Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Air Show: Ripped From the Headlines

LAST WEEK IN THE NEWS: An American Airlines flight attendant was tackled and restrained by passengers after drifting into an hysterical 15-minute tirade about mechanical problems, a pending crash of their plane, 9/11 and all sorts of troubling subjects. She was said to be bipolar and "off her medication." Removed from the plane by a bevy of law enforcement and medical personnel, one assumes she will receive proper medical treatment, eventually retrained and rejoining American Airlines as a mental baggage handler.

MAYBE NEXT WEEK IN THE NEWS: A commercial airliner soars mightily overhead, slicing through occasional early evening clouds like a double-winged knife through melted butter. Everything on the flight seems to go just fine, but suddenly flight attendant Zinnia steps into the aisle from the back and startles everybody with her rant.

"Look out! Rats! All over the plane! Rats! Rats!"

Passengers and other flight crew members either jump from their seats or stiffen where they stand, as everybody anxiously watches for a rodent invasion. But there is nothing to be seen.

"My grandmother has a gun, watch out!" screamed Zinnia.

People looked up at one another and then at Zinnia, beginning to realize that something was quite amiss. A woman re-seating herself in an aisle seat looked up and asked Zinnia if she was feeling okay. Zinnia nodded. . .then continued her warnings as she paced the aisle. "Watch out! I see snakes in the baggage compartments! Oh my god, we're going to crash! I can feel the plane breaking apart,! Can you feel that!?"

Everyone on board soon realized that poor Zinnia had gone stark-raving mad, so they began humoring and sympathizing with her claims. After all, there was nothing to be done until the plane landed, and that wouldn't be for another half hour.

At last, Zinnia calmed down and retreated to a rear compartment, assuring silence for the flight's remaining minutes as two other flight attendants soothed her back into her work and administered medications she had failed to take. Promising no further outbursts, Zinnia returned to the passengers, slowly making her way up from the back, populated by people still on edge from her emotional words.

Midway up the aisle, however, Zinnia stopped cold, alerted by a flash of light to her right, a flash reaching only her eye level. Glancing to the side, she looked around the cabin, but saw nothing. She shrugged and continued walking, but then another dim flash reflected in her eyes. Returning her attention to the right, she suddenly discovered the light source -- pacing the airliner about 100 feet in the distance was a glowing reddish-orange disc, the most peculiar sight Zinnia had ever encountered. Fear instantly gripped her mind. "It's outside -- a flying saucer! It's after us!" she shouted, screaming in terror.

"Oh no, not again!" a frequent flyer exclaimed, rolling his eyes.

"She's out of control," whispered another to the stranger seated beside her.

"Hide! Hide!' advised Zinnia. "Sink down in your seats so it won't see you!"

Zinnia had every reason to panic, for the UFO was real and continuing to pace the large commercial aircraft, now just minutes away from the intended airport. But the mere thought of UFOs brought out the worst among passengers.

"Let's get her!" voiced a young man in the back, "She's nuts! Hold her and tie her up before she does something stupid!"

"Quite right," said another man approaching from the back. "I'm an air marshal and I'm trained to deal with these situations. Stand back!" commanded the tall, burly man attired casually. He threw Zinnia to the floor and handcuffed her, completing his chore by dragging her to the rear compartment.

"Stop!" Zinnia pleaded as loud as she could. "The saucer's right outside, we're doomed!"

Another passenger leaped from his seat. "Pay no attention!" he told the outraged passengers. "I'm from the Food and Drug Administration, and I think this woman is high on something!"

"And I work with the Justice Department," interrupted a well-dressed man in the front. "That flight attendant has obviously conspired to frighten everybody, and I'm sure an indictment is waiting in the wings!"

"Ahem! sounded a voice, clearing itself as if for a major announcement. "I'm a professional astronomer and I've never seen a UFO. I speak as an expert in my field and this is just poppycock, and this woman badly requires medical attention. I advise psychiatric consultation. Is there a doctor on the plane?"

A hand went up. "I'm a chiropractor. Can I help?"

"No!" was the resounding sound throughout the cabin.

"Folks," the pilot's voice crackled over the speakers, "I don't know what's going on back there, but we'll be landing in a couple of minutes, so fasten those seat belts and listen to the flight crew."

The UFO, unnoticed by anyone except Zinnia, now both bound and gagged, ascended and sped off into the night, disappearing in seconds. Zinnia would eventually be found criminally insane and ordered never to work as a flight attendant again.

(. . .And as almost everybody has heard by now, the late Dr. J. Allen Hynek remembered attending a scientific symposium attended by professional astronomers. During the evening session somebody interrupted the affair with an announcement that a UFO was being observed outside at that very moment. However, as Hynek wryly noted, not one astronomer would venture out into the night to see for himself.)

AUTISM UPDATE: The latest TV spot from the Ad Council now claims that one in 110 children is autistic, after new science caused researchers to back off from the one in 100 figure -- which previous to that was one in 125. I truly am disturbed by these numbers, not because I believe them, but because, if true, we all may as well go hiking until dead, leaving jobs and responsibilities behind, because the kids everybody claims are the future will have no future because there will be no future. If we're in as much childbirth trouble as these figures indicate -- and I find it easier to accept multiple birth defects due to decades of chemical exposure -- then autism will destroy us socially and economically in short order. I continue to stand in the open-minded shadows on this, wondering how much fudging is going on here as research communities of various disciplines fight for grants and tax dollars by inflating numbers or "crying wolf."

AFGHANISTAN UPDATE: How many more times can we apologize in a place where nobody apologizes to us? Tipping points exist, and an Army staff sergeant going murder-bonkers last week exemplifies the frustration of a military whose battle-trained hands are tied by our own leaders and whose trusted Afghan friends may just as likely be untrustworthy Afghan enemies. How many American lives is failing diplomacy worth in a region populated by religious extremist throwbacks, who patiently wait to reclaim what they firmly believe is theirs? Nice try, but our people are fatigued and edgy after multiple deployments, and who could blame them? With new threats of beheading U.S. servicemen, it's pretty clear that human cockroaches rarely ascend to anything better. How much longer will we force our military, now clearly in the line of fire everywhere, to nation-build us to hell?