Toilet Terror at 20,000 Feet

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This NY Times story boldly makes clear that as a nation we have officially moved on from 9/11. In the paper of record, fear of psychopathic hijackers crashing airplanes into buildings filled with people has now officially given way to brave calls for an all-important passenger-to-toilet-ratio czar:

Unbelievable as it may sound, the only apparent law on the books that requires an aircraft to fly with a working restroom, the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, applies to planes with more than one aisle that were delivered or refurbished after April 1992. That's a huge loophole, given the number of jets that are older or have just one aisle. Plus, federal law seems to be mum when it comes to the all-important passenger-to-toilet ratio on a plane….

A functioning toilet is such a basic necessity that the law appears to take it for granted. Perhaps it shouldn't.

Oh, and one more thing, notes Timesman Christopher Elliott, "Of course, airlines don't exploit this regulatory lapse."

So, as reader (and associate editorial editor of the Harvard Crimson) Piotr Brzezinski notes in his email bringing this story to our attention, "So, there's no serious problem about functional bathrooms on airlines. There's also no law about bathrooms on airlines. Therefore, there should be a law. WTF."

Whole Times story here.

Two quick responses. First, Elliott's column is titled "Sounding Off." In the interest of basic accuracy and out of respect for readers' intelligence, it really should be called "Jerking Off."

Second, I smell a hoax here–is Christopher Elliott in reality Chris Elliott, late of the Dave Letterman show and the auteur behind Get a Life!, arguably the greatest TV series ever (and inarguably one of the most hated by anyone who wasn't a total fan)? God, I hope so.

Bonus response: Isn't this precisely the sort of story the Times should be putting behind its subscription wall, safely out of reach of most readers? Throw John Tierney over the wall and keep Elliott safely within the perimeter and everything would be as pleasant and sweet-smelling as, well, an airplane powder room.

NEXT: Under the Gun

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  1. Get A Life! was (intermittently) hilarious. The male model episode was classic “Well I … am Sparkles.” Or watching the French movie “Sound! sound! there’s something wrong with the sound. What is this, a movie in baby-talk?”

  2. Sometimes I like to ride my bicycle on a bumpy road…and think about girls.

  3. The tool-belt wars and building the submarine in the bath-tub were classics.

  4. So, if all of the airlines have bathrooms anyway, then clearly this law is no big deal so why not pass it?

    And if some of them didn’t, that would be proof that we need a law.

  5. Thank god we have Christopher Elliot to write about bathrooms on airplanes.

    As for more important issues, as I recall “Get a Life”/”Flying Blind” was the best hour on television, ever. God, Tea Leoni was hot.

  6. “Of course, our son was humiliated to have urinated in his pants and on the seat and was very uncomfortable for the rest of the trip,” he said.

    But I’m sure that having his pants-pissing immortalized in the NYT won’t bother the kid at all.

  7. Of course, our son was humiliated to have urinated in his pants and on the seat and was very uncomfortable for the rest of the trip

    Sounds like the basis of a pretty good Get A Life script.

  8. “I’m watching you, Dave. Making your life a living hell.”

  9. arguably the greatest TV series ever (and inarguably one of the most hated by anyone who wasn’t a total fan)?

    Ahhhh [deep sigh of satisfaction] – I knew there was a reason I liked you, Nick.

    I came to the conclusion the other day that Chris Elliott is one of my personal heros.

  10. Fortunately, if someone did get an injury or serious embarrassment because of lack of access to a working toilet on a crowded flight on a large jet, then they could sue the airline under tort law. This will remain true so long as we allow tort law to continue. THAT is the regulatory “enforcement” mechanism operating in the background that ppl on neither side of this debate seem to acknowledge or appreciate. It is a good mechanism.

    My concern is that some halfwit will sue Piper Cub for not having a good toilet and then Thoreau and his buddies will use this as a pretext to pass a law saying no suing airlines over bathrooms ever. That is how it seems to work round here.

  11. I move that Chris Elliott be loved by all here by acclamation.
    He has a new book, btw. It’s a mystery involving a shroud… and cupcakes?

  12. Remember the episode of “Get a Life” where his parents–with his dad played by his real dad–had cement poured into, completely turning his apartment over the garage into a block?
    They were subtle with their hints.

  13. Sorry to poop on your party, but I for one always found Chris Elliott to be juvenile and unfunny. Much like Rob Reiner, Chris is a cheap imitation of his father.

  14. I move that Warren be shunned here by all by acclamation.

  15. Warren is correct, if not drunk again.

  16. This will remain true so long as we allow tort law to continue.

    Umm, Dave, nobody here has actually called for ending tort law. I think the only question is over what are actually torts.

    My concern is that some halfwit will sue Piper Cub…

    Interesting you should bring that up since, according to my pilot and flight instructor cousin, the domestic small aircraft industry has already been sued into oblivion.

  17. I second the motion.

    (Cupcakes! – Are you listening now?)

  18. the domestic small aircraft industry has already been sued into oblivion.

    not neccessarily a bad thing. some risks are just uninsurable.

  19. I think the only question is over what are actually torts.

    No, the question is this: who is to say what torts are?

    a. judges and juries

    OR

    b. Congress and their lobbyists.

    Generally, I prefer (a), although in some narrow circumstances (b) can be okay if applied with great care and sensitivity in exemption drafting. Around here I argue with the prevailing sentiment that (b) is the way to go.

  20. Dave W,
    When will you stop talking business and start talking cupcakes?

  21. Ed,
    At this time of day, the only psychoactive substance I’m on is the liquid speed that pours from the office coffeepot. Of course days when SCOTUS rulings are announced or legislation is signed into law, may be exceptions.

    Oh, and the double post is entirely the fault of the immigrant squirrels.

  22. I have always wanted to see get a life and never got the chance. Sometimes I wish my career would allow me more leeway in infringing copyrights so that I could see the show. I didn’t really get Cabin Boy.

    Random tv recommendtion: Most Extraordinary Space Investigations starring Sarah Silverman and with occasional guest Moses Llamas.

  23. I’m watching you, Warren. Making your life a living hell, too.

    I think Chris Elliot can be a little hit or miss, but he has had some great moments. I didn’t watch his show religiously, but I do recall scenes with one of those comic book submarines (always wanted one!) and with a bicycle race accompanied by the Star Trek Fightin’ Song (first time I saw that joke, though it’s popped up on TV and in movies since then).

    By the way, the whole “living hell” thing comes from when Chris Elliot was the “Guy Under the Seats” on Late Night with David Letterman. I loved that bit.

  24. johnny:

    Good point about the pants-pissing kid. His dad is obviously a total asshole who is more concerned about “making a point” then to protect his own son.

    “”For health reasons, we always hydrate thoroughly before and during flights,” explained Roy M. Bohlin, a professor at California State University in Fresno.””

    So daddy the professor probably forces his kid to drink 3 glasses of water, and then fails to handle an emergency situation. Instead of wasting time hectoring the flight attendants he should’ve just told the kid to piss in a cup. Asshole.

  25. Thinking about Chris Elliott’s father (Bob Elliott), anybody know if Ray Goulding had children?

  26. MNG,

    You know, the whole “eight glasses a day of water” recommendation is a total myth. There is no clinical, etc. evidence to suggest that it is the appropriate amount of water intake a day (indeed, since drinking too much water can actually harm you, well…).

    Anyway, I wonder if the Professor has bought into this myth.

  27. Isaac, do you mean to say that it’s the lawyers who are denying us our God-given, 21st Century right to flying cars? The b-b-bastards! I’m changing professions right now. Call me Dr. Pro Libertate from now on (Pre-law, pre-med, it’s all the same). Actually, on second thought, I’d like to be a physicist. thoreau, could you teach me physics via Hit & Run? smacky’s going to teach me Greek, so I’ll have a well-rounded education.

  28. Prof. Boylin sounds like a total prick. You can just hear his pinched voice and see his purse-lipped face behind that phrase “we always hydrate thoroughly”. Just typing it makes me want kick him in the nads.

  29. Hakluyt, I flew to Tokyo some years ago (on the way to Kuala Lumpur) and read up beforehand on how to deal with insanely long flights (my longest before that had been like three hours). One of the things I read was that you should drink a lot when flying, because planes have extremely dry air and for some other reason I can’t remember. The book also said something about walking around a lot, which is easy to remember to do when you’re drinking lots of water. By the way, this strategy works better with an aisle seat, as I’ve learned.

  30. “Warren is correct, if not drunk again.”
    Ed,
    It’s possible to be both drunk and correct, eh Warren?
    In fact, there may be a correlation pattern.

  31. When will you stop talking business and start talking cupcakes?

    Dave W. will only talk about cupcakes as they relate to diabetes and high fructose corn syrup.

    Smacky will only talk about cupcakes if they are eeevil cupcakes.

    I will eat the cupcakes whilst they are arguing.

  32. Pro Libertate,

    I can teach you history and French. 🙂

    Yes, I’ve heard about the “drink water for long flights” recommendation, but I’ve never bought into it or practiced it. Besides, you can always order a martini if you get thirsty. 🙂

  33. No, the question is this: who is to say what torts are?

    I would think that the legislative branch might have some role to play in law.

    And I think customers should decide what the best tarts are.

    Anyway, I would like to pre-empt Dave W. by thanking the legal profession for airplane bathrooms. Without the legal profession, there’d be a hell of a mad rush for the exit when the plane touches down.

  34. Besides, you can always order a martini if you get thirsty.

    The nannies will tell you that that will dehydrate you. 🙂

    The interesting thing is that the moron in the article doesn’t realize that you need to hydrate over the course of the flight, not all at once before it. (Insert gratuitous insult to tenured academics here) (since I’ve already gratuitously insulted lawyers)

    Pro Libertate, I’ve got nothing against lawyers, why, some of my best friends are lawyers. 😉

    Everyone hates lawyers til they need one.

  35. I think the only question is over what are actually torts.

    Come with me on a fantastical journey as I teach physics expert and legal novice, T., that there are many parts of the law including judicial functions, administrative functions, executive functions and legislative function. Watch math and science whizkid T. stumble and learn as he finds out why those functions were separated in the first place for good reasons that still apply in the modern world. T. learns!

  36. And I think customers should decide what the best tarts are.

    The ones who don’t ask for cab fare.

  37. Everyone hates lawyers til they need one.

    And then they hate the other side’s lawyer even more.

  38. Get a Life! first season is now available on DVD.

  39. Ruthless,
    No doubt you are correct. I usually rely on drugs other than alcohol to achieve my moments of brilliance. I resort drink only to kill the pain. During such times, the only statements of fact I am likely to utter is something along the lines of “Those fucking fucks fucked us again. We are so fucked”. Whatever my state of intoxication, I am of course always correct. I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken 😉

  40. Hakluyt, I’m okay on history, but I could use some French. I can say fromage and “droit moral”, but it would be nice to read Dumas in the original French. And to use it to meet girls in Paris: “American? Why no, I’m Canadian. Love me long time.” That sort of thing.

  41. Apparently Pro Libertate prefers his women unshorn.

  42. Isaac Bertram,

    After a few martinis, who cares if you are dehydrated. 🙂

    Pro Libertate,

    Heh. You really don’t have to talk to French women (or men) to bed them (or for them to bed you) (o.k., I am only slightly exaggerating).

  43. Only when in Paris, Timothy. I’m an American, which means I like my women shaven, my body showered daily, my drinks with ice, and my whiskey from Tennessee. Oh, and don’t forget “large American breasts”.

  44. Hakluyt, so you’re saying Paris is like some sort of moveable feast? I knew Ernie was talking dirty in that book. Always the double meanings with him.

  45. Pro Libertate,

    Heh. I’m saying that young French people, and Parisians in particular, will hook up for casual sexual forays in a way that I think most Americans would find surprising. Of course, I’ve never lived in a place say NYC, so…

  46. Pro Liberate,

    Of course, my “experiences” are purely anecdotal. 🙂

  47. Casual sex, 35 hour work week…much as it pains me to admit it maybe the Frenchies are on to something.

    Oh, who am I kidding, I’d miss the large American breasts.

  48. Timothy,

    Just wait until you see the late-night mastubatory artists on the metro. 🙂

  49. And this is why I’m glad I live in a city without good public transit, so I’m never tempted to ride any.

  50. Everyone hates lawyers til they need one.

    And you need one because lawyers are creating so many laws which, wouldn’t you just know it, wind up making you in violation of something forcing you to hire a lawyer to defend yourself. Create a law, create jobs for lawyers.

  51. Timothy,

    There’s nothing quite like getting on the metro and watching a man or woman masturbate themselves in front of a group of passengers at midnight. That’s why I refer to them as mastubatory artists.

  52. There’s nothing quite like getting on the metro and watching a man or woman masturbate themselves in front of a group of passengers at midnight.

    I’m quite sure there’s nothing like it, but it’s not really an experiance I feel I need to have in order to have lived a complete life.

  53. Everyone hates lawyers til they need one.

    And if you get the idiot what they want they love you. But then they hate you when you ask them to pay up for your fees and costs (which they agreed to in the first place).

    I don’t know how many times I’ve been on the phone with a “potential” client who gets offended at any of the following:
    a) Not having their “simple” question(s) answered right there on the phone.
    b) Being asked to come into the office for a consultation which is not free.
    c) The size of the retainer and amount of the hourly rates.

    I’m almost glad that it’s finals time at law school. That way I don’t have to go to work.

  54. Heh. You really don’t have to talk to French women (or men) to bed them (or for them to bed you) (o.k., I am only slightly exaggerating).

    Heh. I’m saying that young French people, and Parisians in particular, will hook up for casual sexual forays in a way that I think most Americans would find surprising.

    There’s nothing quite like getting on the metro and watching a man or woman masturbate themselves in front of a group of passengers at midnight.

    Ok, there is no way in hell I am letting my boyfriend go to France by himself next year. If I can’t go with him….well, I will just worry myself into a panicked, anxious frenzy.

  55. “I’ve seen her dehydrate, sir. It’s pretty gross.”

  56. Hak,
    Could you make a video and link to it here?
    I do feel that necessary for my own life’s completeness.
    Timothy is a pooper.

  57. freaked:

    just make a batch of fresh cupcakes.

    yessir. merkin cupcakes. merkin.

    merkinmerkinmerkin.

    so there.

    (pigskin bus is a loadin)

    poco: from breakfast club?

  58. completely freaked out,

    Its part of the overseas experience.

    Ruthless,

    I never recorded such an event.

  59. Everyone hates lawyers til they need one.

    I’m pretty sure people hate lawyers even when they need one. And they resent that they even need one. And they really hate it when they have to pay them.

  60. Hak – I think, based on what I’ve read that the “eight glasses of water” thing came about this way: It is true that you need about eight cups of water a day. You don’t actually have to drink all of that, because you get much of it from your food, but at some point someone probably misunderstood it and started spreading the meme as “drink eight cups of water”. But because people usually drink water from glasses, not cups, someone misremembered or “corrected” it to “eight glasses”, and it spread from there. That’s just my hypothesizing, though.

  61. Well, in all fairness to Elliott, the issue isn’t the passenge-to-toilet ratio – although a lot of us who’ve been stuck on a damned 757 on a transcon flight might say it SHOULD be – but whether or not having enought working toilets (or any at all) should be grounds for the airlines to be required to divert the plane and land early. It isn’t as silly of a discussion as it might sound, but more of a public hygiene question, along the lines of restaurants being required to have a functional restroom.

    And it’s sort of silly (at best) to say that the fact that Elliott writes an article about toilets somehow means the NYT no longer worries about terrorism – it’s entirely possible to do both at the same time.

    Having said all that, I’ve never seen any stats that suggest that this happens often enough to be worthy of serious public debate, much less Congressional action. And I fly a lot.

    And I gotta say the comments section of this thread is one of the most spectacular displays of drifting off topic ever!

  62. “And I gotta say the comments section of this thread is one of the most spectacular displays of drifting off topic ever!”

    Craig,
    If you really hafta pee, you best think of something else, eh?

  63. VM: Oui — Emilio Estevez.

    Drinking lots of water is supposed to keep your skin dewy, your colon unconstipated, your appetite down and your toxins flushed out. Personally, I dunno, and I drink at least a Pellegrino a day.

  64. ” Personally, I dunno, and I drink at least a Pellegrino a day.”

    you mean our neighbors at the lake?

    do you use the bass master to liquify them?

    bon d’accord.

    here’s one which was better:
    Fast Times
    Breakfast Club
    Private School

    that’s a toughie.

  65. As for more important issues, as I recall “Get a Life”/”Flying Blind” was the best hour on television, ever. God, Tea Leoni was hot.

    YES! I miss both those shows. Oddly, I was thinking of “Flying Blind” just this morning. For some reason, I have always found the concept of a hot wild chick hooking up with a geek to be a very appealing fantasy. (Or is it just a fantasy? I imagine the series is very close to being a documentary of the early days of Jennifer and Jeff P’s relationship. 🙂 )

    I also liked “Get a Life!” a lot. I probably would have liked it even more if I were not, to my chagrin, actually 30 years old and living with my parents at the time.

    I remember the episode with the “Star Trek fighting music.” I also remember when Chris’s uptight neighbor gave him driving lessons.

    NEIGHBOR: Now, before starting the car, be sure to inspect your lap and shoulder belts for any signs of wear or fraying.

    CHRIS: Right, right. Now, how do you get this baby up on two wheels?

  66. I vaguely remember liking Get a Life.

    Moose, I’m afraid I don’t understand your references anymore either. You doing too much interstate regulation lately? But anyway, I think you have the movies in the right order.

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