Tarmac timeshare

Big, big decisions. Sue and I don’t get that much time off, so we spend a lot of time planning which tarmac we want to spend our vacation on this year.

I like O’Hare, but Sue prefers Atlanta for some reason. Maybe we could compromise. Who doesn’t love Newark? It’s easy to get to, and it’s got that nifty monorail that you can watch from your seat in the plane.

“What about Dulles?” I ask. “Remember that time we spent nine hours out there that Memorial Day weekend? It was only 92 F outside, but inside it must have 108 F. It was like being in the Sahara. Too bad the pictures didn’t come out. The image of the flight attendants holding down that guy who was missing his mother’s funeral was pretty dramatic. And entertaining. Better than anything you’d see in Cancun. They gave us two free tickets to the LAX tarmac, which we should use before the airline goes belly up, by the way. They’ll be no good then.”

“I know,” says Sue, “But sitting on the tarmac in California scares me. What if there’s an earthquake? It could shake the overflowing toilets into the cabin and spoil everyone’s fun.”

“What about Paris? Or Barcelona? I hear great things about their airports.”

“There’s a problem. I don’t think they let their planes sit on the tarmac for nine or ten hours. Once you leave this country, you’re pretty much at the mercy of those radical, overseas governments. I don’t even think they allow overbooking.”

“The Commies.”

“You know the great thing about tarmac vacations? You don’t have to pack any luggage, you don’t have to rent a car, you don’t have to reserve a hotel room. It’s all right there for us in one little package. About the only expense is bribing the flight attendants for food and water.”

“Yeah, I kept expecting to see Jeff Probst from “Survivor” come down the aisles and separate us into tribes. That’s part of the fun, when people start to go stir crazy.”

“If only we could buy some coach airline seats for our lanai.”

“Who would ever bother to fly if you could sit in those things at home?”

“Of course, not every tarmac vacation is fun. Remember that time we got the chatty pilot? ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, there’s been a weather delay in Albany, we should be of the ground in about 20 minutes.’ What’s up with that? Who wants to know all that stuff? I swear, that guy would not stop talking. I’ll bet you he made a so-called ‘important’ announcement at least once an hour.

“Thank goodness most pilots don’t bother you with all that stuff. Nine, ten hours without a word about why we’re sitting here. That’s the way it should be.”

“What I like is that parents get to spend some quality time with their kids. Especially the babies. If you can’t bond with your children after nine hours locked in a 747, well, you’re just not trying.”

“And it’s a great way to meet people. Like what’s-her-name who was sitting in the window seat next to us on the tarmac at Dallas Fort Worth. It’s too bad she missed her connecting flight to her fantasy vacation in Greece that she’s been saving for and planning for years, but that’s the thing about Club Tarmac. It’s always a surprise.”

“Some people just can’t deal with spontaneity. I get enough rules and regulations at work. When I’m on vacation I like to go with the flow, let other people make all the decisions for a change.”

“Yes, I don’t get all the complaining. What is it about ‘Buy one tarmac vacation and get one free,’ that people don’t understand? The airlines now want to pay you for every hour you sit on the tarmac – you can’t get a better deal than that. Unless you’re one of those people who actually wants to fly somewhere specific. But if you really wanted to get somewhere, why would you use an airline?”

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at jim_mullen@myway.com

Copyright 2007, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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