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Is this any way to run an airline?

A lady from a poll-taking firm came in recently and interviewed me about U.S. airlines, on which I am a minor expert. Unfortunately the poll was about international flying, and she asked things like, "Do you think the presence of Willynilly Airlines in France helps the U.S. image overseas?" I can't imagine how a French-man reacts to an airline, and if my answers are taken seriously, I look for a downturn in Willynilly's business. But polls have their place. I've flown almost every airline inside the United States, and if I had directed the conversation to my areas of special knowledge, things could have gone profitably, like this:

POLLSTER: Hello, sir. We're taking a survey on U.S. air travel.

ME: Wonderful. Would you like to know what bugs me most about U.S. air travel?

POLLSTER: That's not the question on my sheet, but all right.

ME: Everything in U.S. airplanes comes in a wrapping. The sugar comes in a paper wrapping, the cream and the salad dressing come in little plastic containers, the silverware comes in some cellophane wrapping, the butter has a paper lid on it, the hand-moistening towel comes in a foil wrapping, the movie earphones come in cellophane.

POLLSTER: But that's for sanitation.

Me: You worry about getting packages mixed up and pouring salad dressing in your coffee. And the ashtrays are too small, so you eat surrounded by crunched-up paper. It takes two hands to tear everything open, and two hands and your teeth to break open the containers of salt and pepper, and when you let go of the silverware, it gets lost under the litter. If you want more cream and sugar, you have to squash the sugar, salt, pepper and hand-moistener wrappers nand the cream container into the milk carton to make room. I don't like wrapped glasses in hotel rooms, either.

POLLSTER: That's irrelevant.

ME: I'm giving you background. I'm anti-wrapper, generally.

POLLSTER: All right. "Anti-wrapper." Now, I'd like to ask----

ME: The motion-discomfort bag is basically dishonest.

POLLSTER: How is that?

ME: Motion discomfort is when your leg falls asleep or the man in front of you whips his set back and rams you in the ribs with your own tray.

POLLSTER: I don't think that the airlines would go for "throwing-up bag."

ME: They could compromise.

POLLSTER: Sir, my question is, "From your point of view, what is the most important feature of the plane?"

ME: The stewardesses.

POLLSTER: Very well. And do you know of any ways these important persons could perform better?

ME: They could be taught where Cincinnati is.

POLLSTER: "Stewardeses ignorant of location of Cincinnati." Fine. How do you happen to know that, by the way?

ME: I once flew from Paducah to Louisville and mised my connection to New York. They put me on a flight that went to Cincinnati and then Cleveland and said I should get a New York flight from one of those cities. So once aloft, I asked the stewardess which was nearer New York--Cincinnati or Cleveland. She didn't know.

POLLSTER: She should have asked the pilot.

ME: She did, and he didn't know either. Then she went up and down the aisle asking passengers, and none of them knew. I found it unnerving.

POLLSTER: Which is closer?

ME: I still don't know. I got off in Cincinnati. Another time I was flying to Topeka, and the stewardess announced that they wouldn't be serving cocktails due to the turbulence.

POLLSTER: What's wrong with that?

ME: When there is turbulence is the most important time to serve cocktails. It would make more sense to serve extra cocktails. Or they could just chuck around a lot of those little bottles.

POLLSTER: Sir, do you have any opinion about pilots?

ME: I think they are all great men.


ME: Every time I get into a plane, I say to myself, "The pilot of this craft is a great man who can surmount any obstacle." I say it several times.

POLLSTER: That's a wonderful attitude to have.

ME: I do have one small criticism, though. Pilots should learn which button to push for talking to the control tower and which is the button for talking to the passengers. On a flight out of Salt Lake City, the pilot started asking the passengers for landing instructions.

POLLSTER: Good point. "Pilots should master the intercom button."

ME: I think it tends to detract from the image one likes to have of the men up front. Incidentally, do you know how come, if the plane is airtight, there are little specks of dirt between the double panes of the windows?


ME: O.K. Also, it would be helpful if the crews got familiar with funny noises their planes tend to make

POLLSTER: Just what do you mean by "funny noises"?

ME: Flying up to Maine one time, the wing started making a funny noise. During takeoff and landing. Sort of a "whoot-whoot," like a foghorn.

POLLSTER: What did the stewardess say about it?

ME: She said, "What funny noises?"


Me: Well, the man next to me heard it too. As he was getting off in Portland--I was staying on--he said he had been on a plane whose landing gear went bad and they had to belly-land on the ice. He thought this might be a similar problem. But then, when we took off, the stewardess heart it.

POLLSTER: And what did she say?

ME: "I'll be damned." Or "darned," maybe. I turned out they changed the propeller angle on takeoff and landing and the wind makes that noise. At least that's what she said the pilot told her.

POLLSTER: Do you feel stewardesses are sufficiently communicative?

ME: Oversufficiently.

POLLSTER: What does that mean?

ME: In Seattle, a stewardess leaned over me while we were refueling and said she was watching the ramp men--the ground crew. When I asked why, she said she had been to a science-fiction movie the night before in which the ramp men were all Martians and had eaten the wings off the plane.

POLLSTER: But surely, a movie--

ME: I don't believe there ever was any such movie.


ME: I don't want to be arbitrary, but I don't think girls who have fantasies about ramp men eating the wings off their planes are cut out for air travel.

POLLSTER: Well, sir, thank you very much for your thoughtful answers. ME: It was a pleasure to serve you.

On second thought, maybe the airline people should stick to flying and not ask questions.
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Title Annotation:don't ask me
Author:Lemon, Richard
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:May 1, 1984
Previous Article:Smoke alarm.
Next Article:A genius for discovery.

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