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November 05, 2005

Once upon a time...

...there was a pilot who flew for one of the majors. He always flew by the regs, he always made his gate times, he always greased each landing on (and always on the centerline), he never busted minimums and he never, ever argued with ATC.

Hey, cut me some slack--it's a *joke*, okay? Geez...

Well, as all of us must, one morning he showed up at the Pearly Gates. Saint Peter looked askance at him and said, "I'm sorry, but you'll have to wait until I get a policy reading on this--you're the first airline pilot we've seen up here."

So, the pilot cooled his heels and thumbed through a back issue of Harper's--eventually realizing it had nothing to do with ladies' fashions--while he awaited Saint Peter's return.

Saint Peter finally showed up and said, "I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is, you qualify to enter heaven. The bad news is, you have to visit the *other* place, first. Once you've done that, you'll have to decide whether you spend eternity up here or down there." When the pilot opened his mouth to protest, Saint Peter merely said, "Sorry, that's the reg." The pilot shrugged and walked toward the elevator, idly noticing the worn condition of the "Down" button.

When the pilot stepped out of the elevator into a tastefully-decorated anteroom, he was greeted by a demon dressed in a navy short-sleeved shirt, white knickers and argyle socks.

[Okay, by now I've offended both of the airline pilots who drop in, so I'll stick the rest of this in Flash traffic so they can go read the good stuff with a clear conscience...]

"Hiya-pleased-ta-meetcha! Beelzebub's the name, bein' Lord of the Flies is my game. And," he said, poking the pilot's chest with a two-inch long obsidian claw, "You. Fly. C'mon, lemme show you around. By the way, my friends call me Bubba."

They exited and the pilot was astonished to see luxuriant green grass growing on the most exquisite expanse of golf course he could have imagined. Everywhere he looked, he recognized old friends and acquaintances, grouped in foursomes and enjoying a leisurely game.

"Wow, Bubba, this is fantastic! But I wish I had my clubs so I could play a few holes..."

"No. Problem-o. Follow me to the Pro Shop and we'll get you a set, handmade to your precise needs." They went into the Pro Shop, where an expert team of craftsmen measured the pilot's hands, observed his stance, took copious notes and announced, "The clubs will be ready in an hour. Graphite shafts okay with you? Oh, and what color golf bag?" The pilot's head was awhirl with happy amazement.

"Hey, buddy, let's grab a quick snack while you're waiting," said Bubba. "I hope you like lager--weather's still a bit warm for ale." They proceeded to the Snack Bar, where the pilot had the best brat he'd ever eaten, garnished with an onion relish that was sheer (pardon the expression) heaven and accompanied by a lager that would have been downright sinful in other circumstances.

And, to make a long story short, the pilot discovered his clubs were perfection itself and he played a better eighteen holes than he'd ever done (to include a hole-in-one and three eagles) before. Afterwards, he sat at a table with some of his old friends and ate a fantastic filet, accompanied by a magnificent burgundy he'd never tasted before. They whiled away the hours reminiscing, drinking exotic liqueurs and flirting shamelessly with the waitresses. The pilot happily stretched, yawned--and was gently deposited onto a huge featherbed in the middle of a small, peaceful room.

The next morning, he awoke refreshed and headed for the elevator. Bubba said, "I hope ya had a good time, buddy--we sure enjoyed your company! Hey, come back to visit every now and then, don't be a stranger, ya know?" The pilot smiled, shook Bubba's hand and entered the elevator.

When the elevator door opened, the pilot dashed up to Saint Peter and said, "I've decided where I want to spend eternity. So long, farewell, adios, it was a real pleasure meeting you." Then he turned and dashed back to the elevator (the doors hadn't closed yet), pressing the "Down" button as he nipped inside.

When he stepped out of the elevator, the tastefully-appointed anteroom of the previous day had been replaced by the lobby of a Bowery flophouse in the middle of a garbage storm. Bubba walked up and put an arm around the pilot's shoulder (effectively preventing him from bolting back into the elevator), and said, "Now, how'd I know you'd be back?"

Stunned, the pilot shook Bubba's arm off, walked over to the exit and looked outside. The rolling greensward was now a smoldering trash heap, impossibly high and covered with small figures in orange jumpsuits, wandering forlornly about. "What's all this?" whispered the pilot. "Yesterday, I played golf with my friends on a world-class course and today they're up to their knees in garbage while they poke around for recyclables?!?"

"Well, sure," replied Bubba. "Yesterday, we were trying to recruit you. Today, you're staff."

But wait--there's more!

"I kinda like you," said Bubba, "and because you weren't a really bad sort while you were alive, I'll let you choose the way you'll spend eternity. Behind each of those doors is a different hell. Pick one." At this point, Bubba was interrupted by a series of horrible screams emanating from around the corner.

"Whoops-a-daisy, the phone. BRB."

The pilot thought, "If I've gotta choose one of those rooms, I want a preview. One of them is bound to be the least odious..."

With that thought, he strode over to door number one and opened it. He looked inside and saw a pilot going through endless repetitions of preflight tasks. "All that work and never getting to fly? No, thanks," he thought.

Then he peeked inside door number two. There was a pilot, strapped in a simulator, surrounded by flashing lights and deafening *beep*s, coping with emergency after emergency after emergency, while a grinning demon wearing an FAA baseball cap took notes and pulled circuit breakers. "Wow--the original checkride from hell. No way."

He opened door number three and stood in amazement. The room was the bridge of the starship Enterprise, and in its center was a pilot lounging in an upholstered Captain Kirk Recliner™, surrounded by scantily clad flight attendants who fawned over him and catered to his every whim--his every whim. The pilot hurriedly closed the door and stepped back when he heard the approach of cloven hooves.

"Sooooo," Bubba chortled as he strode back toward the pilot, "which door will it be?"

"Door number three," quavered the pilot, feigning trepidation.

"Awwww, I'm sorry, but door number three is out of the question. Regulations, you know?"

"Huh?!? Why?" demanded the pilot.

"Because," answered Bubba, "that's the flight attendants' hell..."

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