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December 05, 2006

The cover-up is worse than the crime

The first rule of air travel is "Don't eat Indian food the night before." Actually, that's the second rule of air travel. The first rule is "Don't eat Mexican food the night before."

The corollary to that is that if you do eat Mexican food, it's just wrong to let the other passengers know about it. But in no circumstances are you allowed to light matches on the plane to try to confuse them about the source of the odor. The cover-up is worse than the crime.

I only wish that the woman who violated these corollaries, causing a plane bound from Washington to Dallas to be diverted at Nashville, had thought through the consequences of her actions. And by "actions" I mean eating whatever it was she ate.

An American Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing Monday morning after a passenger lit a match to disguise the scent of flatulence, authorities said.

The Dallas-bound flight was diverted to Nashville after several passengers reported smelling burning sulfur from the matches, said Lynne Lowrance, spokeswoman for the Nashville International Airport Authority. All 99 passengers and five crew members were taken off and screened while the plane was searched and luggage was screened.

The FBI questioned a passenger who admitted she struck the matches in an attempt to conceal a "body odor," Lowrance said. She had an unspecified medical condition, authorities said.
Yes, I'm sure she did, but we all have "unspecified medical conditions," and most of us don't act like morons. Anyway, I'm sure you're wondering what exactly happened to the offending woman. The answer is that she escaped with a slap on the derriere, I mean wrist.
The flight took off again, but the woman was not allowed back on the plane.

"American has banned her for a long time," Lowrance said.

She was not charged but could have been. While it is legal to bring as many as four books of paper safety matches onto an aircraft, it is illegal to strike a match in an airplane, Lowrance said.
As the old story about Samuel Johnson goes, a woman at a dinner party, lacking a match, tried to cover her problem by rubbing the leg of the table with her foot. Dr. Johnson declared, "Madam, we heard your first pronouncement. There's no need to make it rhyme." (I know this story can't be apocryphal, because I read a version of it on the internet, in a comment on a story about beans at Scroll to comment 34.)

And if you think I'm immature for reporting this story in the first place, consider the fact that numerous news sources used it as a pretext for inserting the word "flatulence" into their headline -- e.g., USA Today ("Flatulence leads to flight diversion") -- and one British source even used the gerund form of the f-word.

What's worse is that there's actually an online poll at this site asking the following question: "If you were being interrogated by the FBI after lighting a match in flight would you admit you tried to cover up your flatulence?" The answer "Yes" is currently polling at 73%. There is no option to choose "I wouldn't light a match while in flight."