A travel story…
I am among the first to board my morning flight on Delta (motto: “We’ll get there eventually and uncomfortably.”) so I can stuff my carry-on in the compartment over my seat before it gets full and I have to use the compartment 10 rows back so that, when the plane lands, I have to swim upstream to retrieve it and endure the scorn of my fellow travelers who react as if I have cut a line at Disneyland with a family of 12.
Now I’m ensconced in my “Preferred” seat, for which I’ve paid extra so I can spend some portion of the trip without having my knees in my mouth, at least until the person in front of me decides that he just has to recline, and does so completely without warning, so that the crossword puzzle I was doing on my snack tray now has the answer to 37 across going down at a peculiar angle.
I always take an aisle seat so I can go to the bathroom whenever I want without having to perform a lap dance on a seatmate who will not, under any circumstances, stand up to let me pass, so I’m on full alert as others board. I have to be vigilant at these times so people don’t bonk me on the head with their bags as they go by.
Okay, now we’re almost ready to go. Gail, the flight attendant (she has introduced herself and the crew–as if anyone will ever call them by name), is making yet another request for everyone to “Please step out of the aisle.” These requests, which began somewhat jovially, have become increasingly snarky with repetition. I fully expect the next announcement to be “Please step out of the aisle now or we will throw you and your slightly too-large carry-on off the friggin’ plane.”
There–everybody is finally seated, and all that’s left to do is for the flight attendant to close the one overhead compartment door that’s not quite latching due to the 26-inch bar of Toblerone someone bought at the airport. Gail manages to shut it by turning the Toblerone sideways which, sadly, its owner had not thought to do. In any case, upon arrival, the bar will likely be in handy bite-size pieces suitable to hand out to trick-or-treaters.
Now Gail strolls down the aisle to make sure our belts our fastened and notices that a guy who’s been loudly and obnoxiously berating someone at the home office, which everyone on the plane knows is in California because the guy keeps yelling about traffic on the 405, is doing so on a Samsung Note 7 which Gail is now telling him must be turned off and not plugged into anything lest it become an incendiary device. This does not sit well with the California screamer, who, apparently, is not quite finished admonishing the person back at the office where, I should point out, it is 4:40 am.
…with a turkey.
I am not referring to one of your standard store-bought Butterballs here. This is a real live gobbling bird, held lovingly in the arms of a real live squawking woman who is claiming that “Ms. Giblet” is a comfort animal, and therefore permitted to fly to provide emotional support, presumably to the woman, because the turkey is certainly not doing anything for Gail’s already-frazzled nerves.
I’m going to pause my little fictional story now to say that, although I have never personally faced fowl on a flight, such occurrences are not as rare as you might think (or hope). Apparently, people are boarding planes with all sorts of service animals, including turkeys, pigs and monkeys. It’s become so common, in fact, that the Department of Transportation has been holding a series of committee meetings to consider new rules for service animals on planes.
Keep in mind that we are not talking about seeing-eye dogs (or even seeing-eye turkeys). This is more about animals that provide emotional support in the case of afflictions such as post traumatic stress disorder. Evidently, current rules do not require passengers with such companions to provide proof that they are necessary, or that the animals have had any special training. In other words, you could just pick up any stray turkey on the way to the airport, claim it’s an emotional support animal, and bring it with you on your flight to visit family in Minnesota.
I should mention that I like most animals, except slithery ones and icky ones. I’m slightly less fond of most people, but I do recognize that for various reasons, someone in need of a service animal might not be able to use a dog. As I dog owner, I also understand that people who are psychologically distressed can benefit from the emotional support that only the unconditional love of an animal can provide, even if that animal might otherwise be someone’s dinner.
On the other hand, we can’t allow just any creature on our airplanes, can we? Consider:
- Do we really want pets like my nephew’s snake flying with us and inviting Samuel L. Jackson to jump into action?
- Doesn’t an emotional support tarantula represent a security risk? (“Open the cockpit door or I’ll sic my tarantula on you.”)
- What if fellow passengers have to look at this thing for a whole flight? Who would pay for the psychotherapy bills afterward?
- Minimally, doesn’t there need to be a size restriction? I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a seeing-eye Great Dane, but is there an actual rule against it? What if I try to board the plane with an emotional support llama?
Anyway, getting back to the fictional flight with which I began this post, I wonder who will be sitting next to the woman with the turkey all the way to California. And will that poor flyer be able to switch seats with the gentleman sitting next to the crying baby?
See you soon.