A recent trip across the Pond was the occasion for an “aha” episode, the kind of experience other deep thinkers—Einstein, Darwin, and others of that ilk—must have had.
I was flying from New York to Frankfurt on a flesh carrier. The sun was setting as our jumbo jet took off from JFK, filled with tourists and business travelers and pilgrims headed to their homeland and Mormon missionaries and flight attendants and, quite possibly, international snoops.
We were past Long Island and into the night when the bombshell of my idea hit.
On my trips abroad, I am not inclined to read. Nor am I enthralled by the television fare such overnight flights commonly offer. I just sit. An occasional thought exercises my brain. Between trips to the rest room I attempt, if not to sleep, at least to nap. “Attempt” is le mot just; I am seldom, if ever, successful.
But to the bombshell. My rising irritation with this aerial ordeal led me to consider the possibility of a fix. Glancing around the section of the cabin in which I and my fellow-travelers were temporarily and rudely ensconced, I did a quick calculation of the number of persons, following this with an educated guess of the cubic footage the average person occupies. I then multiplied the two. After performing these simple exercises, I strode carefully down the aisle of my section of the cabin, discovering by this method the length of said section. Then I reached for the ceiling and was able to determine the height of said section, both at its apex and its lowest point. I subsequently estimated the width of the cabin section. In this way I was able to calculate the approximate cubic footage of the cabin.
The rest of my computation consisted of dividing the number of persons into the cabin’s cubic footage. “Aha,” I then told myself, “the resulting number is of a much higher order than is necessary for humane trans-oceanic flight!” Or, to use the common idiom: There’s more room in a jumbo jet than you thought.
The corollary of this well-considered computation is that with proper design, the bodies flying about the friendly skies in a plane can be made more comfortable. To be more specific, there is no reason an ordinary person in coach class can’t get a good night’s sleep while hopping over an ocean.
While navigating the mazes that are the Frankfurt airport, I, like Mary before me, pondered these things in my heart.
My ponderings yielded fruit. While roaming the streets of Frankfurt, I happened to pass a hospital named after one saint or another. This scene brought to mind the thought of mortality, followed closely by the image of a morgue. Not being a morbid person, I did not dwell on the morose thought of mortality; my attention was drawn instead to the morgue’s efficient design.
When contemplating such a design, the thoughtful mind is immediately drawn toward the vaults into which the cadavers are placed soon after the last rites have been administered by the attending priest and the medical profession has pronounced the former person deceased.
At this point, I sat down on a pigeon-bespattered bench, taking care to place a copy of the Die Zeit on the spot on which I planned to rest and consider the implications of morgue design for the problem of a happier trans-oceanic flight.
Could, I asked myself as I sat there in pensive mood, the principles of morgue design be applied to the passenger jumbo jet?
To which I answered, Yes.
How, I continued, could this be accomplished?
By replacing passenger seats with vaults!
These vaults could be equipped with a firm mattress; a pillow; a reading light, for those who cannot or do not wish to sleep; a movie screen, with a menu of film selections, including contemporary fare as well as classics; Airplane! comes to mind.
My mind then scurried about, seeking potential problems with this admittedly brilliant idea.
What about claustrophobics?
This gave me pause, until I settled on the idea of providing each vault with a recording of a Buddhist, or Hindi, meditation lesson.
Suppose two persons wish to share the same bed?
Simple: double-wide vaults, for which a discount could be made available. (For three persons, triple-wide vaults, etc.)
How would such an aircraft load its passengers?
Furnish the plane with people-movers. Only hire flight attendants who are able to hoist, say, 300 pounds into a vault.
Wouldn’t all these measures be expensive?
Certainly. But the cost would be easily recovered: a plane so equipped could carry twice the number of passengers as in the present awkward, unpleasant arrangement.
Thus, I concluded, the idea of a vault-designed trans-oceanic carrier could be translated into a system that is efficient, passenger-friendly, and lucrative.
Immediately upon arriving back in America, I applied for a patent, which my lawyer tells me is pending.