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Indisputable truths: Not so great

If you live long enough, you learn a few indisputable truths. For instance, if you live long enough, you learn that France isn't merely the fictional setting of nightmarish, bloodcurdling fairy tales about socialist cigarette aficionados, incomprehensible movies, and people who wear black turtlenecks all the time, even during the summer - France is a real place, and those nightmarish, bloodcurdling fairy tales are true.

Also, if you live long enough, you learn that commercial air travel has the potential to transform otherwise functional, rational human beings into glassy-eyed, blathering lunatics. How could I possibly know that, you ask? Aren't I far too good-looking and talented to have endured anything as unpleasant as a bad flying experience in my brief lifetime?

Valid questions, I'll grant you. But picture this (preferably in slow motion): It's February 2008, and I'm heading back to the Midwest after spending the weekend in Saranac Lake celebrating Winter Carnival. Thanks to a combination of snow, ice, and so-called "safety regulations" dreamed up by the spineless bureaucratic losers at the FAA, my flight from Burlington to Washington doesn't take off until 10:30 p.m. - three hours later than scheduled.

When we finally land in D.C., I check my watch and see that my connecting flight supposedly took off fifteen minutes ago. But, because I'm shamelessly self-absorbed, I dismiss out-of-hand the notion that my connecting flight actually took off fifteen minutes ago.

As the plane taxis toward the terminal, I put my hands behind my head and smile. I imagine myself sauntering up to my connecting gate and greeting the airline employee behind the counter with a broad grin. "Sorry I'm late," I'll say, shrugging. "You know those bureaucratic losers at the FAA - they have all sorts of wild ideas about not flying into ice storms.

Anyway, you'd better let the flight attendants know I'm here so they can have a cup of hot tea and a platter of chocolate-chip cookies ready for me when I get to my seat. Also, tell the pilot to fire up the engines - I'd like to get out of here before I'm eligible for social security benefits!"

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