I think I know why the economy is in trouble: business travel. Billions of dollars worth of business deals are conducted daily by people who, after the rigors of business travel, have the mental capacity of a ball of yarn.

The trials of a business trip usually begin when you check your baggage, which is swallowed by the great and powerful computer-controlled baggage diverter. This machine uses sophisticated laser and computer technology to read “San Francisco” off the tag, and then reroutes your bag to the Dry Tortugas. The only defense is to forget about your jammies and try to enjoy the flight — which you'll do right after you go through security.

Getting through security often takes longer than your flight, thanks to the rituals we're forced to go through, which are slightly more complicated than preparing for space travel. First there's the removing of your shoes, belt, loose change, false teeth, body piercings, and any other thing that can be used as a weapon (body piercings?). Then there's the jaunty parade of personal ointments, potions, and lotions brightly displayed in a Ziploc baggy. Everyone gets to see that you have the heartbreak of psoriasis and assorted fungi inhabiting your newly stripped body.

Now it's time to board your sleek airliner. But wait, there's a sleek airliner there all right, but it's not yours. Yours is parked next to it, and looks as though it must have been built during the Nixon administration. It's also apparent that, in those days, people were roughly three feet tall, since the aisles, seats, blankets, and pillows are all made for Lilliputians.

As soon as you're airborne, you'll have an overwhelming urge to sleep, so pretty soon your head will be bobbing around like a little dashboard doll. That's the signal for the captain to shout, “Hi everyone! I'm Capt. Bob, and once we've reached our cruising altitude, I'll be pointing out all sorts of meaningless geographical features as soon as I see you nodding off again.”

This announcement is also a signal for what is now called “in-flight service.” This service provides watery coffee, teensy $5 bottles of liquor, and an assortment of $5 snacks. The snack tray is indeed elegant, with oversize bags of chips, manhole-sized cookies, and a wrap that holds some mystery meat and a secret sauce that will slowly drip out the end, all over the shirt you're wearing to your meeting. As everyone sits sipping, dripping, and chewing, Capt. Bob pipes up. “Hi, this is Capt. Bob again!” (As if there might have been a shift change somewhere over Des Moines.) “I can't help but notice that many of you are now juggling your coffee and trying to pour expensive booze into small cups, so it's time for some turbulence! Buckle up! Heeere we go!”

Eventually you land, and it's time to watch other people gleefully snap up their luggage while you stare helplessly at the baggage carousel like a lonely child at the playground. But take heart: You've really got nothing to worry about except that you have 500 attendees arriving tomorrow and nothing to wear.

When he's not writing humor columns, Mike Donlin writes technical and marketing articles, presentations, and press releases for the electronics industry. He is based in Hudson, N.H., and can be reached at mikedonlin@comcast.net.