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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Tell me about your in-flight nightmares

Doug Clarkdoug Clark The Spokesman-Review

My dear friends Joe and Tera Brasch returned recently from their Caribbean honeymoon bubbling with memories of crystalline turquoise waters, tan and sandy beaches and a flight home that makes Abu Ghraib abuses seem like playtime at Chuck E. Cheese’s.

“I’m surprised passengers didn’t start throwing up,” says Joe. “I just sat with my mouth open in disbelief with how far we’ve sunk.”

Fasten your seatbelts, amigos. Prepare to play Air Outrage – the contest that gives frequently fed-up flyers a chance to share their airline horror stories for prizes.

The best of the worst tales will take wing in a future column. Winners will receive a jar of dry-roasted peanuts and a copy of “Airplane” – the finest documentary ever made on the airline industry.

Whatever happened to the wonder of flight?

Had the Wright Brothers known where their Kitty Hawk tinkering would lead they would have redirected their efforts into bettering the buggy whip.

We can’t blame it all on post-9/11 tensions. The flying experience has been going down in flames for decades. Today’s air travel comes with long lines, invasive security checks, crappy food, overbooked flights, cramped seating, frayed nerves and passengers who possess the manners of chimps.

Take the woman on a crowded MD-80 flight.

“Absolutely the worst,” says Amelia, the flight attendant who witnessed what happened. “It still makes my skin crawl.”

Amelia didn’t want her real name used or the airline she flies with identified. But after decades of flying both friendly and unfriendly skies, Amelia says the public’s behavior is at an all-time low.

“People have completely lost their social graces. Flying was very special. It’s not special anymore.”

But even Amelia was taken aback when the aforementioned woman put her bare feet up on the seatback in front of her, took out a pedicure kit and started chiseling.

“She clipped ‘em. She cleaned ‘em. She filed ‘em. It was gross.”

Madam Toe Jam ignored Amelia’s order to stop. Some people are beyond shame.

I know the type. A marathon flight to Tokyo found me seated next to a red-haired lout with diarrhea of the mouth. The fool emitted a nonstop stream of crude jokes and braggadocio exploits.

Crossing the dateline I did the only sanity-saving thing I could think of. I wrote a poem:

“The guy in 25-F just took off his shoes.

“Elbow-to-elbow I can smell his foul breath.

“Three hundred seats; how did I get so blessed?

“God, kill this dumb ass in 25-F.”

Being cooped up with a boorish boob is heaven compared to the biological warfare my friends endured.

The nightmare began when Joe and Tera boarded a jet at JFK International. They were enveloped by a repugnant smell that had invaded the cabin the way Yoko took over the Beatles.

Did the chemical toilets overflow? Were skunks living in an overhead luggage bin?

The stench thickened with each step Joe and Tera took. Finally they found the odor epicenter.

It emanated from the underarms of a throwback hippie woman who occupied a seat next to theirs.

Joe gasped. “Oh. My. God.”

Earth Mama said she had been living on the side of a mountain. Bathing wasn’t on the path to enlightenment. Joe says the woman started chanting a mantra that devolved from “Ohmm…” into “Cherry pie, my sweet cherry piiie…”

Oh, well. At least Joe and Tera could take comfort in the fact that – outside of crashing – their situation couldn’t get any worse.

Then the parents in front of them began changing their baby’s loaded diaper.

And there went the honey out of honeymoon.

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