Now I don't want to get off an a rant here, but flying in this country has turned into an amazingly arduous process, especially boarding the plane, which has now become this tedious Bataan death march with American Tourister overnight bags. I get stuck behind this one guy, who takes forever to get situated. He's clogging the aisle like a piece of human cholesterol jammed in the passengerial artery. You just want to get that soft drink cart and flush his ass out the back door. He's folding that sport jacket like he's in the color guard at Arlington National Cemetery.

Or else I get stuck behind a wizard who wants to beat the system by gaffer-taping a twine handle onto a refrigerator-freezer box and calling it "carry on." Wedging it into the overhead with hydraulic jacks. It's like trying to get Pavarotti into a wet suit, for Christ's sake.

And exactly when did stewardesses in this country get so fucking cranky? I know it's a tough job. There's got to be a thousand different ways to tie that neckerchief but why piss on me, huh? You know the worst thing about it is they don't even come clean with you and tell you much they hate you. They treat you with that highly contrived air of mock civility, that tight, pursed-lip grin where they nod agreement with everything you say. You know right behind that face plate they barely tolerate your very existence. I'd rather they just come out in the open and say, "Hey, listen asshole. When I was eighteen years old, I made a horrible vocational error, all right? I turned my entire adult life in for cheap airfare to Barbados. Now I've got hair with the tensile strength of Elsa Lanchester in 'Bride of Frankenstein.' I haven't met Mr. Right. I'm a waitress in a bad restaurant at thirty thousand feet. Jam your Diet Slice up your ass, all right?" At least show me something. Come down the aisle like the old broad in 'From Russia with Love' with the knife point coming out of her shoe. "Peanuts, Mr. Bond?"

What about when you leave the plane and they've got them propped by the front door in that complete android catatonic stupor where they look like the Yul Bryner robot from 'Westworld' when he blew a headpipe and iced Marcus Welby's assistant. "Bye. Bye. Bye. Bye." It's like your stockbroker on Thorazine or something.

And am I the only one who likes to get on a plane and unwind with a good book? Sit there in a little peace and quiet. I'm constantly in conversation with complete strangers - always being approached by these overly ebullient Jonathan Livingston Human types. This eighteen-year-old kid who's on his way back from Aruba and wants to show me this skull bong he purchased there that's carved out of volcanic rock. You know he's always got a dream he wants me to interpret for him. What am I, Queequeg? And you're afraid to not talk to him. You never know who the fucking terrorist is on the plane. I'd hate to alienate anybody who's looking for a prom date to Valhalla.

There's a lot of terrorism in the air, but you know when you walk through the air terminal and see the crack security people manning the perimeter, I think we all sleep the sleep of angels. Came into Phoenix the other day, the woman working the X-ray machine had the attention span of Boo Radley. She's sitting there like Captain Pike from "Star Trek." She had a channel flicker. She's watching baggage from other airports, for Christ's sake.

You think pilots make fun of those guys who bring them the last ten feet into the terminal with those cone flashlights? "Well, thank you, Vasco da Gamma. I kited in from Malaysia, you're going to take me the last furlong, Captain Eveready. I hope you don't blow a D-cell. I'd hate to be stuck out here in the Bermuda Tarmac for the rest of my life."

What about those masks that drop down in the event of decompression? That's a pretty flimsy-looking apparatus, isn't it? Doesn't this look remarkably like a Parkay margarine cup on the end of an enema bag or something? They always have these bizarre instructions to start the flow of oxygen. "Tug down lightly on the cord." Yeah, you know when I'm shoulder-rolling at seven hundred miles per hour, "lightly" just isn't in my fucking vocabulary, all right? You know people are going to be Conaning those things right off the bulkhead. Something intrinsically cruel having the last forty seconds of your life turn into a "Lucy" skit.

I think instead of oxygen, they ought to pump in nitrous oxide. This way, if the plane does wreck - that first rescue team comes onto the scene - you're up in a tree still strapped in your seat just laughing your ass off. Guys say, "Bobby, get over here. Look how hip this guy is. I mean, he's naked, he's blue, he's howling. This cat is centered, huh?"

You know what I hate is when you're sitting in coach class and they pull that curtain on first class. Oh, I see, they paid and extra forty dollars and I'm a fucking leper. I always get the feeling that if the plane's about to wreck, the front compartment breaks off into a little Goldfinger miniplane. They're on their way to Rio and I'm a charcoal briquette on the ground.

You know who I feel sorry for in the whole air-travel scenario? It's the poor bastard who has to drive the jetway. You know that little accordion tentacle that weaves its way out to meet the plane? Everybody else is Waldo Pepperin' around in their Bobby Lansing leather bomber jackets, the right stuff coursing through their veins as they push the outside of the envelope. Your job is to drive the building.

A lot of qualifications to sit next to that exit door, huh? When did that happen? I've been a physical klutz for years. I'm like Clouseau. Nobody's ever said a word. All of a sudden they want me to be a fucking Navy SEAL. I guess they want to be sure the person sitting there doesn't panic in the event that the plane goes down in water. Item number 8 on the qualification list was "You must not be Ted Kennedy."


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