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Jeff Whitten: Flying the friendly skies
editor's notes

I got home from work around 11 p.m. Tuesday night and told my wife I had solved the problem of unruly airline passengers.

“I didn’t know they were a problem,” she said, then started brushing her teeth.

My wife doesn’t fly, you see, and since the farthest she goes these days is to Hilton Head for Beach Week or her sister’s house in Glennville she usually doesn’t see much need for an airplane. And since most of what I do is work, I rarely have a need for one either.

Still, it chaps my sense of fair play, all these people making life miserable for everyone around them. Especially since once upon a time I flew quite a bit. And, to be fair, there were a few times when I was probably a little over the limit on German bier and might have annoyed my fellow passengers, but I never lost my mind and went beserk like today’s wingnut airline travelers.

“Oh yeah,” I said. “I read stewardesses are getting PTSD and changing careers from having to wrassle with these drunken idiots. Planes are turning around in the middle of flights, it’s a mess. And I can fix it.”

She gave me the look that said go ahead and finish the story so she can go to bed.

So I did. “It’s simple,” I said. “Kick them off the plane. No more turning around and coming back and letting them be escorted off. And no sitting on the runway until they behave or get taken away in handcuffs.”

I was getting warmed up. “Instead, airlines can build a special door in the back of planes with retractable planks, and if someone acts a fool they have to walk the plank into the wild blue yonder,” I continued. “I don’t care if the plane is at 100 feet or 10,000 feet. Just kick them right on out, right then and there. Without a parachute. Of course, you might have to zap them with a taser first.”

I was on a roll, but paused for a second to gather my thoughts. “Any unused portion of their ticket would obviously be refunded to them or their next of kin,” I added, as I mentally searched for any additional flaws in my brilliant plan to save airline travel from the uncouth amongst us.

I couldn’t find any, though later I realized there’s a slim chance one could be minding one’s own business in one’s yard when one got landed on by an unruly passenger from Florida headed home to New Jersey. That hardly seems fair, but seems more proof we’re all made to suffer to some extent when people can’t behave in public.

And, by the way, I looked up some numbers on the Federal Aviation Administration site and they were astonishing. I don’t know if it’s because more people than ever weren’t raised right, but there were 5,981 “unruly passenger reports” in 2021, according to the FAA.

That led to 350 enforcement actions and $5 million in fines, but given there have already been more than 500 reports of troublemaking yahoos on planes in 2022 and we’re still in March, fines clearly aren’t enough.

My wife didn’t ask me (she was asleep) but I could hear her brain thinking, ‘how is kicking somebody off an airplane going to solve the problem of rowdy passengers?’ I had an answer in case she woke up: “You may scoff, but look at it this way. If you run amok on a plane and get kicked off it, you probably won’t survive to do it again, and if you do live I suspect you wouldn’t want to repeat the experience,” I said. “Also, seeing someone thrown from out of a plane at 30,000 feet would likely serve as a deterrent to the sort of people who seem to delight in pitching fits on a commercial airliner.”

I wonder if I can patent the idea. I will ask my mother, who recently took a home DNA test and found out she does not have Cherokee blood in her DNA. Not a drop.

This came as quite a shock to her, because:

 A) She is an nth generation southerner, and all nth generation southerners have to have some Native American blood in them. It’s a rule.

B) She was told growing up her father’s great-grandmother was full-blooded Cherokee. “Why,” she asked. “Would they tell me that if it wasn’t true? This is crazy.”

This means the DNA test she took could’ve been wrong, or they somehow got samples mixed up or sent the wrong results, but, on the other hand, it could be right.

If that’s the case, we’ll have to re-evaluate our entire family history because what we did learn was while Mom didn’t have Cherokee blood in her genes, she had a smidgeon of another ethnicity in her makeup we didn’t expect.

In short, Mom’s part Chinese!!! Which means so am I, I think. Oh boy.

To be continued. 

Whitten is editor of the Bryan County News, he thinks, unless a DNA test proves differently and he’s really Genghis Khan Jr.

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