I have uncovered a conspiracy almost too horrible to reveal: we are
nothing more than lab rats when we travel on airplanes.
Consider the scenario: there's no place to run, no place to hide, and
absolutely nothing to do for several long hours. After you've
exhausted the possibilities for entertainment in the lavatory by reading
all of the warnings labels three times each destroying a smoke
detector will cost you $2,200 (my local hardware store sells them for less
than $10) and flushing a barf bag down the toilet could conceivably cause
the plane to crash even the most creative of us find ourselves
desperate for any form of intellectual stimulation. Taking a plane
trip is a desperate test of endurance. I won't go so far as to say I
am bored, but I am open to the suggestion of doing just about anything
legal to break the monotomy, and I'll even consider things illegal,
depending upon whether they'll cost me as much as replacing those
expensive smoke detectors in the bathroom.
I didnt understand the true horror of flying until just recently. I've
never been able to sleep on planes, so I stayed up for 32 straight hours
before my flight. Even then, only with difficulty did I manage to
finally drift off to sleep in my luxurious iron-maiden of a chair.
Forty-five minutes later the stewardess woke me to ask if she could get me
anything. She didnt really want to get me a soda. She
needed me to be awake for the battery of tests they had prepared for me.
Don't think the fact that the airlines have a captive audience escapes
them. For example, have you noticed that you never have the same
meal twice, even if you fly the same segment over and over again?
This is not because airlines shop at the Grocery Closeout Warehouse or
because different cities have different food. No, the airlines have
sold the rights to your mouth. Next time you fly, watch how many
people will eat everything put in front of them, regardless of the quality
(the term "quality airline food" is an oxymoron, like jumbo
shrimp or military intelligence) or if they even like Beef-Cartilage
Stroganoff. Then notice how the remains of your meal are not thrown
away but rather carefully collected in special bags so that trained
personnel can later evaluate what was half-eaten and what was devoured.
This is valuable marketing data, and the opportunity to taste test your
captive palette is sold to the highest bidder.
Thats only the beginning. Soda selections from each flight are
tabulated daily, sold, and reviewed in an effort to create more effective
advertising campaigns. Theyve also tied in psychological tests to
your choice. For example, have you ever seen the guy who asked for
Coke get the whole can and then you only get half a glass if you pick
Pepsi? Those stewardesses are actually graduate students testing the
people behind you to see if theyll ask for Coke because they dont
want to get screwed like you did. And dont underestimate just how
uncomfortable your seat is. These same students designed them so
they can simulate a small child kicking you incessantly in the back to see
what your breaking point is before you buy a beer or stiff cocktail to
Have you noticed how there isnt time for an in-flight movie anymore but
there is time for a couple of TV sitcom reruns complete with commercials?
Are you desperate enough to watch a show you wouldn't be caught dead
watching at any other time? Were you surprised how easily it
entertained you? Will you perhaps add it to your viewing schedule?
Thats the real reason why the airlines stopped charging for headsets.
And because youve completely lost your sense of time, you dont
notice just how many commercials theyve managed to stuff in; in fact,
youre actually thankful for them. I also suspect that someone has
added subliminal ads to the videos because every time I fly back into San
Francisco I have an inexplicable urge to visit Alcatraz yet again.
Its a horrible knowledge to possess. I can no longer look at them
as merely bags of peanuts but rather as part of the complex system of
rewards and punishments that they really are. I'm ashamed to admit
it, but it's shocking the lengths Ill go to to earn that extra bag.
And I dont even like peanuts.