Last night, I was flying from St. Louis to Minneapolis to participate in the 2008 National Conference for Media Reform. I was flying in a small jet (the kind that holds about 60 passengers).
As we approached the Minneapolis airport, we started going through storm clouds. Undeterred, the pilot started bringing the plane down for a landing. The runway was in sight. That’s when some huge storm clouds became apparent. Not only that, lightning surrounded the airplane-it looked like the lightning was only a couple yards outside the window. It was right after noticing the lightning that the plane went into a sustained stall. It was not the kind of controlled stall that planes enter just prior to touching down. Rather, this was the kind of stall where the nose of the plane goes way up (maybe 50° from horizontal) and the plane starts losing altitude, sliding backwards.
To make things worse, the plane started blowing sideways in the vicious wind. This condition lasted for about 10 seconds. The feeling of being blown around like a leaf was really disconcerting. No one on the plane reacted other than being extremely quiet. Nonetheless, I really truly thought that this was going to be the end for me.
Luckily (you knew the story would end well, since I’m writing this post), the pilot regained control of the plane, leveling out and fighting his way through five minutes of wicked winds. There were lots of bumps and jolts, and many of the passengers were doublechecking and triple checking their seatbelts.
During the excitement, I could’ve sworn that I heard a cat. As it turned out, the man sitting in front of me had a big black suitcase under his seat that was actually a carrier for a cat. During the severe turbulence, the cat not only made lots of noise, it apparently shat all over itself, causing a thick stench of cat poop to spread throughout the seating area. The other passengers (including me) had to endure that smell (which was so bad that it was nauseating) while the pilot made a 20-minute detour around the storm in order to try to land the plane a second time.
Worse yet, I am highly allergic to cats. My exposure triggered asthma, for which I needed to use an inhaler last night.
There’s no real point to this post, other than my need to rant. I had no idea that passengers could bring cats in the passenger compartment of airplanes. This especially surprises me, given the fact that numerous people (I’ve heard that it’s 10% of the population) are allergic to cats.
After the plane was safely on the ground (the passengers applauded when the plane safely touched down), I asked the flight attendant whether it was appropriate to have a cat in the passenger compartment of an airplane. She stated that it is done all the time, and that the passenger needs only to pay an extra $100 in order to bring a pet in the passenger compartment of the plane.
I would suggest one modification to the $100 rule. The next time a cat shits during a flight, the passenger bringing the cat should pay $100 to each passenger within 10 feet of the cat.