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  • Paul Says

    Paul vs the Airlines

    As anyone knows who has ever driven with me, I don't have to have anything to do with driving or navigation to totally screw up a trip. All I have to do is sit in the passenger seat and right turns become wrong turns, roads double back on themselves and go nowhere, and a trip you've taken a thousand times before becomes an offroad adventure.

    So I took a trip to Paris. What follows is a description of the flights I was on--all four to six of them, depending on how you define "flight" and "on".

    Flight 1:

    My first flight was a trip from Providence to New York in a little propellor plane. Before the flight, an attendant announced, "The plane cannot take off until all baggage is properly stowed in the overhead luggage rack." Since the luggage rack was approximately the size of a pita pocket, I nonchalantly hid my giant suitcase under my feet, which meant that my knees were around my ears for the entire flight. My giant legs made it impossible for me to put down the tray table when the flight attendant came by, but I allayed suspicion by commenting, "Boy, am I gangly."

    The flight went smoothly and arrived on time. When I got off the plane, I may have jinxed later flights by crying, "Not even God Himself could stop me now!"

    Me: 1
    God: 0

    Flight 2:

    In New York I had to change planes, an operation that went very smoothly. So elated was I with my success that I was disposed to look kindly on the giant pack of teenagers that was on my flight. They were adorably exubrant, and were well supplied with guitars, noisemakers, and conga drums, promising me a ride full of musical good cheer and joi d'vivre, which is French for "Please let me die". They were led by a guy who looked and acted pretty much like Bill Murray.

    We all got on the plane and found our seats. Bill Murray was sitting in front of me, keeping up a nonstop flow of pep talk at his students, who were scattered all over the plane. Then we watched the safety video. Then we taxied into a light post.

    This event was not covered in the safety video, which I believe is a huge oversight. Taxiing into a stationary, and, one would imagine, well-lit light post, is something that must happen frequently-- well, the pilot's own comment on the frequency was "never in his experience", but he also taxied into a light post, so his experience couldn't have been that extensive. I propose this amendment to the safety video: "In the unlikely event that we taxi into a light post, no oxygen masks will be deployed. You will not be able to use your cushions as flotation devices. However, the plane will be broken. You will have to leave the plane and wait several hours listening to countless teenagers strum Brown Eyed Girl. You will eventually be supplied with a new, smaller plane, in which everyone's seat assignments will be changed, but you will still be sitting behind Bill Murray. And you will be forced to watch this safety video again."

    Me: 1
    God: 1
    Light post: 1

    Flight 3:

    After a fun week in Paris, I was ready for my return flight. I wished au revoir to mon cherie, I hurled a baguette at the visage of the concierge, and I headed for the airport.

    Comically, the airport had lost the plane that I was supposed to fly on, which necessitated a two hour delay while they tried to track it down. Occasionally we were told by excited French airline employees that we should move to a different gate, only to find when we got there that, once again, the plane had proved too wily for us and had snuck off. Finally, we doubled back unexpectedly and trapped the plane at Gate 42.

    The plane Paul was on, if it had been a WWII fighter and if it had gone down in the Atlantic.

    Once we were aboard, the flight went fine and was enjoyed by all, especially the May-December couple who joined the Mile-High Club twice, once in each lavatory. I read "2000 Leagues Under the Sea." I will leave it to you to decide who enjoyed their flight more.

    But wait! Before you decide, let me read you the text on the back of my copy of the book.

    An American frigate, tracking down a ship-sinking monster, faces not a living creature but an incredible invention—a fantastic submarine commanded by the mysterious Captain Nemo. Suddenly, a devastating explosion leaves just three survivors, who find themselves prisoners inside Nemo's death ship in an underwater odyssey around the world from the pearl-laden waters of Ceylon to the icy dangers of the South Pole...As Captain Nemo, one of the greatest villains ever created, takes his revenge on all society. [emphases mine]

    What do you think now, eh?

    Because of the hijinks at the French airport, we arrived at JFK airport in New York 2 hours late.

    Me: 1
    God: 2
    Light Post: 1
    May-December Couple: 2

    Flight 4:

    This was not a flight I was on. This was my connecting flight to Providence, which, since I arrived 2 hours late, had departed quite some time before. Furthermore, my travel agent, Satan, had had the foresight to make sure that this flight departed from La Guardia airport. After a quick poll of those around me, I determined that JFK and La Guardia were not the same, since no one seemed to remember where they were when La Guardia was shot. That meant that I was unable to make my flight, since getting to La Guardia, during NYC rush hour, often takes more than negative 2 hours.

    Once I got to La Guardia, I had to wait around for 5 hours for the next flight to Providence. This is about the same amount of time it would take a reasonably healthy man to jog there.

    Me: 1
    God: 3
    Light Post: 1
    May-December Couple who Deserve a Bonus Point because the Woman looked like an Aging but Well-Preserved Racquel Welch: 3

    Flight 5:

    I'm happy to say I personally was the cause of the delay of this flight. I'm also proud to say that I broke the plane.

    Again flying in a little prop plane, I was this time unable to fool the alert flight attendant by hiding my bag under my legs. She insisted that I stow the bag properly, otherwise the plane could not depart. When this proved impossible, she made me go to the back of the plane, where there were some empty seats, and I was allowed to stay on the plane if I buckled my carry-on bag next to me as if it were a guy.

    Next, it was announced that the plane could not depart because according to their flight roster, there should be 15 people on the plane, but according to their head count, there were 16 passengers. They appealed to us: was there anyone here who had gotten on the wrong plane? We all rolled our eyes, smiles of icy contempt playing about our pearly teeth. Who was the dummy who was delaying the flight this time? we all wondered. I'll give you a hint. It wasn't any of the other passengers. And no, it wasn't my carry-on bag being counted as a guy. It was me.

    I went up to the cockpit to explain. "I think I know what the problem is. I missed an earlier flight, so they gave me a ticket for this one. Maybe they didn't tell you." The flight attendant took my boarding pass and stared at it for several minutes, and then took it to the cockpit, where followed a lengthy radio conversation with someone--I can only assume Ground Control. Cool pilot slang could be heard from the cockpit, like "snafu," "niner," "pushing tin," and "I don't want this Jonah on my plane." Finally, the flight attendant emerged from the cockpit and called me up to the front of the plane to tell me that it was OK if I stayed on board. I returned to my seat, carefully avoiding the hostile stares of the passengers I had delayed. Then, as I reached my seat, I hit my head on an overhead luggage rack, right at the spot on the latch that causes it to open and dispense its luggage, willy-nilly, on the person standing below it and the surrounding passengers. Furthermore, from this point on, the luggage rack was broken and yawned open, juddering and rattling, throughout the flight.

    Me: 1
    God: 4
    Light Post: 1
    May-December Couple, who, on second thought, were really creepy: 1



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