The airlines haven't had a very good summer, what with all the near smashes and the crash in Detroit.
But not all the woes are the fault of the industry. Some passengers are hopelessly screwy, as witness one guy on a Continental flight in June.
Rebecca Ward of Germantown was a passenger on that flight. It was loading at Dulles International Airport for a flight to Denver. It was 3:10 p.m., and the weather outside was Typical Washington Summer -- in the high 90s. Inside the plane, the air conditioning made things better, but not much.
The flight was about to leave when here came a Continental gate agent down the aisle. He stopped three rows ahead of Rebecca and began to confer with a male passenger. Rebecca (and half the plane) overheard the agent tell the man that Continental would not load his dog into the luggage compartment because the temperature in there was 150 degrees.
The passenger replied that he didn't care. The dog must go on.
The agent said the dog would be dead by the time the flight reached Denver.
The man said he didn't care. Put the dog aboard, he said, and he'd sign a waiver releasing Continental from responsibility.
The discussion went on for 30 minutes. The passengers started getting edgy at the delay. But to their credit, they were more upset by the dog owner's callousness.
They started aiming catcalls at him. Rebecca says her favorite was, "Give the dog your seat and you go sit in a cage in the baggage compartment!"
Finally, the man got off the plane, in the company of the agent, to loud applause. The passengers had been made half an hour late by an ignoramus. Still, the dog was saved -- at least for the moment -- and that was clearly the most important consideration.
Happily, it's the most important consideration to Continental, too.
Ned Walker, Continental's public relations manager, said that "the humane and safe treatment of animals is our concern. Even in the unlikely event that a passenger indicates he isn't concerned about the animal's welfare and is willing to release us from responsibility, we are still going to act in the animal's best interest." Ned added that Continental will gladly delay a flight slightly if that's necessary to resolve such a situation.
Whoever the dog owner was, he needs to bone up on federal recommendations regarding air transport of pets. I thought the rest of you might want to clip and save these guidelines, too.
Passengers should not check in an animal more than four hours before a flight.
Passengers are strongly urged to fly with pets during the morning, when temperatures are cooler.
On wide-body planes, pets should not be carried if the outside temperature is more than 80.
On narrow-body planes, pets should not be carried unless the temperature is between 45 and 85.
Pets should not be carried if owners have scheduled layovers of longer than four hours.
Everyone knows enough to stay inside during a thunderstorm. But there is news from Lela Caswell of Northwest. Thunderstorms can cause indoor hazards, too.
Lela sends along a clipping from an Arkansas newspaper that warns us to stay out of the kitchen when lightning bolts start to fly.
According to the story, a Bentonville resident named William Spangler was inundated by pits and pulp when a watermelon he had just bought blew up right beside him.
The explosion took place just after a tremendous clap of thunder was heard right outside Spangler's house. Two watermelons were sitting on the unfortunate fellow's kitchen counter at the time. One blew into a million pieces, splattering him about as thoroughly and as unpleasantly as a person can be splattered. The other melon didn't budge.
The Arkansas paper quotes a local science teacher, Frank Gilbert, as saying that it's all elementary physics.
The thunderclap was so intense, Gilbert said, that it caused the watermelon to vibrate at the same frequency as the sound of the thunderclap. Whenever that happens, and when the amplitude of the sound wave exceeds the object's elastic capacity, the object will break.
Want that in simpler terms? Think about Ella Fitzgerald, and the glass she breaks with her singing voice in the Memorex tape commercial on TV. Same phenomenon.
The Arkansas paper doesn't say what Brother Spangler did about this amazing turn of events, other than to towel himself off. If it were up to me, I'd give him a truckload of watermelons, free. As long as he promised to keep them in the basement.
Seriously, though, there is a lesson here. If thunder is very loud and very close, don't get too close to anything whose constitution may be flimsy. You may get Spanglered.