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    Have cello, will travel

    hal mayforth for the boston globe

    It is terrible to have long legs when flying in the confines of an economy-class seat. Being far-sighted — and having to hold your book far in front of you — is also a handicap.

    My husband and I suffer the twin maladies of having long legs and long vision, yet we balk at buying business-class seats. Why buy seats in business class that cost a combined $8,000, we wonder, when we can buy three economy seats for the two of us for $2,000 tops?

    This brilliant buy-three-seats-for-two-people scheme, which we practiced in the 1990s, was interrupted by two events. The first occurred when the then-stewardess (now flight attendant) reported our third seat as “empty” to the desk, and the desk in response sent a standby pregnant woman to claim it. When we explained to her that the seat was ours and paid for by us, she started wailing — wailing! And my wimpy husband gave in.


    So there we were, having paid for what was to be an empty seat but is instead occupied by a very pregnant woman. Just as we have long legs with no place to put them, and just as we are far-sighted and unable to stretch our arms far enough to read, she was at a disadvantage too. Her condition impeded her from pulling down the tray table, so we had to share ours.

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    The second event that temporarily ended our buy-three-seats-for-two-people routine was 9/11. Following that awful event, the airlines said that no baggage could be assigned to an empty seat — and our insistence that the empty seat was baggage-free was dismissed. Before Sept. 11, 2001, we were considered hard-hearted and selfish. Now we were treated as terrorists.

    What to do? Should we buy a seat for our dog and carry him caged? No, especially because our dog snores. We tried buying a seat for a smallish violin — and found that a violin’s seat, under duress from desperate standbys, and can be commandeered — the violin deemed stowable.

    So we now buy a seat for a cello, and carry the damn thing. Inexplicably, on some airlines, the flight attendant refuses to feed it. OK, so the food is yucky and the cello doesn’t mind, but the cello really wants its free drinks. And the cello also wants frequent flyer miles, which most airlines refuse to award. Can you stuff the cello case with clothes to ostensibly cushion the cello? The very short answer is “no.” And the reason is “because.”

    But for us long-legged, far-sighted passengers, the cello has evolved into the ideal traveling companion, and one who saves us lots of bucks.

    Mickie Winkler can be reached at