From the Peanut Gallery

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On Wednesday, I was about 30,000 feet above the Earth, stuck in 43D ... a middle seat on an airplane.

I was sandwiched between my sleeping sister, who drooled on my shoulder throughout the flight, and a generally well-behaved stranger, aside from his irritating habit of blasting techno on his iPod. At 9 a.m.

I don't like airplanes.

I don't like that they are always sweltering hot when I board, but consistently drop to arctic temperatures about 30 minutes after takeoff. I don't like that I am inevitably seated in front of a baby who won't shut up for five hours. I don't like having to ask the people in the aisle to get up whenever I have to pee, and I don't like that the people in the window seat make me get up every time they have to pee. But most of all, I don't like that airplanes seem to turn my stomach into a bottomless pit.

I am not exaggerating when I say that even if I prepare for a flight by bringing enough food to feed a family of four for weeks, it is barely enough to sustain me for a single flight. No matter how many Kettle Chips, Peanut M&M's, Red Vines, pita chips or Cheez-It crackers I eat, it's never quite enough to satisfy The Pit.

So, whenever I get onto an airplane, I go prepared. I'll eat a big meal in the airport and then go on a shopping spree for all my favorite snacks.

But on Wednesday, my sister decided to get us to the airport about 45 minutes before our fight was scheduled to depart. "We'll be fine," she insisted, as we raced hundreds of businessmen from BART to the terminal with only 40 minutes until takeoff.

After being escorted to the front of the security line because we were going to miss our flight, getting stopped at security because I had a teeny tiny bottle of makeup remover in my carry-on, stopped at security again because I had a stapler (apparently a potential weapon), we finally made it to the gate just as our plane was about to leave.

"See," my sister said, "we made it!" Little did she know that missing our flight was not my greatest fear. I was about to get onto a plane without any food. Now that was scary.

As soon as I boarded the plane I knew that it was going to be a long seven hours. The cup of coffee and single piece of wheat toast I had eaten that morning vanished as soon as I boarded and smelled that distinct and unappetizing airplane scent of day-old food and B.O.

I was determined to stay calm and optimistic. Surely, there were enough packets of peanuts and pretzels to keep me alive. And although most airlines have pretty much stopped giving out those disgusting hot meals they used to offer, they usually have food you can buy. Really now, how bad could it be?

I eagerly opened the in-flight menu and examined the first option that was offered, "smoked turkey and egg salad on brioche knot bun," with a side of mayonnaise. Call me a snob, but I literally could not dream up a less appetizing meal. As it turns out, every one of the offerings was just gross enough that I would rather starve than eat it.

I ended up selecting one of the snack boxes, $5 for the world's smallest bag of dried apricots, approximately 14 almonds (just enough to satisfy those who believe in the 100-calorie snack), pita chips, a tiny, squeezable cardboard box (that's right, box) of hummus that no one in their right mind would eat and a few miniature chocolate chip cookies. My sister purchased the same. The boxes were demolished in mere minutes.

In this day and age, when men can walk on the moon, smallpox is a distant memory and cars can run on corn, you would think that you could get a decent sandwich just about anywhere, even on a plane.

Instead, I'm constantly left wondering, "What's the deal with airplane food?"

In fact, snacking options are actually getting worse. Remember the good old days when airlines used to serve those shockingly delicious bags of honey-roasted peanuts? They always managed to pleasantly surprise my palate with their well-balanced sweetness. But alas, airlines have switched from honey-roasted to plain peanuts. Maybe people were just too overwhelmed, you know, actually having something good to eat.

What's more, it's becoming harder and harder to find peanuts on a flight at all. Many airlines have stopped serving them (or anything at all) due to the fear that surrounds the occasional peanut allergy. How pathetic is it that the only quality snack airlines have managed to offer for all of these years has been deemed "too dangerous" to continue serving?

My peanut complaints may sound trivial, but if the airline gave me any other viable option, I wouldn't have to rely so much on a pouch of legumes smaller than the palm of my hand.

Airplanes need to get their act together when it comes to edible offerings. Because I know I'm not alone when I say (for my safety and the safety of those around me) I need to be fed if I'm going to be stuck somewhere for seven hours. And egg salad with a side of mayonnaise is just not going to cut it.

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Tell Harley what you hate most about flying at [email protected]



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