Thursday, November 09, 2006

Flight 666

Now boarding...for HELL and beyond!

As the official biggest chicken-shit flyer on the planet (OBCSFotP), I am not above resorting to superstitions like my lucky koala flying T-shirt--hey, none of the flights I've taken in it have crashed yet, so there you go: if that's not proof, I don't know what is!

However, my "Tree-Hugging Fur Balls" plane-crash-preventing shirt clearly put me at ideological odds with the older gentleman catty-corner across the aisle, although I don't think that was the problem per se. While I don't agree that hunting is a sport, and I don't think that I've ever been deceptive about my views on the subject, as a comparative anatomy informaticist, I have been able to make common cause with hunters in obtaining specimens. For example, my macaque prostate came from a hunter (no, she didn't hunt the macaque; it was in a different capacity that she was caring for a macaque who died unexpectedly). But if I had alienated her with my opinions, I don't think she would have presented me with a prostate.

So from past encounters like that, I think that, despite being a non-hunter myself, I am perfectly capable of carrying on civil and high-minded conversations with hunters. And it wasn't the Ducks Unlimited and other magazines, or the Magnum ads in his reading material that was disturbing per se; I can deal with that. No, when it comes to 3 hours, 19 minutes of cross-country surreal, I'd totally have to go with the nose-picking.

I guess I have lived a sheltered life, but I had no idea that any grown men really pick their noses in public like that. And not just once, absent-mindedly, but *dig,dig,dig*/turn page/*root,root,root*. I have mental images now that will require a lobotomy to get rid of. And it wasn't just once or twice--some people just never can get enough, if you know what I mean.

But the universe wasn't quite finished playing with its little cat toy at just that--on approach to Chicago, the plane dropped abruptly, fast enough and deep enough to elicit gasps and concern--not just the expected ones from me in my role as OBCSFotP, but from real grown-up passengers as well. Once we were flying normally again, and I had empirically ascertained that the very real possibility of a Code Brown had not, actually, transpired, I permitted myself some uncharitable thoughts about the flying ability of a certain so-called pilot--something along the lines of licenses and gumball machines.

Turns out those unkind thoughts were not quite justified--the pilot came on the public-address system to explain that he had dropped the plane on purpose, to avoid a flock--"about 300", he said--Canada geese who had flown right in front of us. Well, I'm all for being kind to wildlife. And I'm also all for avoiding plane accidents caused by collision with birds, which is surprisingly harder on the plane than I would have expected.

But between the predator and the prey, today's flight left some things to be desired in their own special way. And on top of everything, I've been flying so much in the last couple of years that my koala shirt is getting worn out--soon I'm going to have to find another way to keep the planes in the air.


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