy is working for the U.S. government.

"We're now preparing to land. Please place your seat tables in the upright and locked position, not that it will do much good if a terrorist on the ground has one of those |shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles in the upright and locked position. We handed those suckers out like Cracker Jack to the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan a few years back. Inventory control ever since has been kinda lax.

"On behalf of your Atlanta-based flight crew — and do you really care where your flight crew is based and therefore why do we bother to tell you? — welcome to your destination city.

"Isn't it incredible? We take off 45 minutes late and still get here right on time. Bye-bye."


Glen Slattery taxiing to the end of his column in Alpharetta.

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