Thank You For Flying Con Air


If you look out the right side of the aircraft, you’ll notice that the right wing is on fire.

~Capt. H.M. Murdock, “The A-Team” (2010)

Welcome to El Diablo Airways...

This is one of those times when I need to get something off my chest. Going to confession doesn’t seem quite right, nor does scribbling a few sentences down in a soon-to-be-forgotten journal. This requires full and honest disclosure. P&Q is about as close as I can get, so, here goes.

Whenever I fly on an airplane (which is rare these days, but used to be less so) I enjoy pretending to be someone else.

It’s all right…you can laugh. Or gently scold me. Whatever your reaction, I understand.

I’m not sure where this Frank Abagnale streak of mine originated. Maybe it was always having to sit next to garrulous Avon ladies or oral surgeons or Jehovah’s Witnesses who always wanted to talk about their craft nonstop for six hours while 35,000 feet above the ground. After all, it’s not as if I, their seatmate, can politely excuse myself. As Stephen King put it in Four Past Midnight, it wasn’t as if I could just pop off to the local Taco Bell. Airplanes are the very definition of a captive audience.

I guess I always wanted to upstage these masters of the mundane. As a would-be improv comedian, it was a way to broaden my repertoire too. To my credit, never once did the person in 16-C ever question the veracity of what was, essentially, B.S. They were always fascinated.

What? Me? A con artist?

Part of it, I think, was what I call “risk without recklessness.” I’m too much of a chicken to skydive or go bungee jumping or face down a hungry lion while holding a chair. This was my way to be a little wild and crazy without risk of bodily harm. After all, was I really likely to see any of these fellow fliers ever again? Chances are, no.

I did so many characters over the years, each one more outrageous than the next. After a while it approached Seinfeldian levels of the absurd. A Ukrainian law student seeking asylum in America. The only daughter of a Scottish importer-exporter family (whose name was NOT MacVandelay Industries.) A South African rancher’s niece who secretly hated the old apartheid regime. One of the horseback riding doubles for the old show Xena: Warrior Princess. All of which required skill, daring, and ridiculous stage accents. I felt like someone had tossed me into a blender with leftover pieces of Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Quantum Leap. Even I never knew who I was going to be when I boarded the plane. I made it all up as I went along.

Now that I’m older and I don’t fly as much, this confidence game of mine has faded into the background. Could I still do it? Hell yeah, I could. One of my seemingly useless talents is the ability to successfully mimic most any accent after I hear it for a few minutes. Maybe I’ll never be the female version of Frank Caliendo or Paul Shanklin, but dammit, it’s fun. And I’m not trying to bilk some stranger out of his or her life savings or timeshare in Florida. It’s purely for the love of the game, or, to use a phrase from The A-Team, “the Jazz.”

The Jazz: being able to drive around with an angry mudsucker and a crazy fool

 If I had to guess what this odd obsession of mine is really about? Feeling as if, like Charlie, the protagonist of the play The Foreigner, that my life is as exciting as a bowl of stewed prunes. It’s much more exciting to pretend to be from some exotic land and/or hold some job that John and Jane Average can only dream about. Myself included. I may never be a trapeze artist or a baseball umpire or a cowgirl…but for six hours with a complete stranger, I can be. It’s like the holodeck in those old Star Trek episodes. Pure wish fulfillment. Nothing more.

I’ve cut down on flying both because of financial issues and the ever-tighter security measures. If I have to get felt up just to go visit a friend in Texas, forget it. I’ll drive. That being said, I am flying out of necessity next month. I’m not really looking forward to it…I will be packing a copy of some lengthy Russian novel just so I might get left alone. As for pretending to be someone else, getting back on the Jazz? I haven’t decided.

Might be kinda fun, though…so I’m keeping my options open. The only thing I’ll swindle is that extra bag of peanuts.

Maybe I'll get lucky and have a seatmate like this

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on July 10, 2011.

One Response to “Thank You For Flying Con Air”

  1. I think it’s funny. Years ago, while purchasing a few items at a convenience store in Florida, I pretended to be a French citizen visiting the States in order to work on perfecting my Southern (American) accent. Another time, just before I left Nashville for college, some friends and I went on an Elvis hunt around Elliston Place/West End. People totally believed me both times. Quite fun!

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