August 24th, 2002.

Chicken or beef?

How come the only menu options in coach on any aircraft seems to be chicken or beef? I am assuming that the airlines have spent vast sums of money in researching how to keep the in-flight food costs down and therefore also in the dietary likes and dislikes of the coach class masses. Perhaps when you get down the bare bones of the situation we can all be categorized into three main groups. Vegetarian, Chicken, or Beef.

I'm a breast man myself, though chicken legs are pretty good too. But you know, come to think of it beef is okay too. While I am sitting on the plane on the ground I usually decide if today is a chicken or a beef day. But when they come around mid-flight and ask me "Chicken or beef sir?" I have those few moments of pressured indecision as if on a TV game show before I end up choosing the chicken, as ever.

Of course when the said 'chicken' arrives it doesn't resemble anything that looks remotely like chicken back on terra firma. It's been processed into that microscopic square pink thing that is 'served' with nasty vegetables, a 'salad', some kind of a cookie that has a fancy name, and a fruit cake dessert that looks like a bio-health hazard. All of this is dished up on a tray just that is just big enough to make balancing it and your drink on the seatback tray table seems like an aptitude test.

So now you're sitting there trying to somehow eat the micro meal, drink your drink, watch the in-flight movie, and be comfortable. It is of course impossible, you're in coach for goodness sake. You sit there fighting for space on the armrest you share with the person next to you who is if your extremely unlucky, a huge fat person with no personality, charm, or manners.

The movie will be something suitable for all audiences. It's the kind of movie you would be able to sit and watch with your Mom, except of course you never would because it'll be a stupid movie that you have no interest in watching under normal circumstances. But then under normal circumstances, you would never try and squeeze yourself into a space so small it constricts blood flow to vital limbs and organs.

You pick up and leaf through the now extremely battle-worn in-flight magazine to see what other movies are showing. Some great ones are showing, but alas, as always they are on the other flights.

'Ah, what the heck' you think, as you settle down to watch the movie you're not interested in. It'll stop you from getting too bored and as sleep is entirely out of the question due to your lack of double joints and contortionist abilities it will serve as a welcome diversion.

The headphones in coach are designed to be very uncomfortable and the audio quality from them will resemble that of a cardboard tube. You have your own set of headphones but they won't work in this socket so you have to sit there trying to hear the movie and lip-read at the same time. Periodically you'll look at the volume controls to see if maybe, just maybe, you could squeeze a little more power out of these ear irritating headphones, but you know deep down that it's a waste of time.

"Ladies and Gentlemen the captain has turned on the fasten seatbelts sign. So at this time, we would ask you to return to your seat and fasten your seat belt securely."

Hello? "Please return to our seats"? Where the hell else would we be? It's not like we could go for a brisk walk. Our options are somewhat limited, we have our seat or the restroom, and that's it.

The restroom, that's a scary place, isn't it. You do what you have to do hoping and praying all the time that you don't hit any turbulence because if you did that could be extremely embarrassing as you walk down the aisle back to your seat. Of course, when you flush you always hold onto something solid so as to allay your irrational fear that you might somehow get sucked away in that violent and noisy flush that always makes you jump.

Now you're about to land. The statutory screaming kid is in full chorus and the flight attendant is thanking you for choosing this airline when we all know that you're in coach and you chose this airline because they were cheap, and if the other guys were cheaper you'd have flown with them.

At the gate the plane stops, you're moments away from being able to move like a human again, but before that, you have to contend with the disembark scrum. You'll duck and dive as people get their huge bags from the overhead bins. They drop them on your head, elbow you in the face, or knee you in the back as you struggle with your carry on luggage.

Then you stand in the aisle for an age while all the first and business class passengers take their sweet time to finish up their drinks, pack away their laptops, exchange business cards and get off the plane.

Welcome to your destination, we hope you fly with us again soon.