Yalla Peace: Traveling with an unusual hobby

I went to the bathroom on an El Al flight.The sign didn’t say "occupied." It said "disputed toiletry area."

November 9, 2011 06:58
3 minute read.
[illustrative photo]

airplane 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)


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I collect flight safety cards from airplanes. It’s a felony, I think, depending on which country you’re in, but they come in handy in my comedy show.

I’ve always wondered what the purpose of a flight safety card manual really is. I mean, if the plane is going down, it won’t matter if you can see the lights down the aisle, or know where the emergency exit is.There were no survivors in any of the plane crashes I covered as a reporter in Chicago.

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In general, people either survive plane crashes or they don’t, and if they do, chances are the plane wasn’t in that much trouble anyway.

oes anyone actually follow along with the flight attendants when they ask you to pull out the flight safety manual when the plane is preparing for takeoff? Seriously – if you see someone actually reading the flight safety manual, chances are that person is a terrorist. I mean, who else would want to know more about the flight than terrorists hoping to light their shoes, underwear or G-strings on fire? Did you ever actually listen to the flight attendants when they walk you through the flight safety manual? I have, and it ain’t pretty.

“Your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device in the event of a water landing,” they will tell you. Water landing? That’s called a “crash.”

I especially love when they stand in the aisle, hold up a buckle and explain how to buckle yourself in. Really. Will it make that much of a difference? Maybe if the plane drops 5,000 feet, but my guess is even with the belt buckled the experience won’t be pretty.

So far – knock on wood – I have never been on a bad flight, just flights full of bad people. Passengers who actually refuse to check their bags and carry five of them onto the flight and cram them in to the overhead bins.


Those overhead bins are about the only real danger that you can avoid. Everything else is unavoidable.

My collection of flight safety manuals is huge. I have one from British Airways that actually contains a list of things you can’t bring on a plane. But that frightens me even more – that people actually need to be told not to bring those things on planes.

No bombs. No weapons. No weapons of mass destruction.

A security guard at an airport asked me once if I had any weapons of mass destruction on me. I replied that I was a weapon of mass destruction; just before the flight, I had eaten an entire big bowl of tabouleh. That combination of cracked wheat (burghul), vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil is potent in a way that you don’t want to express in print or in public, if you get my whiff! I took another one from United Airlines, and when I was on a Canadian flight, they even encouraged me to take it. That’s the rebellious spirit of the Canadians.

I took one from an El Al flight once. They sent the Mossad to hunt me down and told me if I ever took another flight safety manual from an El Al flight, they were going to go to Ramallah and destroy the homes of three of my relatives. I told them I didn’t have any relatives in Ramallah. They said they didn’t care.

They should have flight manuals that tell you how to get a good snack box, or a glass of wine, or when the best time to go to the bathroom is. It never fails that when I have to go, so does everyone else.

Maybe they see me walking up the aisle with my swarthy complexion and dark eyes and hair and follow me as a safety precaution.

I went to the bathroom on an El Al flight once, but the sign didn’t say “occupied.” It said “disputed toiletry area.”

Of course, this could all be just a joke. Is it a smart thing to admit in print that you collect flight safety manuals? Probably not.

But then again, if they do come to get me, I’ll have flight safety manual for every possible airplane occasion.

The writer is a Palestinian American writer and Chicago radio talk show host.

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