Ever since the first caveman arched his misshapen head back and gazed up at the sky, and took another bite of those mushrooms he found a week earlier that made him feel really happy for no reason, mankind has always dreamed of flying. We have long since realized that dream through patience, scientific experimentation, and probably a lot more of those mushrooms. Every day, tens of thousands of people around the world board airplanes and travel through the air at amazing speeds, leaping between entire continents in the span of just a few hours. But how many of those people stop to think how miraculous it is that humanity has transcended its earthbound fate, laughed in the face of gravity, and taken to the skyways? How many air travelers look up from their New York Times or their Wall Street Journal or their Big Afro Asses Weekly and reflect on the simple beauty of the clouds while soaring above them? How many people pause for just a moment as they board their plane to ruminate for just a moment on how far we have come as a species that we can climb into metal tubes and fly - actually fly - thousands of feet above the ground?

Oh yeah, these people look absolutely filled with whimsy.

Four. That's how many. Seriously, four. I could probably name them. Four people, and that's on a good day. Pretty much everyone else thinks of flying as a chore. They don't look at planes as a testament to mankind's technical brilliance, but just another way to get to where they have to be, like some dumbass subway or something. And do you want to know why that is? Well, it's partially because it's human nature to get bored with things once they are no longer brand new, like a Christmas present or a spouse. But more importantly, we have lost our love of flying because the major airlines have sucked every last bit of fun out of it. Between the endless lines in the ugly, forbidding terminals, the hours of waiting on runways, all the circling before landing, the tiny seats, and the bathrooms that require you to surgically remove at least one limb before entry if you want to have enough room to move, let alone urinate. Only a few years ago, you'd get full cans of soda, bushels of peanuts, and dammit, if you were still in the air during a major mealtime, you'd get a freaking meal. It wouldn't be a good meal, but at least it was something, and hey, it gave fodder to hack stand-up comedians from coast to coast. Without airline food to rip on, where would America's hard working hacks be today? Out on the streets, that's where, making lame jokes about programming their VCRs for spare change. Nowadays you get a tiny cup half-filled from the can of soda that the stewardess opened half an hour ago for a passenger on the other end of the plane, a couple bite-sized pretzels, and if there is even a meal option offered, you have to bring extra cash with you on the plane to pay for it. You can't even choke down a plastic tray of crappy rectangular blocks of food-like products without having to pay for the privilege of the experience.

So majestic, so inspirational, so phallic.

And that's in addition to all the other fees you'll rack up while trying to squeeze any remaining drops of enjoyability out of flying. Want to see the lousy movie that went straight to the airlines after a tragic three-day run in the theaters? That's extra. Pillow and blanket? That's extra. Headphones so you can try to get the radio to work, even though eleven of the fourteen stations are always blank and the other three are playing a continual loop of a Bill Cosby routine you had heard a thousand times by the time you were thirteen, Joe Pesci singing Beatles songs, and worst of all, smooth jazz? That's extra. The airlines have taken away all the frills because they claim to be losing huge sums of money. They raise ticket prices, charge you wherever, whenever, and for whatever they can, and they lay off employees by the hundreds, but it's just not enough for them. And now, since 9/11, with airport security tighter than ever, the airlines are even infringing on our basic rights. We have to wait for twice as long as they subject random passengers to humiliating searches. Racial profiling runs rampant. It seems like the airlines are going out of their way to make flying as unenjoyable of an experience as possible. Worse yet, it seems like there's nothing we can do about it.

At least, that's what I used to think. Then a news item was brought to my attention:

Gadget Aims to Protect Knees on Airplanes

Every cramped air traveler may have the right to lean his seat back, but Ira Goldman sees airplane justice from another perspective — that of the person behind — and he's found a way to even the score.

Goldman invented the Knee Defender, a beeper-sized block of plastic that lets passengers prevent the seat in front of them from reclining.

The gadget, which went on sale about a month ago on the Internet for $10, has sparked heated debate in online chat rooms, and aviation officials worry about the disagreements that will be generated at 30,000 feet.

A tall guy designed a block that you can attach to the back of the seat in front of you to prevent the person from leaning back suddenly and smacking you in the knees. Now, I want to be able to recline as much as the next person, even though I think it's been six years since the last time I got a seat that was actually able to recline successfully, but that's not the point. This thing looks like just another example of the unstoppable tallocracy keeping us shorter folk down, but that's not the point, either. The point is that a man had an idea to make flying more enjoyable for himself and for other people inconvenienced by the miniscule amount of leg room most planes give you, and already airlines are clamoring to stop it. Northwest has already banned the Knee Defender, and a number of the other major airlines are sure to follow suit. So while you may not see too many Knee Defenders on your next flight, don't let the fact that that particular invention got banned so quickly get you down. Rather, embrace the spirit of the invention. We take more things for granted while flying than we realize. It's time to start taking advantage of the few freedoms the airlines have yet to restrict. Personally, I've already started. Observe:

Something like this, only cooler.

I am proud to bring you a new product in the field of air travel enhancement. Designed to filter out and prevent a number of the major annoyances of air travel, it is an all-in-one, easy to use system which I call... the Youbicle.

The Youbicle works on the principle of preserving your personal space. Packed into rows of seats like sardines in a proportionally smaller aircraft, it is currently almost impossible to feel like you have any room to call your own. The Youbicle is a set of collapsible walls that fit right over your seat and can be adjusted to go from the floor of the aircraft to the ceiling, as well as extended horizontally to fit the full perimeter or your seat and leg area. By erecting a barrier on all sides, you can prevent passengers on either side of you from hogging your armrest or stretching their legs into your space. You can even put a roof on the Youbicle which will extend down behind your head to join with the back of you seat to prevent thrown objects and baby spit from striking you from overhead or behind. In addition to providing you with the privacy you desire and deserve, the Youbicle sports an impressive array of additional features.

Much better.

Movie Filtration Screen

The Youbicle has a viewing screen that will allow you to watch the in-flight movie if you so choose without sacrificing the Youbicle's privacy. But the screen does more than just allow images to pass though itself - much more. The screen is made with a patented grading, much like the ones used by scientists to view the visible light spectrum in its component colors. The difference is that instead of splitting light apart, this grading rearranges the light. First, it magnifies the picture, so that it actually feels like you're watching a movie, not staring at some sixteen-inch TV twenty rows ahead of you. Then, amazingly enough, it actually changes the picture to make it look to you as though you were seeing a better movie. For instance, the Youbicle's Movie Filtration Screen will remove all traces of Jean Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Kathy Griffin, or Sandra Bullock. If the movie features Bruce Willis in a family film or romantic comedy, the screen will alter the picture to Bruce Willis shooting people and blowing stuff up, which is how every good, honest person likes his or her Bruce Willis. If the movie actually has something to do with a plane crashing or being hijacked, the screen will instead show you the picture of a cat anus seen at right.

Photo Converter

They say that the best offense is a good defense, and with the Youbicle, you are well defended indeed. You see, testing has shown that even when people use the Youbicle, there are certain nuisances inherent in air travel that cannot be avoided. One of the most notorious of these is the chatty aislemate. You're trying to sleep and the person next to you just won't take the hint that you are not interested in carrying on a conversation, nor are you interested in looking at pictures of their family. While the walls of the Youbicle will automatically block out noise, there is actually a slot in the walls through which a person can pass you photographs. However, that slot is fitted with the Youbicle's astounding Photo Converter. The person next you you might think that she is passing you a picture of her adorable little grandson Perry, but by the time it gets to you, the Photo Converter will have done its work, changing the photo into something a little less brain-poppingly boring. For instance, the picture might become a famous work of art, a set of instructions to kill someone that allows you to feel like you're a secret agent, or most frequently, some delightfully hardcore porn. Don't worry, though, when you pass the picture of little Perry back, you won't be handing your aislemate a picture of pornography. The picture changes on the way into the Youbicle. On the way out, they're just shredded.

Yeah, keep stuffing your face, fatty. Your days of making bad collages dedicated to your obesity are numbered.

Fat Overflow Reduction

The walls of the Youbicle might prevent a the person next to you from invading your leg room or hogging your armrest, but let's face it, when you get stuck next to a fat guy, you're going to get squished. Sure, the Youbicle can hold up against a huge amount of punishment, even having a couple hundred pounds of flab pressing up against its side like a dead seal for a six hour flight. But you still don't want your fat neighbor to be congealing all over you. You know the fat is there. You can just tell. You can sense the fat piling up against your protective walls, maybe even oozing through the photo slot. That's why the Youbicle is equipped with a Fat Overflow Reduction system. When human fat presses against the Youbicle with more than a predetermined amount of pressure, measured by the system's internal p/si gauge, it will actually perform immediate emergency liposuction, sucking fatty tissue out of Thunderchunks next to you until his rolls of butter storage are no longer spilling over into your space. Now, you may be wondering, "Sure, you can suck out the fat, but what happens to it then?" That brings me to the next feature:

Baby Corker 3000

You can handle nosy neighbors. You can handle being squashed next to Jabba the Passenger. But nothing, and I mean nothing, can come close to being as annoying as a wailing infant. They cry the entire way from New York to Los Angeles. They scream, they whimper, they thrash against the back of your seat for hours at a time. And what does the parent do? Nothing. The parent just lets the baby go right on crying and screaming and kicking and pooping and puking and drooling all over the place. And somehow the baby always ends up right behind you. It's insufferable. Or at least, it used to be. Now you've got a powerful new ally on your side in the fight against irritating babies - the Baby Corker 3000. When an annoying infant is detected, the Baby Corker 3000's powerful mechanical arms will extend and insert corks - corks made of one hundred percent recycled, compacted fat extracted from the guy next to you - into every available orifice on the child's body. Finally a way to stop babies from making any sort of noise or offending odors whatsoever for the entire duration of the flight.

Technology for the Baby Corker 3000 provided by Baby First Industries, the people who brought you The Baby Club, the world's foremost baby theft deterrent system, and Baby Needs-a-Shake, the battery-powered doll so realistic, there's only one way to stop it from crying - the British nanny way!

As you can see, the Youbicle is the air traveler's best friend. If you're planning a trip, pick up yours today before the airlines have a chance to ban them. And if you want my opinion, the day that the airlines no longer allow you to bring products that automatically perform surgical operations on your fellow passengers to ensure your comfort is the day that freedom is dead.

Like That Annoying Mother-In-Law Who Never Goes Away: The Weekend Web

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