The Joy of Flying

British author Alex Comfort brought forth The Joy of Sex: A Gourmet Guide to Lovemaking, full of frank advice and racy illustrations, in 1972—fifty-one years ago.

Recent journeys have persuaded Your New Favorite Writer that a similar manual is desperately needed so that people may experience in full the joy of airline travel. 

All I have so far is a bit of text, shown below. But let me know if you can provide salacious drawings to illustrate my text. We might submit the package to Random Penguin, Inc., and make a fortune.



For eons it was held impossible that humans should fly. Then aviation was invented. People waxed giddy with the romance of flight. On came the age of barnstormers and wing-walkers. 

Lillian Boyer stands on the wing of a flying biplane. Public Domain.
A B-314, the California Clipper, at Pearl Harbor before World War II. National Air and Space Museum (NASM 85-14240), Smithsonian Institution.

That was followed by an age when the legendary rich could fly on a giant Zeppelin or a Boeing 314 flying boat—both options loaded with first-class amenities and oodles of personal space—merely by purchasing a ticket. 

However, flight has now become the forlorn lot of the masses. I say it is high time—nay, half past high time, Dear Reader!—for someone to write up aviation as art form and the dire expedients needed to cope with it.

Return to Upright Position

If you fly at all, you are certain to encounter the classic Sagging Airline Seat. You will be either (a) a victim of this equipment failure or (b) the embarrassed perpetrator of it. Airline seats were designed to be lowered to a semi-reclining position, ostensibly to help you relax in style and comfort. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE THIS FEATURE, Gentle Reader. It is a relic of primitive times, before modern technology enabled the airlines to avoid the humiliation of bankruptcy by stuffing 437 passengers into a 220-passenger space. 

A seat with a mind of its own. Photo by Paul Colins at Fair use.

In the brave new world of modern jet travel, lowering your airline seat has become an act of vandalism. You are thrusting your head and shoulders into the lap of some poor soul behind you, who already can’t figure out how to remove the wrapper of his chicken giardino entrée without smearing tomato sauce all over his hula shirt. Given these constraints, no decent human being would dream of pushing the seat-angle release button located in the armrest. The problem is: certain airline seats—at least half a dozen in each plane, apparently—have figured out how to recline all by themselves!

What to do if you are the victim of a Sagging Airline Seat? No option is truly satisfactory. You can announce loudly to the cabin at large that “some people have no consideration of others!” and hope the passenger ahead of you gets the hint. Or you can escalate the situation by shoving forward on the reclined seat back, hard enough to catapult your tormentor into his own tray-table. But regardless which course you choose, that seat will soon be sagging back into your space.

That’s bad enough, Dear Reader, but what if you are the unwilling perpetrator? With no intent at all to recline your seat, you find yourself slumping backwards, into the space of the person behind you. Your seat has chosen to lie down on the job. Perhaps you even receive a violent impetus from behind, driving you rapidly toward the first-class section; yet you know you will never make it that far. 

The best tactic is to press your seat-angle button, simultaneously grasping your own seat back with the other hand and yanking forward decisively—or if not decisively, at least resolutely. Then, when the seat sags again on its own initiative, usually within five minutes, you can lean around your seat, eyeballing the person behind you, and perform an elaborate shrug, implicitly absolving yourself of any further guilt. This will satisfy all but the most truculent fellow passengers, at least to the extent that you can both spend the entire rest of the flight mumbling and grumbling. 

These are the only known and approved methods to experience the joy of flying in the context of a chronically malfunctioning seat. 

What a Relief

Another true “joy of flying” maneuver is the well-known Gotta-Go-Potty Shuffle. This is best achieved some forty minutes into a domestic flight, or an hour and twenty minutes into an international flight. It works best if you are the window passenger in a three-seat row; but even if you are only the middle passenger, the discombobulation of at least one perfect stranger can be quite satisfying. 

Oh, joy! Here comes the beverage cart. Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash.

Once you have forced your inboard seatmate or seatmates to stand up and move down the aisle to give you room, if you have timed your escape right, you can start heading toward the rear galley area just as two burly and surly cabin attendants commit irrevocably to wheeling a bulky, impassable beverage cart down the aisle. That’s all right. Go ahead, squeeze by.

Start by approaching the aisle one row forward of the cart’s progress, and place both of your feet into the space of the person sitting in the aisle seat. You may need to kick aside the strap of their under-the-seat backpack, but don’t let that bother you. Once you achieve this position you will be looming over that aisle passenger, clearly in their space, maybe even supporting yourself by placing your hands on their armrest. Extra points can be awarded if this passenger is trying to sleep and you are waking them up. 

Then, as the cabin attendants move the cart forward past the seat row you are usurping, shove yourself into the three-inch space on the near side of the cart. This will force the attendants to wrestle the cart sideways and widen the three-inch gap to six inches. Now, strike while the iron is hot. Blunder your way through that six-inch gap. Extra points may be obtained if you can manage this while being significantly overweight.

It is important to act with confidence. Do not show fear or self-doubt. The customer is always right, and as an airline passenger you have been abused enough by the airline and you’re not going to take it anymore! Plow on down the aisle. After all, when you gotta go, you gotta go.

Vive La Différence!

A lofty view from the apex of the Three-point Stance. Photo by Kristoferb, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

While we’re on the subject of toiletting, here’s another thing. Women may not know it, because they don’t usually pee standing up. Whereas men do so all the time, and with casual abandon. 

Thus all men who ride passenger planes are familiar with the Airline Lavatory Three-point Stance. That is: Two feet planted equidistant on either side of the toilet, body canted forward to suspend the, um, source of urination directly above the open bowl, and the crown of one’s head lodged against the inward-sloping bulkhead. This stance confers stability even in stratospheric turbulence, given sufficient neck strength. And it leaves both hands free for important actions like unzipping, rezipping, and, importantly, aiming. 

Come to think of it, there may be men who have not yet mastered this position. I beg of you, gentlemen: practice, for all our sakes. 

Anyway, I thought you women, who may have supposed the male role is all beer and skittles, would want to know about this continuing challenge to our manhood.

Final Results Pending

There are many other refinements, not yet mentioned, to the art of flying with joy. But before proceeding further with the project I will wait till I see the sample illustrations.


Larry F. Sommers

Your New Favorite Writer