Anyone who has been flying tourist class these days has noticed that the airlines are placing their rows closer and closer to each other, making it more difficult to get your entire body into a seat.

I was on a shuttle to New York City the other morning, and the stewardess announced that all carry-on luggage had to be placed under our seats.

The man next to me called her over and said, "What do I do with my knees?"

The stewardess said, "I beg your pardon?"

"My briefcase is under the seat in front of me, but I don't have any place for my knees."

"Neither do I," I told her.

"Could I put my knees in the overhead rack?" he wanted to know.

"No," she said. "That would be against regulations. It would present a safety hazard in case we hit turbulence."

"Why don't you put them on your chest?" I suggested to my seatmate.

"I was hoping to read my newspaper," he replied. "It's almost impossible to turn a page if you have your knees on your chest."

The stewardess said, "FAA regulations forbid you to put your knees on your chest while the safety belt sign is on."

"Why doesn't the FAA have a rule that an airline has to provide room for a passenger's knees?"

"Because the airlines have been deregulated to increase competition. They can now put the rows as close together as they want. The government is no longer concerned with leg room."

My seatmate said, "I'm in the cattle business and the government still has strict regulations as to how many cattle may be shipped in a car. You'd think we would have the same rights as animals."

"I'm just a stewardess. If you have any complaints, why don't you make them to management?"

"Could I check my knees in the baggage compartment?" he asked.

"I'm sorry, we're just about to take off and we can't check anything."

The stewardess went away. I turned to the man and said, "I have a suggestion, if you don't mind. Why don't you put your knees on my lap and I'll put my knees on your lap. In that way we'll both be more comfortable."

"You're not gay are you?" he wanted to know.

"Heck no, and I assume you're not either."

"Well, let's give it a try," he said.

"Try not to take the crease out of my pants," I begged him. "I have to speak at a lunch today."

"I'll be careful."

We put our legs across each other's laps.

The pilot announced we were third in line for takeoff.

The stewardess came down the aisle to check if our seafety belts were fastened.

"That's not permitted," she said sternly.

"Where does it say so in the regulations?" my seatmate demanded.

"Look what you've started," she said. "Everyone is putting his legs in the person's lap next to him."

It actually wasn't a bad trip, and when we got to La Guardia we shared a taxi into New York. Fortunately it was a Checker cab and we could both stretch our legs as far as we wanted. The ride put shuttle airlines to shame.