There are no atheists on airplanes

I hate flying.

I hate the wasted time. I hate the invasion of privacy. I hate being disconnected from the internet. I hate the food. I hate being around that many people. I hate being squished next to people on the actual plane. I hate the stress. EDIT: UGH AND THE BATHROOMS! I HATE THE BATHROOMS. How could I forget that???

I hate it.

What does not add to the fun, is flying itself is extraordinarily painful for me. As far back as I can remember, flying, especially the descent, causes me *extreme* ear pain. Sharp shooting pain, as well as a dull, constant aching pain. Its all orchestrated to a sound similar to air being squeaked out of a wet balloon very slowly. Its a great time. To add insult to injury, my ears dont go back to normal until days after I land. I go around screaming ‘eh. wat? i cant hear you.” At least, I think Im screaming, but since my voice is really loud in my head and I cant modulate it to what my ears hear, Im actually talking super quiet, so the person talking to me says “What?” And Im like “wat?” And theyre like “WHAT?”


Good news! This past trip I totally cracked out on pseudo-ephedrine because of my allergies. Side-effect? My ears like, ‘popped’! My ears have never ‘popped’ normally! I was fine! And then on the way back, I tried the box of Sudafed again, AND IT TOTALLY WORKED! YAY! Maybe that is one of my flying problems solved!

But uppers cant solve all of my problems.

Another big one, and Im sure everyone has gotten this (or Im just a magnet for crazies or something): The Evangelical. Sitting right next to someone for hours and hours and hours on a plane, nowhere to run, and this person wont stfu about Jesus.

On my way back from Antarctica, the whole LA-Home flight I had to sit next to this old crazy guy who wasnt just BIG into Jesus, but all kinds of woo medicine (magnets, injecting himself with all sorts of vitamins and shit). FOUR HOURS of this shit. And while Im happy as a clam to counter this crap online, if Im stuck on a plane I usually just smile and put on my headphones, and rarely they will shut up. I dont want to deal with those shits on a fucking plane.

So this last flight, they were showing ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader‘.

Guy next to me: “Do you know what this movie is about?”

Me: *life flashes before my eyes* *the cold dead stare and hollow ghastly smile of every Evangelical I have ever been trapped next to on a plane over the past ~20 years float to the surface, and congeal into the man sitting next to me* *”THESE BOOKS WERE WRITTEN ABOUT CHRISTIANITY! HAVE YOU HEARD OF C.S. LEWIS?? HAVE YOU ACCEPTED JESUS CHRIST INTO YOUR LIFE??” I picture the man saying, beads of sweat forming on his forehead in excitement* *frantic thoughts on how Im going to get out of this*

Me: “Ah, its based on a kids book. They like go to this magic world and do stuff…”

Guy next to me: “Oh. Like Harry Potter?”

Me: *stunned* “You really dont know what this movie is about?”

Guy next to me: “…”

Me: “The guy who wrote these was an Evangelical. I thought you were just asking to gear up to proselytize to me for the next 4 hours.”

Guy next to me: “ROFL!!!! No.”

Me: “Praise the Lord.”


  1. #1 Dave
    April 3, 2011

    Another big one, and Im sure everyone has gotten this (or Im just a magnet for crazies or something): The Evangelical. Sitting right next to someone for hours and hours and hours on a plane, nowhere to run, and this person wont stfu about Jesus.

    Learn about JR “Bob” Dobbs! While arguing with them only encourages them, telling them that you believe JHVH-1 is a malevolent space alien, have accepted Bob as your savior from the Intergalactic Bankers and your pissed by the no-smoking regulations because you want your frop tends to shut them up. Its probably equal parts they dont know how to respond to shit thats that far out of left field and they think your nuts, but hey whatever works.

  2. #2 Emerson White
    April 3, 2011

    I lol’d. I too have ear problems (had tubes as a child) but flying is still amazing, Sure you don’t get internet, but boy it’s great to have time to read books!

  3. #3 eyesoars
    April 3, 2011

    Chewing gum is also good for flying. Particularly for small kids about 1/2 hour before landing, it helps open up the eustachian tubes and prevents a lot of crankiness and crying. Often good for adults, too.

    It won’t help if your sinuses are clogged, however. It’s just no fun to fly when you’re clogged. Then only drugs, hot showers, or whatever clears you.

    Dramamine is also good (and for the airsickness prone), but mostly because it’s pretty decent for putting people to sleep.

  4. #4 Vince whirlwind
    April 3, 2011

    I thought from the title of your post that you were going to go somewhere else with this…..flying is *the* experience which makes me think about the value of the idea of a benevolent super-being watching over me who will save me if things go horribly wrong….

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    April 3, 2011

  6. #6 Bryan Elliott
    April 3, 2011

    I usually just queue up a bunch of podcasts on my phone prior to boarding. Most flights anymore have a USB port, so I can have my phone plugged in and running for hours.

    Anyway, if someone starts talking to me, I’ll politely listen for a moment, but if I’m getting annoyed, I’ll usually say, “I’m sorry, but I’m reviewing some notes I taped before I left. If you don’t mind…” and point to my ears anytime they start up again.

    As a strategy, it usually works pretty well.

  7. #7 Optimus Primate
    April 3, 2011

    Yargh. Yet another thing we have in common. I loathe flying, and I have to do it twice this month.

    At least my ears pop. So I’ve got that going for me.

    You want Jesus, though? Trying flying in and out of Alabama. I’ve got your Jesus right here!

    Srsly. I have had enough of the motherfucking Jesus on the motherfucking planes. Although I’ve found that
    helps, because people either don’t get it and think I’m a mooslum, or they do get it and they figure I’m not up for a nice chat about spooky shit.

    Although the people who do get it and think I’m just bashing one specific nutbag religion tend to be the worst.

  8. #8 BrokenDrum
    April 3, 2011

    There’s another trick to dealing with changes in pressure, which is standard in scuba diving. Hold your nose and try to blow out through it, quite hard. Maintain the pressure. You should be able to hear yourself equalising. One caveat: I hear it is theoretically possible to blow your eardrum if you do this too vigorously, so if it starts hurting, stop.

  9. #9 Jen
    April 3, 2011

    Man, I’m lucky, I always sit next to fellow silent people. The one guy who did talk to me was actually vaguely interesting in a semi-crazy way, but never brought up religion. You’re just a crazy magnet, apparently.

    Or flying out of Oklahoma.

  10. #10 JustaTech
    April 4, 2011

    One of the more valuable skills my dad taught me was the public-transit-fuck-off look. It’s not an expression so much as a refusal to acknowledge the existence of any of the crazy/annoying people around you. Very useful on the bus.

    I’ve never had much ear pain, but on one flight when I had a cold I honestly thought my eyeball was going to explode out of my head. Very not-fun.

  11. #11 Cath the Canberra Cook
    April 4, 2011

    More plane tricks for the mildly clogged sinuses: use “ear-planes” earplugs, especially on descent – after the turn off your electronics notice. Those Vicks inhalers with menthol and stuff that you use for colds. Also, a plain saline nasal spray, or saline with tea tree oil – and then blow your nose hard. Chew menthol/eucalytus gum or suck on menthol/eucalyptus lozenges.

    I’ve had people laugh at my little on-plane kit, but it’s totally worth it. I have bad sinuses, and the odd times I’ve had to go without my kit have been agony.

  12. #12 Claudia
    April 4, 2011

    I used to have the same problem with my ears, also lasting for days after the flight on some occasions. Chewing stuff or blowing nose or the scuba diving trick didn’t do anything for me (well, chewing gum does help a little). What fixed things for me are those nose drops you get for colds. Not sure what they are called in English but they are supposed to counteract the swelling of the nose mucosa by contracting the blood vessels (

    Got barely any issues ever since, I suspect your allergy medication may act on a similar basis, as do Cath’s suggestions. Nose drops/spray and chewing gum are now my saviours, and they have the added benefit of not being as conspicious as all sorts of menthol stuff 😉

  13. #13 Azkyroth
    April 4, 2011

    I hate the retarded security theater, the rules and procedures with no remote relationship to actual terrorist threats, the constant reminders that the vast majority of my countrycritters are stupid fucking sheep who not only put up with this shit but treat it as Very Serious Business, and the goddamn arbitrary bugfucking pettiness.

    I hate the fact that the plane seats are usually perfectly sized for my six year old daughter, the shitty drink selection, the high cabin temperature and stagnant air coupled with the fact that the entire directible ventilation system on the goddamn aircraft appears to be powered by a single fan roughly the size of the one in my computer, coupled to the physico-technically laughable insistence that any and all battery-operated devices be switched off for large swathes of the trip, even on the off chance the dumbfuckurity would let you take a fucking battery powered fan on.

    I’m glad my ears pop obligingly.

  14. #14 Jon D
    April 4, 2011

    Another vote for the scuba ‘equalising’ trick.. I find its best to start doing it early, so you do it in lots of small increments, rather than one big blow when you’re already in agony

    Also, who was the genius who decided how much leg room to give people? he should srsly be dragged into the street then tarred and feathered (I’m in a non-violent mood today so he avoids being shot)

    Being 6’4″, if I am unable to get an emergency exit seat I dont get any sleep, and I’m pretty much never on a plane for less than 10 hours

  15. #15 Bing
    April 4, 2011

    I flew out of Denver once and the woman in the seat next to me said she was an ‘actress’ and was returning from Aspen. Only a real actress would have been up front in 1st, not back in coach beside me so I surmised from her looks (5-alarm smoking) and her surgical enhancements that she was in the adult industry.

    She confirmed this when she pulled her portfolio out of her purse and proceeded to show me stills from her most popular video performances.

    When we got to New Jersey a paired anatomical structure of mine was thinking of auditioning for Blue Man Group. Its not just ears that must endure the pressure of flying.

  16. #16 Neil
    April 4, 2011

    Ok not on a plane but I was walking down Brick Lane (the infamous market in the East end of London) and was accosted by a young man with a huge beard. I told him I was a fundamentalist aetheist. He wanted me to read a book about men in red pants. Strange.

  17. #17 Phillip IV
    April 4, 2011

    But uppers cant solve all of my problems.

    And you dare to call yourself an American? *spits on the floor*

  18. #18 J-Dog
    April 4, 2011

    re: Evangels on Plane:
    1. Poke stick at them for lulz.
    2. No se habla Ingles (Doesn’t work so good anymore..)
    (Extra Bonus Fun if you DO speak the English by end of flight- and they know you were jerking them around.)
    3. Be Holier Than Thou.
    4. Be Satan Worshiper, looking for an Evangel to sacrifice.


  19. #19 fusilier
    April 4, 2011

    J-Dog @#18:

    I’m hypertense (unmedicated BP is about 185/100) so decongensants are strictly OUT of the question. I use the nasal-saline/chewinggum/Vicks’-just-outside-the-nares approach.

    Evangelicals tend to shy away from my offers of Holy Cards featuring the Blessed Virgin, St. Katarina Tekawithi, or John Paul II. If that doesn’t work I offer to teach them all 20 Mysteries of the Rosary.

    James 2:24

  20. #20 speedwell
    April 4, 2011

    The one and only time this happened to me, on a flight back from Dubai, I was seated next to a missionary child about 12 or 13 years old (apparently I have the look of a nice motherly woman and so I am frequently seated next to unaccompanied minors). I believe in telling kids the truth, so when she asked me whether I was a Christian, I told her, matter of factly, “No.” A friendly chuckle and a wry “yeah, I was a Christian just like you when I was your age” killed the poor morsel’s spiel in the bud and gave her something to think about while I snoozed for the rest of the flight.

  21. #21 D. C. Sessions
    April 4, 2011

    Then only drugs, hot showers, or whatever clears you.

    Capsaicin. Seriously, I love that shit. A cup or two of Thai hot and sour soup will clear up the most amazing congestion. Snorting chili powder would probably do the trick but I think that falls under the “don’t try this at home” warning. Or maybe the “are you out of your fucking mind?” one — whatever, just don’t. Munching on a nice fresh serranno or a plump New Mexico Big Jim would not only clear your sinuses and anything connected to them but load you up with enough vitamin C to raise Linus Pauling from the grave.

    OK, so I’m a bit fixated on peppers. Sue me — it’s a hobby. I grow ’em and smoke-dry them with the mesquite that I also grow. Ground up into powder, I carry some with me to zing stuff up. Probably shouldn’t tell TSA that it’s a neurotoxin, should I?

    If you want some, Abby, ping me and I’ll mail you a dime bag.

  22. #22 Kemanorel
    April 4, 2011

    Louis CK: “… You’re in a plane… in the sky…”

    Airplane part starts at 2:00:

  23. #23 PZ
    April 4, 2011

    I never have this problem. People sit down next to me, they look at me, and they never have the slightest urge to speak to me.

    I must be doing something right. Maybe it’s my evil glare.

  24. #24 SimonG
    April 4, 2011

    I was spoilt by doing mostly business class travel when I first flew. It’s vastly better than mingling with the hoi-poloi but stupidly expensive. It was a sad day when my employer said I had to foresake BA for EasyJet.

  25. #25 theshortearedowl
    April 4, 2011

    I’ve had ear problems since before I can remember, and I found the scuba trick works for me (although decongestants help). But another caveat – as well as it being possible to damage your eardrums, it can also hurt like fuck even without doing permanent damage. I actually dropped the regulator out of my mouth on more than one dive because it hurt so bad. Little bits frequently is definitely better.

  26. #26 Prometheus
    April 4, 2011

    There are dozens of names for it but is just Eustachian tube dysfunction and all of the above suggestions are just fine.

    The harsh reality is that, as a dweller here in flatland, getting your Eustachian tubes to open and close regularly just isn’t gonna happen and they are (I’m a licensed pilot whose ears used to hurt driving over the Arbuckles.) a use-it or-lose-it proposition.

    The best thing you can do (that you should be doing anyway) is keep your ears crazy clean. That means a couple of weeks before you know you are going to be flying, use ear drops composed of sterile oil and a weak carbamide peroxide solution. Lie on your side, let it percolate, flush your ear out with warm water. Repeat with other ear.

    I knew a pilot who carried a pocket full of those skinny balloons creepy clowns use to make poodles. The pressure made the tubes open…meh.

    As for aeroproselytizing, I have run across it a few times. I usually can get them rifling through their books and leaving me alone by asking a goofy question like “Why does god specifically say we can’t eat bats? Was this really a problem? Was there a whole tribe of particularly rowdy whathaveyouites devoted to bat cuisine or what?

    By the time they concoct some confirmation bias bullshit response I am yanking my bags out of the overhead.

    Evangelicals read slowly and don’t think on their feet.

  27. #27 bhoytony
    April 4, 2011

    I boarded a plane somewhere in the Middle East, either Dubai, Bahrain or Abhu Dhabi and was seated next to a young muslim girl in her late teens I would guess. She took one look at me, summoned the attendant, yakked away in Arabic for a couple of minutes while casting worried looks my way and was moved to another seat. Not sure if I look like a godless heathen or a sex-pest. I only wish I could have the same effect on christians.

  28. #28 Prometheus
    April 4, 2011


    Sorry that happened.

    Eye contact. I was over sensitized to this nonsense in London when the Saudis had taken over the entire West End. I got to the point where a glimpse of a burqa made me snap my eyes to the surface of my shoes and shove my hands in the pockets of my jacket.

    Saw a lot of London by missing stops and getting on the wrong train.

    Absurd really, but not much different than the “Look at me! Look at me! How dare you look at me! You are not who I want looking at me!” Catch 22 game that is played in many an office and at Faculty teas of late.

    Just for sport and because the Zword taught me the most comical phrase ever, when a woman thrusts her décolletage at me I now ask “Are you being complicit in your own exploitation or are you just glad to see me?”

  29. #29 bhoytony
    April 4, 2011

    Prometheus to be honest I wasn’t sorry. I couldn’t care less what she or anybody like her think of me and I ended up with two seats to myself. Like I said I’d be happy if christians would give me a wide berth too.

  30. #30 Jose Fly
    April 4, 2011

    A couple of years ago, as I was getting ready to sit in my plane seat, I noticed that the young lady next to me was very nice looking. So I’m thinking to myself, “Yee-hah!” Once the plane took off, I opened the book they gave us for the class I was flying to (about conservation biology) and she notices and starts talking about how her dad works for the Fish and Game Dept. She was very, very friendly, laughed at everything I said, and kept touching my arm. Cool!

    So there I am, having a nice conversation with a young attractive woman when I make my mistake…I ask, “So where are you headed?” Her answer: “I’m on my way to the Regional meeting for Campus Crusades for Christ!” And literally the very next thing out of her mouth was, “So if you don’t mind my asking, are you a Christian?”

    The guy in the row ahead of me, who obviously had overheard us talking looks back at me through the crack in the seats and gives me a wry grin like, “Hah hah! You thought she was flirting with you, but now you get to listen to Jeebus talk for the next 2 hours!!!”

  31. #31 Tommykey
    April 4, 2011

    I hate the food.

    You should fly Cathay Pacific. They have good food.

  32. #32 Tommykey
    April 4, 2011

    Jose Fly, you could have still had some fun with it. Tell her you were struggling with the issue but hadn’t connected with the right person to convince you.

  33. #33 Dawn
    April 5, 2011

    @PZ: it’s not the evil glare. It’s the tentacles wriggling. Makes anyone nervous.

    I inherited lousy eustachian tubes, also. My ears pop going up on the elevator to work daily (I work on the 12th floor; used to work on the 19th floor). When I have a cold, life is miserable. I hate to fly for the same reason as Abby.

  34. #34 Scott Hatfield
    April 5, 2011

    Actually, C.S. Lewis was neither an evangelical, a fundamentalist or a Biblical literalist. Doesn’t stop any of the latter for claiming Lewis as their token contemporary intellectual, so the confusion is understandable.

  35. #35 Jon H
    April 5, 2011

    Re: religious people

    If they’re Christian, first ask their denomination.

    Whatever their answer, reply “I’m sorry sir/madam, I have no truck with heretics.”

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