Commercial airlines hope you're an idiot. Every month, American Way, Hemispheres, Sky and countless other in-flight magazines quietly publish another hunk of glossy tree pulp filled with promotional material disguised as helpful tips for navigating foreign towns. Everything from the restaurant suggestions to the interviews with the owners of local fashion boutiques are all carefully selected to ensure that as soon as you step off the plane in a new city, you spend some goddamn money. Even the fiction and essays, the sections that aren't slaves to advertising, are inevitably dry, boring narratives about lost soul travelers, except without any of the drugs, sex or loneliness that make those people interesting. The whole thing is a bland promotional mess, and part of your ticket price is going toward cranking out new issues. Meanwhile, the airlines pretend it's anything other than insulting to shit in your seat-back pocket and call it complimentary.
"If you're missing yours, sir, I can make you another one in a few minutes."
The worst part is that they don't have to be terrible. An airplane is the one place where the print industry doesn't have to compete with electronic media and where the audience is literally strapped down with nothing to do. Instead of producing something engaging and fun, they produce a limp, skinny magazine that passengers would rather push aside just to look through SkyMall at products they will never buy or even want.
So where is the heart, United? Where is the gritty reality, Delta? Where is the existential catharsis everyone is ready to have at 32,000 feet, Frontier? The answer, of course, is in the stories and essays I sent to each them, and which they promptly rejected. I've included excerpts of each below to prove how drastically they would improve their stupid magazines. I'm not bitter about the experience, but if on your next flight you wanted to print out a copy of these and glue them inside your in-flight magazine, I'm not sure how anyone could stop you, provided your glue container is less than 3.5 ounces.
... she was down to do it. I could tell. Girls have subtle signs they offer savvy men. A slightly raised eyebrow, a faint narrowing of the eyes, a single index finger driven repeatedly through an "O" created by the thumb and forefinger of the opposite hand. Some guys don't get it, but I do. I get sex, and I know when someone wants to have it on top of me.
Just two knocks, spaced apart like a heartbeat, and the lavatory door slowly folded open like a metal labia, revealing the most intimate part of the plane. She was already inside, smoking a cigarette, the smoke detector torn from the ceiling and in pieces in the sink.
"That's a federal crime," I said.
"You think humans learned to fly living by the rules?"
"That's not a logical analogy."
"I'm illogical," she said. "I'm ill everything."
"Gross," I said.
"Shut the door," she said, stubbing out her cigarette in the upturned alarm. "And take your pants off."
Twelve minutes later, both of us collapsed into one another, hot, sweaty and still panting with exertion. My pants were finally off.
"Kind of tight, isn't it?" I said, correctly.
That sign was really misleading.
She caught her breath, then tried and failed at several different crouching attempts. Finally she sat on the toilet, realized that didn't feel right and stood again while putting one foot up on the sink with a "this will have to do" face.
"Rad," I told her with my face, and with my voice.
Movements were limited to the confines of the space -- thrusting was out of the question. Instead we stood against one another and resigned ourselves to twitches. The soap dispenser dripped down my back with every spasm. Twice the toilet flushed, sensually. Then it was over.
"It's over," I said.
"Oh. OK," she nodded and glanced at her cellphone, which she hadn't even bothered switching to airplane mode. Who was this outlaw? "One minute and 53 seconds," she said, like that was a time she had never heard of in her entire life. I explained that technically we had crossed a time zone so it was actually an hour, one minute and 53 seconds, which, if my calculations were right, was a long time for sex. "You're welcome, 24B. Please kick me my pants when you've fully recovered. No rush."
"Rad," her face said, or seemed to say. I don't know. Women make a lot of weird faces ...
... and if your child is an aspiring athlete, check out the world famous National Softball Hall of Fame Museum. It's filled with memorabilia from everybody's favorite professional sport, like the glove of beloved pitcher for the '57 Raybestos Brakettes Joan Joyce. Or enjoy the expression on your children's faces when they finally get to see the bat Dot Richardson used in 1984 to hit a triple in a league game against an unspecified team!
Next, pop over to the American Banjo Museum for an adventure in silence! The banjos can't be strummed or handled, but just looking at them behind glass cases will fill your child's imagination with all the great sounds they must have made at some point. Give your kids lasting memories they can relive over and over in the halls of this hallowed museum.
At last, when your children are exhausted with the thrill of acquired cultural knowledge, you can take them back to one of the many three-and-a-half-star hotels all over Oklahoma City and have a long talk about how torture can take many forms. To one person, it may be a series of museums dedicated to agonizingly boring subjects, and to another it may be sitting in the seat directly in front of a child on a completely full flight from New York to Oklahoma while he/she kicks the seat repeatedly and cries inconsolably when the Nintendo DS runs out of batteries.
Remember this agony. Remember it forever.
Neither suffering is any greater than the other, but we have to do what we can in life to ease that suffering in others. Maybe then, with the pain of the day still looming, that little prick will finally understand ...