Hand Over the Controls, or I Will Expose You to Secondhand Smoke


What should you do if you are caught sneaking a smoke in an airplane lavatory?

a) put out the cigarette and apologize

b) finish the cigarette

c) make a joke about shoe bombs

Obviously, c) is not a very wise choice in the nervous, humorless confines of an airplane cabin, even if you are a Qatari diplomat and therefore pretty sure you won't be prosecuted for your smart mouth. But here's another question: What should you do if you catch a lavatory smoker who, upon being asked what that smell is, jokes that he was trying to light his shoes?

a) admonish him that smoking on an airplane is illegal in the United States

b) report him to the air marshals

c) scramble fighter jets to escort the plane to its destination

d) detain all passengers for questioning upon arrival

e) all of the above

You can probably guess the answer. Refreshingly, one of the detained passengers told A.P. she "was angry about having to stay at the airport to be questioned over something so minor," saying, "He went quietly. There was not a scene. They made this into something that was ridiculous." And a randomly selected traveler at the Denver International Airport, where the fertive furtive Qatari smoker was heading, offered words for all of us to live by: "I don't really ever feel as threatened as they think we should."

[Thanks to Paul in Seattle for the tip.]

NEXT: What Am I?

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  1. B and A. B for the first because I think that the smoking laws in this nation are ridiculous, though I might be A if they actually asked politely.

    A would be the one I would expect in response. For that is the sensible answer.

    Of course, it didn’t happen like that.

  2. I heard this on CNBC this morning, and laughed my ass off.

    What a pathetic clown show this country has become.

    1. “”What a pathetic clown show this country has become.””

      Yeah, and on our dime.

  3. He was probably in first class, in the first class john, so questioning people in aisle 47 in economy just shows the meticulous attention to idiocy our gubermint engages in.

    1. “attention to idiocy” Nice.

  4. Every one I know (granted I run in some unusual circles) thinks that all the pants-shitting about “homeland security” and “terrorist threat levels” is absurd and just politician’s way of taking more of our money and freedom away.

    1. “”just politician’s way of taking more of our money and freedom away.””

      That is the result. But I don’t think that is the motive. When bad shit happens, government often gets the blame. No one can rescue you from the roof of your flooded house, goverment’s fault. 9/11 happened because the government did little to prevent it, their fault. It’s an issue of perception, the government has received signals that if they let something slip by, they are at fault which in turn gives them the impression that we want them to do everything they can to protect us from any terrorist threat no matter how small. So, they see this bullshit as just doing the job the citizenry wants them to do.

      1. Exactly. Since what they care most about is re-election, they are terrified of not being seen as “doing enough”. Which means overkill in every situation.

        I mean, just look at the criticisms leveled at Bush during Katrina. Now, any natural disaster is going to have FEMA there wasting billions in about 2 seconds. All because “Bush doesn’t care about black people”.

        1. “Bush doesn’t care about black people”

          Nor do I. But Michelle just loves ’em.

        2. “””Exactly. Since what they care most about is re-election, they are terrified of not being seen as “doing enough”. “”

          Yeah, which says something not to good about our citizenry.

        3. Agree to a certain extent. I think the motive for this stuff–at first–is to “do something.” But after a while any war (on terror, drugs, etc) takes on a life of its own and too many people’s livelihoods depend on it, so it is impossible to terminate.

  5. What about all this diplomatic immunity nonsense? Is this a secret vulnerability the government has been ignoring?

  6. [Googles “Costa Rica”]

    1. Note that due to “severe under staffing there are considerable delays in processing new applications.” Get those forms in early, before the rush.

      1. What are the firearms laws ?

    2. Googles “Costa Rica” VERY FUNNY!!!

    3. I’m very curious about this. I’ve always been under the impression that Costa Rica was anything but small government.

      I’ve read this in a few places, but this one came up high in a Google search on the topic:


      “…today the government pays the salaries of approximately 25%, or one in four employed people. For the nation, this represents a huge financial burden. Public employees are the best paid, most secure, and most highly unionized and vocal workers, and the supposedly neutral bureaucracy has become the largest and most insatiable pressure group in the country. Public employees’ repetitive demands for higher pay, shorter hours, and greater fringe benefits (backed up by the constant threat of strikes) are so voracious that they eat up a vast proportion of the government benefits intended for the poor.”

  7. BLAM!

    “Diplomatic immunity!”


    “Has just been revoked!”

    Seriously, though, I can’t imagine how fun it must be to have diplomatic immunity.

    1. The blow, the parking spots, the smoking on planes, the parking spots, tax-free status in the US, the parking spots…

    2. I can’t imagine how fun it must be to have diplomatic immunity

      Why don’t you ask GBH?

  8. …and what exactly were those scrambled fighter-jet-pilots expected to do {??} — shoot down an airliner full of innocent people… in a worst case scenario ?

  9. the fertive Qatari smoker

    I think you mean “furtive,” unless this is some new portmanteau and he was festively furtive or furtively festive.

    1. …or furtively fertile.

      1. This is actually a more useful term. Like those chicks in your office who don’t tell anyone they’re pregnant, and then bam, they’re on maternity leave at the busiest time of the year. Sneaky bitches.

  10. I agree with all of the above, but seriously, making a shoe-bomb joke to a flight attendant? The guy’s an asshole.
    Bomb jokes have been illegal aboard planes since the cold war. The guy is either impossibly unaware at how jumpy airline security is, or he’s just a prick.

    1. Maybe he just felt awkward/rattled by being caught and tried to alleviate the situation with a joke. That’s my normal reaction, granted the context is heightened but humans will be humans. It was a dumb thing to do (so was trying to smoke on a plane, how are you gonna get away with that?) but everything that resulted was overkill: a giant waste of money, an unnecessary scare and hassle to the passengers, etc. It’s absurd.

      1. How people smoke in lavatories:

        1) Shower cap the smoke detector (totally illegal, but there are as yet no cams in the lavs)

        2) Light cig and hold next to drain which will suck down the smoke.

        3) Be sure to douse the cig and then place in your pocket.

        4) Take a shit to mask the awful smell of cigarette smoke

        1. I was being rhetorical but specifically on a plane it seems assured you’d be caught.

  11. I would really like to meet one of these Americans that is actually worried about being the victim of a terrorist attack and tell them about the dangers of Dihydrogen monoxide.

    1. I’ve already seen that one.

    2. Is this dihydrogen monoxide lurking in my home, and how can I protect myself and my family from it?

  12. We’re doomed.

    My Good Buddy Johnny Clarke pointed out to me that recently about the wtory where an airliner that overshot its destination was flying to ‘god knows where’ and was out of communication for a considerable time, and no one scrambled fighter jets.

    We’ve completely lost our sense of proportion.

    1. I should try pills next time I write a comment.

  13. I can understand why bomb jokes are not appreciated on airplanes, sure. But honestly, if I were asked which guy was more likely to actually be trying to bomb a plane, a guy making jokes about shoe bombs or a guy saying absolutely nothing about bombs at all, I would choose the first one every time. Why do people think that saying something about a bomb is any indication that they want to blow up a plane?
    Given the Christmas attempted bombing, I suppose that the intelligence of terrorists is not necessarily too high, but I think they are probably at least smart enough not to talk about bombs while on the plane.

  14. Reaction f: beat the living shit out of the joker. Maybe a broken wrist or two while making sure that creature was not a danger to the aircraft. A few obvious black eyes would be a nice warning to others who might have a similar sense of humor.

    Seriously. I frequently sit in first class and I’m not sure I would be able to contain myself.

    1. So your answer to assholes is being more of an asshole?

      1. Works on the Internet, why not real life?

        1. Does it?

          1. Assholes seem to think so.

          2. Well no one would ever say anything on the Internet that they wouldn’t in real life, right?

            1. I don’t know, I can’t speak for others.

              But what they say, and if it works or not, is two different things.

      2. Like Chris Rock, I would not say it’s ok, but I understand.

        1. Rock’s show Everybody Hates Chris is damn funny.

      3. Asshole? No, I think you misunderstand. Humans, being primates, require a certain amount of non-intellectual input in order to learn. If some shithead feels entitled to light a fire onboard an aircraft in flight, that clearly indicates a need for a response that reaches non-reasoning part of the shithead’s brain (and any other shithead so inclined). This individual obviously was not given the proper upbringing such that they have an internal govenor on behavior.

        There seem to be three classes of response to these kinds of shitheads: the hippy, the authoritarian, or the primate.

        The hippy believes in innate goodness of the individual, and who should not be judged or corrected by others because of their shitheadedness. Worse, they classify anyone who would take action to defend themselves as on the same level as the shithead, which leads to the situation so prevalent in this country: hippies want harmony and if you raise a hand in defense, you are obviously non-harmonious and thus as guilty as shithead number one.

        The authoritarian response is to make sure everyone is equally enmiserated by a response oblivious to the actual cause of the problem – stated so nicely above as “meticulous attention to idiocy”.

        The third response (perhaps overstated on my part) is to react to the actual perpetrator of the act, at the time of the act – slam that motherfucker hard so as to reach the primate part of the brain that will provide the behavorial govenor that it’s upbringing clearly did not provide. This approach has the advantage of not assuming all others are suspects, and also provides a bit of theater that imparts a valuable lesson of how to live with others – don’t be a dumbass who because of social status can do hugely stupid things and skate away with no lesson learned. Obviously dragging someone off to a room to be beaten with rubber hoses accomplishes the same thing, but has the disadvantage of requiring functionaries kick the shit out of the shithead, and that defeats the purpose of immediately reacting to the act (not to mention enabling all sorts of mechanisms for non-judicial punishment by the state).

        Yes, the final type of reaction does appeal to the atavistic, but humans really are primates and really do occasionally need to have pain inflicted for atrociously bad behavior by those who are effected by that bad behavior. It also means there can be an escalation of response that does not immediately result in death (ie. “blam, blam”).

        Were I sitting in first class and this infantile joker decided to imperil my safety, then yes – the situation requires a delivery of pain. That this asshole is a diplomat with immunity from other forms of correction on behavior is gravy.

        1. Uh, people used to smoke on air-o-planes, moron–ever notice the smoking lights that are still on fucking planes today?. Somebody having a smoke does not imperil your safety. But I guess the appeal of being an Internet Tuff Gai was too much for you.

          1. Funny consequence of smoking bans is that it drives people to smoke in lavatories. A famous fatality crash occurred on a BA flight where someone threw their cigarette butt in the trash and it started a fire that asphyxiated everyone before the plane could evacuate safely on the ground.

            Smoking was banned for clean air, not for safety, so you are correct. Smoking-ban flouters are issued a warning, not hauled away by security.

            In this case, the guy made a joke and earned himself special detention. He did not shout fire in a crowded theater, he made an oops-I’m-busted joke to one person. I think he got the proper punishment for his tiny crime. He was detained for questioning.

        2. Your point is clear and understandable but you’re coming on way too strong. That aside, the bigger point is it does not seem you would have BELIEVED the man was a threat. It seems you would merely be offended by his audacity to sneak a smoke and his audacity to make a joke about something that is this country’s biggest fucking joke at the moment. If that is the case then your justification for violence doesn’t differ much from the average bar fight.

          Granted, to some degree: “fuck that guy”. Especially if all of this behavior is attributed to the fact he has diplomatic immunity and thus believes he’s king kong. Other than that, though, I’d say the hassle he had in store was more than appropriate punishment.

        3. If some shithead feels entitled to light a fire onboard an aircraft in flight, that clearly indicates a need for a response that reaches non-reasoning part of the shithead’s brain

          You say you sit in first class, so I’ll explain this in very small words.

          Conflating the term ‘lighting a fire on board an aircraft’ with ‘sneaking a smoke in the shitter’ renders these concepts meaningless.

          He didn’t ‘light a fire on board an aircraft’ he was smoking. You know, like everyone used to do all the time on airplanes before people named Chad, Trevor and Mason who sat in first class with sweaters tied around their necks started to whine that their allergies were acting up and left their inhaler in their checked bag along with their Cinzano bike racing tee-shirt.

          1. Would Chad, Trevor and Mason complain about the smell if he was smoking his hemp sandals?

        4. …and the dicks just want to fuck everybody and the assholes want to shit all over everything…all you end up with is shit on everybody’s dick!

          —>Paraphrasing here

          1. Oh yeah, GRRRR, Me angry tough guy.

    2. Right, stewardesses beating the shit out of a guy for not appreciating his sense of humor. Good job internet tuff gai, get fucked.

    3. Seriously. I frequently sit in first class and I’m not sure I would be able to contain myself.

      Few people in first class ever do.

    4. I take it, then, that on the day that you make a mistake and try an ill-timed joke to defuse it, you won’t complain if somebody else uses “reaction f: beat the living shit out of the joker”.

      1. Lighting-up in the bathroom isn’t exactly in the category of “mistake”. More like exceedingly bad judgement. Of course, the free drinks in first class sort of enable bad judgement.

        In retrospect however, smoking some Quatari hash in the john is actually a pretty fun idea (although the beating should still be administered since bogarting the kief is the act of an antisocial swine).

        1. Dang, you have mellowed in the past three hours…hmmm. So stop being antisocial and pass the dutchie on the left. capitol l, always sits on the left.

          1. Too much espresso this morning – although I stand by the notion of beating the snot out of malefactors at the point-of-sale, so to speak.

            Just what is a dutchie, anyway? Weed in a crappy Dutch Master’s wrapper? It’s been way too long since I heard the song/saw the video…

            1. I think a dutchie is just a blunt or something.

              And thrash away JS, if you must but, never forget the IRON RULE.

              1. I’ve stopped thrashing, as the caffene buzz has faded.

                But tell me: what is the IRON RULE? That iron, rules? Steel is better. Titanium is best.

                1. ME TODAY, TOMORROW YOU

                  Basically, what goes around comes around.

                  Me? I’m an alloy man myself.

  15. A simple beating would have saved all the time, money and anger, but we’re a nation of pussies.

    1. It takes a true man to overreact violently to someone behaving in a way you find offensive or worrisome despite an utter lack of threat and an entire trained crew to deal with the situation.

      Save the gung ho for when it matters and here’s hoping you’ll back it up. Post-9/11 history doesn’t show much cause for concern in this regard but it does, however, give much concern as to overzealous attitudes.

      1. Meh.

        Beating, imo

        1. Because that’s less of a threat on a plane than a guy making a joke, right?

      2. I agree! And I wasn’t even lighting a ciggie!

  16. Ah, for the good old days, when you could smoke on the plane.

    I used to “spike” a cigarette or two with a crumb of hash, so the first draw was mostly, umm, very tasty, for long flights. Not a single one of those planes crashed.

    Good times, good times.

    1. Damn, RC!

  17. Checking out the halls
    Making sure the coast is clear
    Looking in the stalls
    No, there ain’t nobody here
    To get caught would surely
    Be the death of us all
    Smoking in the boy’s room, yeah!

  18. As dumb as the fallout may have been, the guy that started it all is an asshole and/or dumbass. And probably a prick to boot.

    That seems to have been lost in the discussion.

    1. We haven’t “lost” it at all. We simply assign it the correct proportion: that it’s not worth the ridiculous reaction. Part of being a grownup is understanding that there are assholes in the world, and understanding how to deal with it in a rational manner. Sometimes a boot in the ass is indeed called for; the government’s reaction in this case far exceeds that.

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