In this line of work, you do a lot of flying, which incidentally is something I've been doing my whole life. I've been on planes since the day I set foot on this earth, having been on most airlines that have existed since 1977. I've been on the biggest planes in the sky and I've been on planes small enough to make a Cessna 172 feel positively international.
Which is why I knew I was in for an interesting ride from the moment I strolled into the cabin of American 3373 headed for South Carolina, en route to watch a slew of Evos duke it out on track at the EvolutionM.net tuner shootout (page 110). I had a good seat - 6a. Right up front. But that all changed when the nice gentleman who was to sit beside me in 6b found himself booked in a non-operational seat, complete with a large, scribbled-in-bold notice stating: Do Not Use This Seat.
The plane had arrived late, and by the time we boarded, it would take a miracle to make Columbia on time. So when my fellow passenger failed to sit in the cushionless throne, our irritated flight attendant stormed red-faced down the aisle. With an air of utterly inspirational professionalism she stated, "Whatever you're going to do, you're going to have to hurry it up, sir, because everyone is waiting on me to get the plane ready for takeoff". He and his wife (6c) looked at her, puzzled.
This was perhaps one of the most complicated problems Mary had ever needed to solve, never mind the fact that there was a time crunch. She pointed at me and blurted: "You! Move to the back!"
"Moi?"In an effort to keep the man next to his wife, I was moved to the last remaining seat, the emergency door. Which was fine, because I'm a perfectly willing and able young man. But what if I was unwilling or unable? How would Mary have solved that dilemma? Would she have exploded suddenly?
The helmet. It was cleared as a carry-on, but it doesn't fit in the stowage bin. And guess what else? It doesn't fit underneath the seat in front of me, either. I've got it rammed in as far as it will go, undoubtedly scratching the hell out of my brand new low-light visor. Mary notes that it's not crammed in far enough, but fails to note that the space available will not accommodate the helmet. On the verge of self-destruction, she issues me a rash notice: "Sir! You're going to have to get that thing in there farther if you want to take off!"
Regular readers of my column will note that I don't typically have the patience for such stupidity. However, the need to get the hell off the ground and to keep Mary from malfunctioning arouses some common sense in me, and I pretend to really give the helmet a good shove. Now the giant circle peg is sure to be further in the tiny square hole - right, Mary? She walks away and, after 45 minutes of waiting in the taxi line, we're in the air.
I'm sure we left the aged and creaking landing gear on the ground as we take off. I take a look at my surroundings. The seat in front of me is more stained than a motel bedcover in Tijuana, and every time I attempt to rest my left arm on the stub that was once my armrest, my elbow is greeted with a sticky goo that feels like molasses on this hot Dallas day. The fiberglass panels above me are cracked, stained and sun-bleached, and the paint on just about everything has been rubbed off, leaving either rusted steel or polished aluminum visible. The carpet is so dirt-burned that it's turned from blue to brown and it's ripped and torn where it meets the seat rows by my feet.
There's so much garbage jammed under everybody's seat that I'm genuinely surprised any of us had room to slip laptops in at all. I guess they didn't have time to clean the old bird before takeoff. And if you can't get the fast food wrappers, sludge and general disarray out, how are those maintenance schedules looking?
In the end, we were 45 minutes late, but happy to have arrived safely.