Yossarian Goes to the Airport

Jason Harrington imagines the reluctant hero of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 faced with the hassles and realities of modern day airline travel.


The Ticketing Agent

It was love at first sight.

The moment Yossarian saw the ticketing agent, he fell madly in love with him. Ever since General Regional Manager had raised the number of yearly mandatory meetings again, Yossarian had been trying to get out of flying. He hated flying — he knew that it would one day be the death of him — but his job depended on flying, and his livelihood depended on his job, so Yossarian had learned to live with the fact that this livelihood of his would one day leave him dead.

“I need you to go in your system and give me the deal I saw advertised on your website: 600 flyer miles roundtrip, New York to Chicago. It cost me the full 1,200. You owe me a rebate. I’m Elite Member status.”

“I know the deal, but it was only valid for web bookings.”

“I tried to book online, but the booking option wasn’t available on the site.”

“If it wasn’t available on the site, then you would have had to call or come in to book the flight no more than 48 hours beforehand to get the deal.”

“If I came in or called 48 hours before the flight then the seat wouldn’t be there.”

“Which is exactly why we have online booking. The only way I could possibly give you the rebate would be to downgrade you from first class to economy class, but you’d have to be crazy to fly economy. I could also give the deal to family members, but we’re not family. Unless we get married, of course.”

“I can’t get married. You have to be crazy to get married.”

Yossarian was in a bind. Life was precious; he wanted to live forever, or die flying cheaply. Over the year he had paid good money to earn the flyer miles that would give him the elite privilege of dying a cheap death. He wanted to die cheaply, and he wanted to avoid economy, but most of all, he was in love with the ticket agent.

“Marry me,” Yossarian groveled.

“I can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re an Elite Member. You would think that I owed you something forever if I married you.”

“Then downgrade me to economy.”

“Why?” the ticketing agent’s eyes flashed murderously, “because you believe that only an economy flyer could marry a guy like me?”

“No. Because I’m crazy.”

Major Major Major Security Pain

“I’d like to opt out of your enhanced screening,” Yossarian told the Transportation Security Administration officer. He’d read about the full-body scanners, and he wasn’t at all certain that it wouldn’t one day turn out that the radiation had killed him.

“Sure. Just step right over here for our enhanced screening, sir.”

“I don’t think you understand: I opted out of your enhanced screening. That group of people over there didn’t have to go through any enhanced screening at all.”

“Anyone who doesn’t mind going through the full body scanner or a full body pat down doesn’t have to go through either one of them. People who do mind going through the full body scanner always have a right to opt out of it, but by opting out of the full body scanner they opt into the full body pat down. It’s been like this ever since Milo Minderbinder was smart enough to try to bomb his own plane after forming the M&M Full Body Scanner Syndicate. At any rate, it really doesn’t matter, because the reason these things work so well for us,” he kicked the scanner twice, “is that they don’t work at all.”

Yossarian had heard there were terrorists everywhere trying to kill him, and the idea of these machines that could very possibly kill him not working instilled within him the fear of death.

“Oh, you don’t have to worry, though. Any smart terrorist like Milo Minderbinder who doesn’t want to pass through the scanner is absolutely required to pass through the scanner and is not at the airport, and any smart terrorist whoisat the airport and doesn’t mind going through the scanner does not have to go through. So no terrorist that you have to worry about will ever manage to pass through one of these things.”

Captain Snowed In

“I need to speak to the captain about grounding the plane. It’s a matter of life and death. There’s a blizzard coming in; we’ll die trying to take off.”

“The captain is in, and you’re free to see him any time, but you have to get through the double-reinforced cockpit door first, which will not be possible.”

“The double-reinforced cockpit door?”

“Along with the drop-down steel bars, which you’ll find ideal for not getting anywhere near the captain who is in there waiting to shoot you when you do get through the impregnable doors. It’s been like this ever since Milo Minderbinder—”

“Enough about Milo Minderbinder!”

Yossarian eventually managed to get the captain on his cellphone in order to sound the alarm about the approaching deadly blizzard he knew the captain would want to hear.

“Stop sounding the alarm about this approaching deadly blizzard. I don’t want to hear it,” the captain informed him, “because I can’t ground the plane. In order to safeguard passengers’ rights and well-being, the Three-Hour Tarmac rule forbids us from keeping passengers on the tarmac any more than three hours. The FAA would fine us if we did, $27,500 per passenger. So we either cancel their flights when we can afford it — and the airlines can never afford it — or we take them up in the deadly weather when we can’t.”

“You fly in deadly weather?” Yossarian’s head was spinning.

“Oh God yes, the worst kind of weather imaginable, luckily for everyone — the fine would only be passed onto the price of the tickets.You’d be surprised at all the deadly weather they say is statistically safer to ascend and descend through when compared to carefully driving your car around the block on any given sunny day.”

“Where are the snow-ins of yesteryear?” Yossarian lamented.

“I can only answer that question if you call me back, after all cellphones and electronic devices are turned off. It’s all part of the regulation.”

“The regulation?”

“FAA Regulation 22.”

Illustration by Yael Levy

Jason Harrington's work has appeared in McSweeney's, as well as various other places. He tweets here.