Mile High Club: Death and Romance in the Outhouse.


Of all the useless 1960s air travel nostalgia hangovers, this is the worst. No, not the idea of food in coach–although that’s definitely nostalgic, unless you have a major credit card ready for the on-board data reader to deduct the cash before you even break the plastic wrap. Want to eat but don’t want to pay? You should have brought your own lunch, pal.

Okay, I buy the turkey sandwich pictured here even when there's a First Class meal catered for the flight crew--it's excellent.

No, not food–what I’m talking about is the bogus urban legend surrounding–inexplicably, at least to one who actually knows what we’re talking about–the aircraft lavatory. There it is: the on-board toilet and the closet where it’s secreted away.

Which leads me to ask: what the hell don’t I understand about this? What is the fascination with the filthiest, foulest, most disgusting six square feet on board an airliner? Namely, this:

Sure, there are some flimsy walls partitioning off this mess–and your mess–from the general public. And believe me, they ARE flimsy walls too–weight is fuel burn which is cost in flight. But shrewd aircraft designers rely on the ambient background noise of flight (you know: jet engines, 300 mile and an hour wind noise) to cover up your bodily noises on the can, much like the lame exhaust fan in a tiny apartment is intended as background noise so you can crank away without disgusting a cohabitant. Lesson for the wise: don’t do anything in an aircraft lav on the ground that you don’t want others to hear. Because they will, especially as they troop past on boarding, and they’ll give you that look when you step out.

Do you get it yet? We’re basically talking about this:

Being confused with this:

Which is apparently another legendary site involving the inexplicably pajama-clad Crypt Keeper (above) and teenagers or other foolish yet financially astute bimbos. So here’s my point: the lav, like Hef’s geriatric boudoir, is actually the last place anyone with an awareness of reality would have anything approaching conjugal relations.

Sure, people say they’ve “done it” in an airliner lav.

But again, it’s as outdated as the prop job in the drawing above, never mind the natty dress and Pepsodent grins. Because besides the issue of today’s cramped lav (space is $, remember), there’s the detail of sanitation: it’s as clean as your average outhouse, and often smells like one. Because either you have the swirling tank of port-o-john water below, or on more modern jets, no water at all–just a non-stick coating with fragrant skid marks anyway:

So anyone who says they have joined “The Mile High Club” is either A) Lying, B) Disgusting, or  C) Has lost the will to live. And here’s the dirt on option “C:” there is no supplemental oxygen in the lav.

Read the fine print: some restrictions apply.

That means that no matter what purpose there is in your lav visit, in case of a rapid depressurization, you’ll need to immediately get out of the lav and grab one of the hangy-down masks before you lose consciousness. As my keenly observant son (he took the above picture aboard a foreign carrier) mused, you have to decide if you want to take the time to pull your pants up and stumble nearly hypoxic into the aisle, or bolt out with your pants down, business unfinished and hope someone would help you anyway to don a mask as if you weren’t naked from the waist down.

In all probability, you’re meeting your maker like Elvis’s last public appearance: face down, pants down, toilet unflushed. Now that’s the stuff of legends, right?

So my point is this: never mind the folklore and urban legends–avoid the lav at all costs. Hold it, go before you board, whatever and if you do have to go into the lav make it quick and then get back to your seat.

To me, that’s just common sense. But if in any way this is news to you, I recommend this icon of travel nostalgia:

At least you’ll be able to breathe no matter what demonstration of disgustingly poor judgment you’re finding necessary to pursue in the can.

Bon voyage, and don’t forget to wash your hands.

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8 Responses to “Mile High Club: Death and Romance in the Outhouse.”

  1. … or you can rent a private jet complete with bed and everything 🙂

  2. I’ve often thought about the fabled “Mile-High Club” when using the lavatory in a case of absolute necessity. How on earth would that work? And even if it did, why would you want to?. Oh, and that first picutre–as a very tiny child my parents took me on a flight to NYC on a TWA Connie. My mom wore a hat and high heels, and the “stewardesses” actually looked like that! What a lovely memory, but I can’t seem to remember anything about the lavatory…

    • The Connie was a sleek, beautiful bird. I was probably on your flight, as a kid, disappointed that the lav didn’t flush right out into the sky. My brother and I had plenty of stuff ready to throw out through what we figured must be an old-style train toilet. That was a real buzzkill, but probably for the best.

  3. blackwatertown Says:

    Ah the romance of flying… shattered.
    (At least it’s still free to use the toilet – Ryanair keeps threatening to remove all but one, to make room for more seats, and to charge for the single one remaining.)

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  5. I am so rotflmao….great article!

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