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Fershtunkina Airlines
The Spectator
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by Ron Cruger
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C
         My old friend, “Loony Charles,” was getting married again in San Francisco. He had invited me to the wedding, which was to be performed on a hilly knoll in Golden Gate Park. Old “Loony Charles” always had the heart of a hippie and here, in his sixth decade, he was still one. Good for him. I wanted to be a hippie way back then, but I didn’t know how. I still don’t know how.
          I had to make reservations to fly from San Diego to San Francisco a week hence.
          My decision was to fly on Fershtunkina Airlines, the new carrier which has been advertising an astonishing low fare for the short flight.
          As my computer was ill with an unknown electronic ailment I decided to drive to the airport and make the reservations and purchase the tickets to San Francisco in person.
          I parked in the labyrinth called a parking lot, trying my best to remember where I had parked. I made the long trek to the terminal, at last finding the ticket counter for Fershtunkina Airlines.
          I was greeted by a young man in his twenties, “Hi, welcome to San Diego’s newest airline, Fershtunkina. How may I help you?”
          “I need a ticket to San Francisco for next Friday.”
          “Why sure, I can help you, that’ll be fifty dollars, plus twelve dollars. Sixty two dollars.”
          “Sixty two dollars for what?”
          “Oh, sure, sir, I’ll explain. There’s a fifty dollar surcharge for purchasing tickets in person here at the airport and a twelve dollar charge for purchasing tickets during the hours noon to one p.m., which is our company lunch time. And now, sir, what time would you like to leave on our flight number thirteen- thirteen to San Francisco?”
          “Uh, I have to be there, at a wedding at 2 p.m. so I should be there at noon, can you do that?”
          “Certainly sir. Our flight thirteen- thirteen, departs here in San Diego at midnight, Thursday.”
          “No, no, I mean I have to be there Friday at noon.”
          “Yes, I know sir. Our flight thirteen- thirteen makes a few stops along the way from San Diego to San Francisco. The flight makes stops at Long Beach, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Bakersfield, Fresno, and San Jose, landing in San Francisco at noon.”
          “So how long does the flight actually take?”
          “Only twelve short hours, sir.”
          “Is that your only flight to San Francisco?”
          “Yes, sir. We call that our ‘Friday Semi-Express.”
          “Okay, okay. I’ll take it. How much does it cost?”
          “Well, sir, depends.”
          “On what?”
          “Well, depends on whether you want to sit and where you want to sit. Our ‘Verticle Travel Area’ in the rear of the plane is offered at a ten percent discount from seating, you know, like in a seat. The basic fare is forty nine dollars for the vertical area. Now, there are some other choices you have to make. Seat cushion fee is five dollars, carry on luggage is fourteen dollars each piece. Flight attendant service is eighteen dollars for the flight. Bathroom availability is only eight dollars per door opening and closing. There is a bathroom tissue machine inside the lavatory. The charge is fifty cents per foot. You can check your luggage at the counter. That’s only forty dollars each piece.
          “Hey, is that all of the charges?”
          “No. Sir there are just a few other possible costs involved with your flight to ‘Frisco.”
          “What! Well, what are they?”
          “Well, sir, Fershtunkina Airlines offers you your choice of standing or sitting on the right or left side of the airplane.”
          “What’s the difference?”
          “Well, sir, the right hand side has no windows, which would you prefer?”
          “What else do I have to decide?”
          “You can have a meal? Fried okra, liver omelette or a kale sandwich, each is twelve dollars. And you can have your choice of the following for only six dollars each – peanuts, oxygen in your overhead, a glass of our own Fershtunkina lager beer, operative seat belt, extra three inches of leg room, aisle or window seat, trash removal service, overhead storage space, early departure at final destination, souvenir Fershtunkina barf bag and guaranteed luggage retrieval insurance on the carousel. Which would you like, sir?”
          “What!”
          “Sir, there are people waiting. You’ll have to decide. Which services did you want?”
          “Okay, if the flight costs forty nine dollars what’s the total cost with the extras?”
          “Well, let’s see, sir. You have chosen the “Fershtunkina Semi-Express Courtesy Package.” That total will be only three hundred and thirty dollars.”
          “Okay, okay. Write it up. What time is the return flight?”

          “Oh, I’m sorry sir. You’ve only signed up for the one-way flight to San Francisco.”
          “One way!”
          “Yes, sir. If you’re interested in booking a return flight you’ll have to go to the end of the line. Shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours.”
          I guess I’ll stick with Fershtunkina Airlines. I like their slogan, “Most of our pilots are really good.”