Of Mustard and Airplanes 

Posted by mendel Sunday, December 5, 2010 9:36:42 PM

The other day, my son reads the label on the mustard container and says "hey, mustard has nothing in it - no calories, no fat, no sugar, no carbs". Indeed, it would be a great diet food if only it were a tad more filling. Actually, it does help cut down on calories when it replaces mayonnaise, for example. In any case, I was reminded of my run in with mustard on a plane.

This must have been pre-9/11. I had brought with me a nice meal to eat on the plane. I think it might have been kielbasa or some other greasy slimy food that clogs your arteries but you go with a smile on your face. (note: This was before I switched to public health for a career)

Anyway, I pull out some meaty carcinogen that leaves others looking rather envious. Then, I pull out a mustard container - you know, the yellow, plump plastic container. So, being a smart guy, I know that when you open the mustard, the first stuff to come out is all liquid. Yuck. But, if you shake it up first, you get the yummy mustard in the right consistency. One of the basic things you have to know in life. Shake the mustard before opening.


Of course, just try and get a mustard container on a plane these days. They tell you that's a liquid and can't go on board. I explain that I alwaysshake the mustard first, so no liquid comes out. They are duly impressed with my fountain of knowledge, but take the mustard anyway.

Back to pre-9/11 flying and our regularly scheduled story, or diversion, whatever.......

After shaking it up good, I proceed to twist the nozzle counterclockwise to open the tip. What happened next is still a bit hazy, but it went something like this. KABOOM!

No, the container did not explode. Not exactly anyway. It sounded like a small explosion, and mustard shot out everywhere. I was sure the stewardesses would be flying down the aisle shooting fire extinguishers at me, perhaps asking me to get off the plane at the next cloud.I have no doubt they would have allowed me to jump with my seat cushion, which we all know doubles as a flotation device. Still, I had other visions in mind when I thought about "touching down" at the end of the flight. So, I did what anyone else would have done. I hid. Well, that would have been hard since I am very strict about wearing my seatbelt. I sort of slid down in my seat, hoping noone would notice. "What was that explosion back there - oh, wait, I don't see anybody sitting there - it's OK, everbody go back to whatever you were doing. We are not under attack". None of that happened of course. Next, I worked up my courage to assess the damage. The seat in front of me was covered in mustard. Some went on top of the seat. The person in front of me had his head back. Whew! There was no sign of mustard in his hair. Perhaps that was because he didn't have any hair. That would have made it much easier to wipe off the mustard if any landed there, but I was lucky - none landed there. The question was whether his head was lying back into any mustard gone awry. I watched for a while until his head changed position and I could see where his head had been lying. Clean. I look to the right and the wall is covered in mustard. The window is covered with mustard. Looks a bit like the plane collided with Big Bird. I had brought napkins(Mom was right - they do come in handy - carry plenty wherever you go) and cleaned everything up. I relaxed. Now I could eat in peace. I turn my head to the left and.......uh-oh. The man next to me had a child covered in a blanket sleeping across his lap and perhaps his wife's lap next to him as well. The blanket was covered in mustard. The child was sleeping, as were his parents. I very carefully and quietly tried to clean up the mustard without waking the child.

My first concern was that the child was inhaling the mustard. I don't know exactly what it is when they talk about mustard gas, but I wasn't taking any chances. OK, I was pretty sure this wasn't it, especially as this was over-the-counter mustard. If inhaling it were toxic, it would at least require a prescription. My second concern was that the father would awaken, see the mustard on his sleeping child's blanket, see the mustard container in my hand, and strangle me. Not being familiar with aeronautical law (is it like maritime law?), I was concerned that perhaps splattering a child's blanket with mustard might be considered a capital offense at 30,000 feet. Since the child was sleeping and defenseless, I was sure to get the maximum penalty.

Gradually, my senses returned to me and I was comforted by the knowledge that if any of this happened, the US embassy would no doubt arrange for me to have a proper Jewish funeral. Unless of course, I ended up needing the flotation device.

I was able to get the mustard off the blanket, for the most part, without waking the child. The father awakened, saw me dabbing away at the last spot and saw my guilt-ridden face and laughed quietly. I breathed a sigh of relief. I would survive the trip after all.

Maybe the danger I thought I faced was slightly exaggerated. After all, I had helped them quiet the child down when he was very upset earlier in the flight and had entertained the child intermittently. In fact, if it weren't for the mustard they may have named their next child after me. Now, my chance for immortality was ruined.  Next time you wonder about those airport security measures, like not allowing mustard on flights, you will know those rules are in place for a valid reason. To protect you from travelers like me.

You know what they say - some men have greatness thrust upon them. I got mustard.

Copyright, mendel singer
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