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The plane truth 

If you want to be trendy, here’s what to do: Wash all that product out of your hair, return that Atari T-shirt to wherever it came from and get that ring outta your nipple. I’m already amazed you haven’t snagged it in a sweater and pulled off your whole chest.

Nope, the only way to be trendy these days is to ball up all your rage at the world and save it until you’re on, or near, an airplane. If you have yet to throw a glass at a pilot who is trying to carry you safely across the ocean, well, sweetie, you might as well be wearing acid-washed jeans.

Air rage is in

REM guitarist Peter Buck was arrested recently in London after “damaging a quantity of airline crockery” and assaulting flight attendants in a drunken snit. Two 22-year-old Northern Michigan twins, en route from Los Angeles to Shanghai for a modeling competition, became so obnoxious, violent and tanked that the pilot turned around halfway through the 14-hour flight to unload the girls in Anchorage, Alaska. In 1999, part-time gate agent Angelo Sottile was attacked by a passenger who had been waiting six hours to get on a flight to Florida. Allegedly, when Sottile tried to stop the passenger’s wife from going down the ramp to retrieve their toddler, the passenger attacked Sottile, who ended up with a broken neck and was comatose for five days. “Dateline NBC” says that “the Air Transport Association estimates 5,000 cases of misconduct a year.”


The easy answer to why people have become such horrible pigs is because people are horrible pigs. But that’s only part of the problem. If you’ve been on a plane recently, you know that conditions can get bad. Coffins are roomier than the seats in coach. According to Newsweek, “Last year one out of every four flights was delayed or canceled.” Planes wait on the runway for so long before takeoff that sitting in one of them can make you feel like you’ve done a brief stint in the Anne Frank house.

This doesn’t excuse people acting like baboons, but in a culture that’s used to having everything now-now-now, telling someone to wait-wait-wait is the equivalent of starting a fight.

Flights of fancy

The FAA has said it could take 10 years for the situation to improve, which is about how long it feels like for some flights to get off the ground. But there have to be some Band-Aid solutions in the interim that might make the skies friendlier again. Such as:

- Nitrous oxide pumped into air vents. Now, that’s aromatherapy. It might make the pilot decide to do a barrel roll, but it’s a small price to pay for a cargo of happily stoned passengers, too serene to climb on the drink cart and act like the dooky-flinging gorilla at the zoo.

- Better movies/live entertainment. The movies I’ve been stuck with on planes are things such as Father of the Bride Part II and something starring the Olsen twins. Getting hosed down with this much schmaltz would make anyone freak. Either in-flight movies should be better or airlines should bring aboard live entertainers, perhaps mimes, whom the passengers could direct their aggression at instead of at the flight attendants. Better yet, they could bring along performance artists, who could just act like they had air rage by throwing around fake bodily fluids.

Everyone will be so freakedout they’ll strap themselves in and hide under a blanket all the way to Europe.

- Chuck E. Cheese Airways. If this existed, every kid with an impending ticket to Grandma’s would dun their parents until they all ended up flying on Chuck E. They’d be happy, and a lot of other passengers would be too. I know kids are uncomfortable during flights, but sometimes their little voices can reach Spinal Tap levels and sand your nerves down considerably. Plus, I heard my mom say, “Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it,” enough when I was little. It can be hard to hear it from one side of the country to the other, even if it isn’t directed at me anymore.

- Hypnosis. The minute the safety demonstration is over, some flight attendant with a soothing voice should start speaking slowly, softly and rhythmically, counting back from 100 if necessary, until the whole plane is in that charming state between sleep and wakefulness that hypnosis puts you in. If posthypnotic suggestion works, I wouldn’t blame some of them for talking passengers into making the wrong connections or taking their clothes off before disembarking, just to get back at them for some of the things they’ve had to put up with.

Whether these changes get picked up on or not, hopefully the big air-rage rage will diminish sometime soon. Hasn’t it been the trend long enough for people to act like idiots right here on the ground?

Liz Langley writes for the Orlando Weekly. E-mail

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