Drunk of the Week

Apparently the only Ted-free place in town is Denver International Airport. These days, you can't turn on the television or open the paper without seeing that single word emblazoned on a blank field, or even go to a bar without having a cheap Frisbee proclaiming "Ted is fun" foisted on you. At DIA, I didn't see a single ad for Ted or a single airplane named Ted. I guess they ran out of money after buying at least a page of advertising in both Denver papers every day for two weeks.

For those of you who spend a significant amount of time using recreational drugs, Ted is United's new "discount" carrier. I don't know how United intends to make fares lower after this massive media blitz. As it is, you don't get food on a plane other than peanuts and pretzels packaged as rations during the Civil War. And space design has progressed to the point that the seats are so narrow they require the average American adult to sit sideways or with the flab around his hips pushed up into his armpits. Maybe Ted will make the technological advance of removing seats entirely, or cut manufacturing costs by eliminating windows and issuing oxygen masks, or slash cash-intensive training and replace pilots with passengers picked for their ability to successfully program a VCR to record the next episode of Average Joe.

No matter what Ted tells us, commercial flying is not fun. Still, sometimes you have no choice -- like me this past weekend, when I had to attend an all-expenses paid, fully tax-deductible surgical course so that I could see how many beers I could drink in a three-day span and still function. But before I could do that, I had to survive the flight, so I chose to start drinking early, both in order to make my body flexible enough to fit into a standard airline seat and to distract myself from the fact that the pilot had probably had his pilot's license for less time than I've had my driver's license. A lot less.


Concourse C at DIA

When I arrived at DIA, my senses weren't yet so impaired that I failed to notice it smelled like a locker room. At the security checkpoint, I found out why. The screening process has gone from normal post-9/11 paranoia to an outright assault on human dignity. As part of the process, all passengers are required to remove their shoes -- just because of some moron with a terrible Afro who wouldn't even have gotten into the airport if they'd instituted the IQ screening test I've been advocating for years, since every time you fly you end up behind some moron who causes major flight delays because he can't find his ID even though there are signs every ten feet saying you must have picture ID -- and agents check random passengers' bodily cavities even if those passengers are 150 years old, named Ethel and Earl Benevolent and are standing in front of Yasir Arafat's brother, who's wearing shoes that say "Not packed with explosives" under the Nike swoosh and who, when he gets on the plane, is going to try and light his shoes on fire just like the moron with the bad hair.

I prefer to fly early in the morning so that I can reach my destination with enough time to enjoy a full happy hour. And even after all our special time with the security screeners, my colleague (meaning my co-worker who likes to drink as much as I do) and I had time to hit the Cantina Grille on Concourse C at DIA (motto: Only Ten Minutes From Kansas!). This was your typical airport watering hole. It had a fully stocked, overpriced bar and a diverse menu featuring a variety of chips that you could pair either with guacamole so old it had gone from green to blue or the Cantina's secret nacho sauce, which is made by warming up a jar of Cheez Whiz. It was peopled with the usual detritus of former humans tortured by the airlines until they took on the appearance and mannerisms of Gollum, underaged kids going on vacation trying to get a cheap buzz to start off their trip and professionals like us trying to get a cheap buzz to start off their business trip.

For anyone who needs to appear mature and responsible, there's only one acceptable breakfast drink: the Bloody Mary. Not only does meeting your quota of Marys get you mentally and physically prepared for the rigors of flying on a major carrier, but the drinks can be an important tool to use in upgrading to first class. As any traveler knows, high-velocity firearms are the only reliable way to deal with jaded airline employees -- but they're illegal. A more socially acceptable method is to ingest liquid courage and then flirt shamelessly with the staff. Amazingly, this ploy worked for us, and the next thing we knew, we were seated in plush seats and laughing at all the poor saps crammed with their knees under their chins in coach.

Flying first class is a completely different experience. I'd only flown there once before, and I had to be poured out of the plane at my destination. They serve actual human food and free alcohol, which you should see as an opportunity to recoup your airfare. Between the two of us and our eight Bloody Marys, we cleaned out the vodka supply. So we switched to Jack and Coke, because by then it was close enough to lunch to have soda pop.

Ultimately, the airlines could not resist playing their adversarial role, and we were cut off -- probably after they estimated our tab. But I still arrived in Memphis fully prepared for a weekend of professional development and irresponsible behavior.

If the airlines want to limit the only good thing about flying, I might as well go with Ted.


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