The guide to flying comfortably

As I type this I am sitting in row 31 of a US Air flight from Philly to Los Angeles. Though I don’t travel nearly as often as I used to, when Sports Illustrated often had its baseball writers make two or three trips per week during the season, I believe I’ve developed an advanced working knowledge on how to get the ideal seat on a flight—then maintain a high comfort level.

Consider this my 30,000-feet-above-ground-in-a-metal-tube-that-could-explode-any-second gift to you …

Step 1: Arrive at the airport earlier than you tend to. I’d say 1 hour, 15 minutes before scheduled departure, at the minimum.

Step 2: Always—ALWAYS!!!—sign in at the computer kiosk, not at the counter.

Step 3: On the kiosk, you are given the CHECK AVAILABLE SEATING option (it’s worded differently from airline to airline). Click the option and scroll to the rear of the plane.

Step 4: There are usually (not always, obviously, but usually) rear rows with three empty seats. This is because: A. People want to exit the plane quickly; B. Crews sometimes try and block off the final two roes for the flight attendants—a BS practice, considering you just spent several hundred dollars on a ticket.

Switch your seat selection to the aisle seat in one of those rows (Even if you don’t like the aisle, pick it for now. In case my plan somehow backfires, it allows for quicker maneuverability when the airplane door is closed and people scurry for ideal locations.

Step 5: Upon boarding the plane, go to your row and immediately sit in the MIDDLE SEAT (this is very important), and slyly place a hat or a newspaper or magazine in the seat next to you. This sends two messages: A. Perhaps the person in the aisle is in the bathroom; B. Perhaps the guy hogging the middle row is a slob, and why would I want to sit next to him?

Step 6: Enjoy your own row!

It works. Trust me. And here are a few other quickies:

1. If the punk one seat up insists on fully reclining his seat, fully open a newspaper and have the top accidentally skim his head a few times. He’ll find this very annoying.

2. Make small talk with the flight attendants. “Man, you guys work hard.” or “Did you hear the story about Whitney Houston’s dog?” These are people who work long hours and deal with a lot of schmucks. They’ll have sympathy/appreciation for you

3. If the guy next to you (if you unfortunately have a guy next to you) snores; smells; is a loud talker; spits food; yaps incessantly about the Baltimore Orioles, punch him squarely in the nose, trying to gnash the tip and result in massive bleeding. (Confession: I haven’t done this, but it sounds sorta fun)

4. Unless you love the idea of being bathed in the hairs of 1,001 scab-picking strangers, DO NOT use the airline blankets. And when you use the airplane bathroom, close the toilet cover before you flush. That thing is a friggin’ germ explosion (Big nod on this tip goes to Joan and Stan Pearlman, my folks, who also, ahem, wrap the hotel room TV remote in a Ziploc. But, eh, that’s another story)

Go get ’em …

Oh, yeah. My book comes out today.