When did the friendly skies turn so surly? Remember the good old days when it was fun and exciting to fly on a commercial airplane? It's hard to believe there was a time when airlines actually cared about their passengers. They were happy to check your bags — FOR FREE. They would give you beverages and food on board — FOR FREE. And they even gave you a blanket and a pillow to make your flight more comfortable — FOR FREE. Nowadays, the only thing you get for free from airlines are flight delays and deep vein thrombosis. They don't care about us any more, and I know why. The airlines woke up one day and realized that they have a monopoly in this country for getting us from point A to point B.

If you want to travel any sizable distance, you need to take a plane. Granted, you could drive, but if you are going from coast to coast, you will have to tack a week or two onto your trip. Trains are an alternative but they make more stops than an incontinent mailman. And, of course, you could opt for taking a bus but buses stop in bus stations and if you have ever been in a bus station, you are in no hurry to return to one.

The fact is, if you are going somewhere on business, you need to take a plane. It's just that simple. And unless you are Donald Trump or Bill Gates or any of those rich guys with their own planes, you will have to travel on a commercial airliner. The way I see it, the airlines have us over a barrel, and since we cannot stop them from raising fares and treating us like cattle, our only weapon is a good sense of humor. Here are some fun ideas on how we can use it to make our journeys bearable.

First, let's address shoe removal. Granted, this is an edict from TSA rather than an airline issue, but nobody enjoys taking off their shoes and walking on the germ-ridden airport floor. I like to wear shoes and no socks to the airport, but before I leave home I draw large red spots all over my feet with a marker. When I walk through the metal detector, the TSA agent cannot help but stare at my feet, and when he does, I just say, “I don't know what it is but I'm pretty sure it's not contagious.”

I also slip on a pair of rubber gloves at the X-ray machine. Hey, the security people are wearing them and so I think I should too. Sometimes I also put a pair on my feet.

When I check luggage at the airport, I take two suitcases: a smaller one with all of my clothes and a larger empty one. When the ticket agent tries to charge me for the second bag, I just unzip it, and put the smaller one inside. It's great fun to watch the expression on her puzzled face.

When airlines started charging for their alleged food, I started lining my coat with Baggies filled with sandwiches. I can carry about 10 sandwiches, so if you sit in the next seat on the plane, lunch is on me.

When an airline tries to charge me for a window or aisle seat, I simply ask for extra airsickness bags because sitting in the middle always makes me nauseous. That works 95 percent of the time, but when it doesn't and I get stuck in a middle seat, I simply explain my malady to my seatmates and they always volunteer to swap seats.

Finally, what can we do when the airline “misplaces” our luggage? I think something of equal value is in order until our property is returned. That is why I always travel with an orange oxygen mask that I got from a plane going out of service. When the luggage goon tells me that the airline doesn't have my luggage, I pull out my mask and tell him that this will be returned to the plane just as soon as my bag is in my hands. That makes them think.

As long as we can keep ourselves amused, the entire air travel experience will be much more tolerable, and when it comes to flying nowadays, tolerable is about as good as it's going to get.

Dale Irvin is The Professional Summarizer and he has a free gift for you. You can receive The Friday Funnies, a weekly report and video, by visiting www.daleirvin.com. Click on the icon for Friday Funnies, press the button that says “sign me up,” and you will find a humorous update of the week's news in your e-mail box every Friday. Let's see the airlines match that deal.