ATLANTA – You may be wondering why I have been sitting here for three hours, enjoying the vacationing splendor of an airport terminal lobby. It’s because I attempted to fly on a commercial airline in America in 2008. Have you flown lately? Don’t. But if you must, my tale of woe may serve as a warning. It all began last April when I made reservations through my travel agent, Orbitz  aka Overbooked & Ocupado. About once a week I would get an “Updated Itinerary,” which meant there had been a change in my schedule, often due to the airline going bankrupt and out of business. Other updates were more significant: once my arrival time was changed from 5:06 p.m. to 5:07. This would be a one-way trip. I would drive to Florida to see them hang a chad, and fly back. It is often said that if you go to hell, you have to go through D/FW. In my case, there were direct flights back to Houston, but if I went through Atlanta and changed planes, it was cheaper and little time lost. So I checked in at the Fort Walton Beach Airport, at which point the clerk punched a few keys on her computer and said, “We have no record of your reservation.” She hit several more keys. “Ah, here’s why. You’re a no-show.” “I am often overlooked, but I’m standing right here in front of you. How can I be a no-show?” At last the Cellophane Man was recognized. “You’re booking a one-way trip. Got any baggage to check?” she asked suspiciously. “No.” Friends, in these hysterical times, do not try to board an airplane with a one-way ticket and no baggage, especially if you’re wearing a thobe. Eventually, the clerk got me on my plane to Atlanta, but said the airline had substituted a much slower prop plane for a jet, so I’d get to Atlanta too late to make my scheduled connection to Texas. Somehow the “Updated Itinerary” didn’t mention that. But she did bump me up to first class for the last leg. We took off, heading north, dusting a few crops on the way. Hey, the airlines are doing everything they can to turn a buck. The drink cart finally came by. Six bucks for a beer. (See: “dusting crops,” above) There are further cost-cutting moves. US Airways is charging a buck for a cup of coffee and sodas. Many airlines are closing their VIP airport lounges. Delta recently closed nine of its 47 Crown Rooms in this country and abroad, while both American Airlines and US Airways are closing one club each. In the last two years, United has closed lounges at airports all over the world, and if you’re planning on going to hell, the United lounge at D/FW is shutting down. Just as I received my beer, the pilot announced that we were landing, and all trays and seats must be up, store your carry-ons and, oh yes, “The flight attendants will be coming through the cabin collecting all drinks.” Now here I am at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. I have no idea why the airport was named for Hartsfield and Jackson, but it’s not Grant. Once I flew from Mickey Leland Terminal in Houston to Love Field in Dallas and on to Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City – all named for people who died in plane crashes. Which, in turn, reminds me of the night I was flying between Acapulco and Mazatlan. We were waiting and waiting on the tarmac because a huge lightning storm had erupted. I mean, the skies were like the Washington Mall on the Fourth of July. After an hour of waiting, an Air France guy hops aboard our plane and says, “We are also going to Mazatlan. Any of you would like to board our plane? The pilot is going to try.” Try? I’ll wait. How long have I been in this lobby? It is now my legal voting address. A voice comes over the speaker: “Orange alert!” Do they still have those benchmarks for utter destruction? I buy a New York Times. What’s the news? “Flight’s First Fatal Trip.” Oh, great. The story explains that a momentous anniversary is coming up: “It was Sept. 17, 1908. Orville Wright was showing off a new ‘aeroplane’ at Fort Myer, Va., for about 2,000 people, including Army brass. He took up a 26-year-old lieutenant in the Army Signal Corps, Thomas E. Selfridge, ‘an aeroplanist himself.’” The pair apparently made three and a half successful circuits at an altitude of about 75 feet, before a propeller split and hit other parts of the plane, causing it to crash. Lt. Selfridge was killed and Orville was badly hurt. “My brothers will pursue these tests until the machines are as near perfect as it is possible to make them,” Lorin Wright told reporters right after the crash, “if they are not killed in the meantime.” Now that must have been reassuring within the family. The lobby speaker is back: “Flight 6489 is now boarding. Good luck.” As we are herded to the plane, I have a strong desire to say, “Moooo.” At least I am flying first class. After take-off, the flight attendant comes down the aisle with our first-class delicious dinner. She’s carrying a wicker basket filled with candy bars and crackers. Remember all the jokes that late-night TV comics would make about airplane food? They don’t do such jokes anymore, because there is no more airline food. At home, I find a flurry of e-mails from Overbooked & Ocupado saying that my flight has been delayed, lost and/or tabled for lack of a second. The last message reads, honestly, that I will depart from Fort Walton Beach, Fla. at 5:50 a.m. and arrive in Atlanta at 7:51 a.m. then depart at 4:00 p.m. What’s an 8-hour layover in Atlanta, so long as your name is not Grant? Ashby is bumped at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..