Space Case
November 2nd, 2013

In this morning’s newspaper I read that a 45-year-old Delta Connection pilot has been charged with inappropriately touching a 14-year-old girl on board an airplane. I don’t wish to prejudice the case, but I’m guessing the man is innocent. In the first place, what’s a 14-year-old girl doing in the cockpit? Could it be the pilot mistook her coltish thigh for the throttle control?

Oh, wait. Reading further, I learn that the accused was off-duty and sitting in a middle seat near the rear of the plane. A middle seat in the rear of the plane? Been there, done that! It’s a wonder the man wasn’t charged with molesting passengers on either side of him.

Moreover, this was a Delta flight. Those of you who have recently flown Delta know how difficult it is to avoid intruding upon the personal space of your seatmate. Especially if –as the alleged perpetrator claims—the two of you happen to be asleep at the time. Picture Steve Martin and John Candy spooning on a narrow mattress at the Braidwood Inn—that’s what it’s like flying Delta nowadays. Every flight is full; in fact, every flight is overbooked. You could probably make a pretty good living just showing up at the gate and forfeiting your ticket for a fistful of dollars and a coupon good for a Cinnabon and one night’s free stay on the floor of the passenger lounge.


Of course, you could always upgrade to business class or something the airline calls the Sky Club, which entitles you to priority boarding. That way you can carve out a little extra space for yourself before the hoi polloi, or “gate lice” come charging in. Better still, you can upgrade to first class, but of course only rich people can afford to do that.

On a recent trans-Atlantic flight, I was situated where I could catch tantalizing glimpses of life behind the first class curtain. As F. Scott Fitzgerald might put it, “The rich are different from you and me. They have more legroom.”

On another occasion, I found myself at in the very front of the airplane, on what was supposed to be the flight attendant’s jump seat. On approach to DFW she sat on the floor, glaring at me accusingly—same as other passengers in Austin had glared at me when the attendant announced that the plane was overloaded. Yes, we were cleared for takeoff, but we wouldn’t be permitted to land at DFW unless we shed some weight. “Would someone puh-leeze volunteer to take a later flight?”

Why was everyone staring at me? I’m not THAT overweight. Sure, I can’t walk down the street nowadays without some television cameraman filming my mid-section. And there was that time I fell asleep on the beach at Waikiki and awoke to find volunteers from Greenpeace trying to drag me into the ocean.

Speaking of Waikiki, now that we are rested up from our trans-Atlantic ordeal, it’s time to start thinking about our next trip to Hawaii.

“I’m all for it,” says my wife. “Provided we don’t have to fly, and provided you stay away from the beach.”

-Richard Menzies