SOMEWHERE ABOVE AMERICA, August 3, 2011— Senator Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, is sleeping when the airplane he is on hits a bump, waking him suddenly. He glances across the aisle and notices Senator Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, who is also just getting his bearings.
“Orrin,” says Senator Coburn, “What are you doing on a flight to Oklahoma?”
Senator Hatch squints his eyes. “Tom, you must be more tired than I am. This plane is headed for Salt Lake.”
The plane hits a second bump, worse than the first.
“I thought we were bound for Nevada,” says a voice behind them. It’s Senator Harry Reid.
A flight attendant is walking down the aisle. Senator Coburn stops her.
“Excuse me, but there seems to be a little confusion regarding the destination of this flight. Could you help us out?”
“We’re headed to Salt Lake, right?” says Senator Hatch.
“No, sir,” responds the attendant. “We’ll be flying back and forth across America, chasing thunderstorms and turbulence.”
The Senators exchange bewildered glances.
Senator Reid stands up. “You’re joking, right?”
“I’m afraid not, Senator. Ever since you stopped paying FAA safety inspectors, it’s not safe to land a plane at any commercial airport.”
“That’s ridiculous,” exclaims Senator Coburn. “The safety inspectors are still working.”
“Well, sir, you’re not paying them, and you’re not covering their travel expenses either. You expect them to charge hotels and other travel costs to their personal credit cards, most of which have already been maxed out by two years of the Great Recession.”
“Yes, but they are responsible professionals, and they are supposed to fulfill their responsibilities, no matter what,” countered Senator Hatch.
“Respectfully, Senator, so are you, but you left Washington without paying our public servants. And with 100 United States Senators on this plane, it’s just not safe to land anywhere but Washington, D.C.”
The plane hits another bump. The whole plane starts shaking wildly. Senator Coburn looks green. Senator Hatch reaches for the sickness bag.
“Did you say the entire Senate is on this plane?” shouts Senator Reid.
The attendant nods. They look around. Their colleagues are all there. No one is happy.
The PA system comes to life.
“Good afternoon, Senators. This is Samuel L. Jackson. I’ll be flying this plane until you quasi-professionals get tired of fleeing from your responsibilities and tell me to turn the plane back to our nation’s capital. In the meantime, please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened, because we are coming up fast on one mother of a storm.”
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