Apparently, I'm not the only skier to roll a black Dakine double bag with burly cinch straps. The first time a stranger mistakenly took my ski bag from an airport baggage carousel was in Vancouver. I waited for my Dakine a long time before dimly realizing that no one was coming for the other black Dakine there. I dialed the number on the tag, got the stranger's cell phone number from his wife, gave him the news, heard him say, "Oh, shit!" and waited for him to fight traffic back to the airport so we could make the switch. Before it was all over, I was at least an hour late departing for Whistler.
The second time, a few weeks later, a Montana woman and I simultaneously absconded from Denver International with each other's black Dakines. She was forced to compete in a telemark contest in Crested Butte on borrowed gear before we resolved things.
Yo, airlines! How about some security on the hind end? Give us a little peace of mind for our $500 tickets. Hire a couple of seniors for eight bucks an hour to check claim tickets. Start worrying more about my thousands of dollars' worth of ski gear than about me inadvertently smuggling nose-hair clippers on board. By the way: Your baggage handlers are treating skis like javelins. A friend once saw a handler drop a nice ski bag from plane-belly right to tarmac-landing full force on the tails. Do you do that to the poodles, too?
This cavalier disregard for skiers inflames my preexisting case of low-boiling air rage. Oh, I'm not as discombobulated by airline crap as that drunk New Yorker who got so mad he took a crap on a food cart a couple years back. Nevertheless, the frustration is constant. It only got worse when United announced last year that domestic flyers with checked baggage weighing more than 50 pounds will be charged $25 per piece. Fifty pounds? That's easily eclipsed when two pairs of fat skis (one with alpine bindings, one with alpine touring), two pairs of poles (expandable and regular), gloves, shovel, file, altimeter, and all ones's ski clothes are crammed into a double Dakine.
Enough. Take your service charges and shove 'em where the Friendly Skies don't shine. If Hooters can have an airline, why can't we? I'm starting my own jet service for skiers. I was thinking of calling it AirRob. But my business consultants are informing me that the industry isn't currently receptive to a name that could be mispronounced "Arab." So AirBob it is.
• Safety Demonstration: Get real. The unspoken truth is that jets falling from 30,000 feet involve not oxygen masks and emergency doors, but a quick yelp followed by a quick passage to that Heavenly in the sky. As such, flight attendants on AirBob won't bother with exit-row pointing. In addition to quad rubdowns, they'll demonstrate only proper pole positioning, a quiet upper body, and the best postures for avoiding backward twisting falls-the kind that tweak ACLs.
• Overhead Bin: Ever miss a chair at Alta because all the business-travel jamokes on Delta 666 to Salt Lake took two minutes each to wrestle their mammoth carry-on bags out of the overhead bin? God forbid they check their luggage like the rest of us. On AirBob, the overhead bins are a Samsonite-free zone. Only obvious ski-boot bags will be allowed.
• The Seatback in Front of You Will Not Contain a Phone: (Has anyone used an airplane phone since the dawn of the mobile era?) Rather, each seatback will contain a small ice machine: Surveys show the typical AirBob customer has been advised by a physical therapist to reduce inflammation by icing his knees. Plus, you need the ice for the built-in Bloody Mary dispenser.
• Beverage Cart: First off, bags of ibuprofen, not tasteless peanuts. And it might cost us a bit more, but the AirBob beverage cart will dispense hot chocolate and mulled wine to put you in a wintry mood, so you won't blow a hundred bucks and have to breathe horse farts on a hokey sleigh ride once you get to the mountains. But you wouldn't do thaat anyway-right? Of course, alcoholic drinks would be complimentary, as they are on airlines in Europe, the continent that invented our fair sport. And on selected flights, leggy Scandinavian flight attendants who know just enough English for flirting will squeeze the nectar into your mouth from official AirBob bota bags.
• In-flight Movies: The last flick I saw on a jet was Anger Management, which actually begins with a telling scene about air rage. But it devolves quickly, and the conclusion is the most saccharine pabulum imaginable, so horrifyingly stupid and sappy I would have bolted to the galley and begged the flight attendant to pour boiling coffee in my eyes had I been sitting by the aisle. So AirBob will show only non-redundant ski movies (I'm talking to you, jib flicks) and the James Bond films with skiing.
• Pilot Chatter: Because under-rated classics such as Greg Stump's Siberia should not be interrupted lightly, AirBob pilots won't blather over the intercom about cities or canyons passing below: Only mountains will be noted. And then, they'll recite current avalanche forecasts for said mountains. In fact, AirBob cares so deeply about your avy safety, your seat cushion doubles not as a flotation device, but as an Avalung.
• Crying Babies: Been there, heard that, not going to tolerate it on my airline. All infants-even the sleeping, quiet, "good" babies-will be fitted with a heavy fleece balaclava upon boarding, thereby muffling their mewling mouths and giving the rest of us some peace and quiet to read in.
• First Class: AirBob will operate first-class cabins. As with traditional airlines, your access to them will depend on your status. But because we're skiers, status won't depend on such bogus criteria as money or frequent flyer miles. Instead, passengers will get upgraded according to their comparative skiing status: frequent skier days, vertical feet skied, square inches of duct tape applied, and number of panties tossed from lifts onto panty trees. It's only fair.
• Baggage: If you travel with skis but don't own a ski bag, other airlines provide transparent cellophane bags. (As if your precious boards are mere spuds at the grocery store!) Not at AirBob. We will offer a velvet-lined carrier, which can be purchased for a nominal fee should the customer wish to keep it. (You know, like a fluffy robe at a luxury hotel.) If you request in advance, technicians in our cargo wax room will buff your bases and sharpen your edges. When your skis arrive at your final destination, they won't be dumped beneath an ignominious Odd-sized Baggage sign. Who needs that kind of stigma? No, we don't call it "Odd" at AirBob. We call it "Special."