SO I WAS GETTING ON A PLANE IN Seattle, and I was feeling a touch nervous because that very morning a plane was forced to make an emergency landing at that very airport after a window blew out at 14,000 feet and a passenger almost got sucked out of the plane headfirst. This is the kind of thing that the flight attendants never mention during the Preflight Safety Demonstration, although maybe they should. I bet they could put on a very impressive demonstration using an industrial vacuum cleaner and a Barbie doll, and we passengers would NEVER take our seat belts off, even when the plane landed. We'd walk out into the terminal with our seats still strapped to our backs.

Anyway, the good news is that the passenger in Seattle was wearing his seat belt, and the other passengers were able to pull him back inside, and he's expected to make a complete recovery except for no longer having a head. This will definitely limit his ability to enjoy future in-flight meals ("Would you like a dense omelet-like substance, sir? Just nod your stump").

Ha ha! I am just joshing of course. The man retained all his major body parts. But just the same I don't like to hear this type of story, because I usually take a window seat, because I want to know if a wing falls off. The pilot would never mention this. It is a violation of Federal Aviation Administration regulations for the pilot to ever tell you anything except that you are experiencing "a little turbulence." You frequent fliers know what I'm talking about. You're flying along at 500 miles an hour, seven miles up, and suddenly there's an enormous shuddering WHUMP. Obviously the plane has struck something at least the size of a Winnebago motor home -- in fact sometimes you can actually see Winnebago parts flashing past your window -- but the pilot, trying to sound bored, announces that you have experienced "a little turbulence." Meanwhile, you just know that up in the cockpit they're hastily deploying their Emergency Inflatable Religious Shrine.

Here's what bothers me. You know how, during the Preflight Safety Demonstration, they tell you that in the event of an emergency, oxygen masks will pop out of the ceiling? My question is: Who wants oxygen? If I'm going to be in an emergency seven miles up, I want nitrous oxide, followed immediately by Emergency Intravenous Beverage Cart Service, so that I and my fellow passengers can be as relaxed as possible ("Wow! Those are some beautiful engine flames!").

Anyway, nothing terrible happened on my flight, which was unfortunate, because there was a high-school marching band on board. My advice to airline passengers is: Always request a non-marching-band flight. Oh, I'm sure that these were wonderful teenage kids on an individual basis, but when you get 60 of them together in a confined area, they reach Critical Adolescent Mass, with huge waves of runaway hormones sloshing up and down the aisle, knocking over the flight attendants and causing the older passengers to experience sudden puberty symptoms (the pilot's voice went up several octaves when he tried to say "turbulence").

Mealtime was the worst. The entree was Beef Stroganoff Airline Style, a hearty dish featuring chunks of yellowish meatlike byproducts that apparently have been pre-chewed for your convenience by weasels. I was desperately hungry, so I was actually going to

attempt to eat mine, when one of the male band members seated near me, in the age-old adolescent tradition of Impressing Girls Through Grossness,

launched into an anecdote about an earlier in-flight meal:

". . . So she was eating chocolate all day, right? And she gets on the plane and they serve her the meal, right? And she looks at it, and she goes, like, RALPH all over her tray, and it's like BROWN and it's getting ALL OVER her TRAY and onto the FLOOR, so she like stands up and she goes RALPH all over the people in front of her and it's like running down their HAIR and . . ."

This anecdote didn't bother the band girls at all.

"Ewwwwww," they said, chewing happily. Whereas I lost my appetite altogether. I just sat there, a frequent flier looking at his Vaguely Beeflike Stroganoff and wondering how come airline windows never suck people out when you really need them to.