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The Plane Truth


By John Rosenthal

SINCE I WROTE this week's column on a plane, I though it appropriate to write on planes, and, more precisely, why plane travel is becoming more ridiculous every day.

It is a huge pain in the neck to check your baggage in an airport these days. Checking luggage usually entails at least a half-hour wait on line at the departing end--only to be told that you have waited on the wrong line and have to wait another 45 minutes to check your bags. It also entails at least another half-hour wait at the arriving end waiting for your bag to come out on the local rotissomat or conveyor belt.

A trip from Boston to New York can now take more than four hours by plane, door-to-door. An hour to the airport, a half-hour waiting in line to check baggage, an hour in flight, a half-hour waiting for your bags, and an hour cab ride from Laguardia to Manhattan. Driving from Cabot House to the Upper West Side only takes three-and-a-half hours.

WHO DESIGNS modern airplanes? Probably people with with lobotomies, because planes are stupidly constructed vehicles. Hardly anybody travels in groups of three, yet 727 designers crank out planes with seats in groups of three every year. For people travelling in pairs, this means somebody has to sit in that horrible middle seat--you know the one: the seat designed for people without arms. For people travelling by fours, it means three people get to sit together and the fourth person has to sit 15 rows behind.

Moreover, airplane interiors are the ugliest places in the world, except for the Sackler museum. One must wonder who gets paid to choose the color schemes for commercial planes. The wavy lines that go across everything aren't so bad. Even the rugs on the walls that separate plebes from those idiots in first class aren't so appalling. But the seats are horrible. The designers have eshewed simple fabrics and normal solid colors in favor of strange shades of brownish green or rusty orange, (or, worse, a combination of both).

Looking at these seats wouldn't be so bad if you didn't have to sit in them. But alas, you do, no matter what your knees tell you. Thinking about crossing your legs? Forget it. And as soon as the 350-pound woman in the seat in front of you puts her seat back to go to sleep, you can forget you ever had knees until you arrive at the airport.

God only knows why they have seat belts in airplanes. It's not as though the room between your seat and the seat in front of you allows you to move anywhere in the first place. Besides, why would you need a seat belt? In case of sudden stops? To prevent you from going through the windshield? In case of a head-on collision? To keep everybody's insurance rates lower? Or to keep you in your seat so you don't walk around the plane and try to hit on the stewardesses, or worse, ask for a free drink?

Why do you have to "return your seat to the upright position" when taking off and landing? Is it so the fat lady in front of you will get her body off your once-functional knees? What about storing your tray tables? Has a tray table ever flown up out of its moorings and smacked somebody in the face during takeoff?

THE INSTRUCTIONS that the flight attendants bark out during every flight are equally stupid. For the benefit of anyone who hasn't been in a car in the last 20 years, the attendants explain how to put on a seatbelt. For the benefit of the very stupid, the attendants point out that it is wise to extinguish cigarettes before putting on an oxygen mask. For anyone anxious to struggle out of a seat and stand in the aisles for a half-hour while the landing crew tries to open the doors, the attendants suggest waiting until the plane has landed before retrieving luggage from the overhead bins.

Airplane food cannot be adequately discussed here; that would require a column of its, own. Let it suffice to say that I eagerly anticipate receiving my packet of honey-roasted peanuts, and often take plane trips just so I can eat them.

John N. Rosenthal took a flight back from Florida just in time to have this column published. For the rest of the year, "Stuff I Think" will appear on Wednesdays rather than Tuesdays.

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