IN explaining the difference between an optimist and a pessimist, an old geezer once told me the tale of parents of twin sons, one incurably cheerful, the other a miserable little sod.
In a bid to rebalance their personalities, they hit on a birthday plan. When the kids turned 10, they were led to different rooms in their home to receive their gifts.
Master misery-guts entered a room full of fabulous toys. His brother was shoved into a room knee deep in manure. A while later mum and dad checked on the boys.
The morose one was sitting eyeing his toys with utter disdain. The other was digging through the manure with ecstasy stamped all over his face. Asked why his gift pleased him so much, he whooped: ‘Where there’s manure there just gotta be a pony!’
The Internet is like a room full of manure – only much, MUCH bigger. And me? Well, like the boy optimist, I am happy to spend hours each day wallowing in cyber-dung in the hope of finding that elusive ‘pony’ – for every now and again it WILL come trotting out, bearing news items guaranteed to fill readers of my columns with mirth, disbelief – or blind fury.
This week it came in the form of the UK government’s Aviation 2050 Strategy, which I was compelled to read after I had a bad-tempered exchange with an easyJet flight attendant on a Gatwick-bound plane.
I ordered, as I always do on aircraft, a whisky and a packet of peanuts. The booze was handed over, but I was told that a new rule forbade nuts from being sold as they may affect passengers with allergies.
As I had no plans of sharing my nuts with anyone else, I insisted the ban was way beyond ridiculous, and I had to settle instead for a bag of cheese crackers.
As I nibbled them the thought occurred to me that someone may be allergic to cheese. And crackers. This from The Sun: ‘Food allergies are sparked by the body rejecting substances found in certain foods – and dairy products like cheese are the most common culprits.’
And this from The Scotsman: ‘A range of crackers from Ritz has been recalled this week after it was found a key ingredient was not declared on the packaging, leaving customers at risk of an allergic reaction.’
Things got even more surreal when, on the trip back, an announcement was made that anyone who had nut products in their possession were to dispose of them immediately.
So, what does the Aviation 2050 Strategy say? ‘While passenger numbers continue to grow, barriers remain for people with additional needs, such as those suffering from allergies, meaning they are less likely to choose to fly or find the experience more difficult when they do.’
Aviation Minister Liz Sugg said: ‘Passengers with nut allergies can face potentially life-threatening challenges when travelling which can cause significant stress and anxiety …’
My solution to the problem? Put people with allergies into space suits when they travel on any form of public transport, and let the rest of us munch our nuts and crackers without fear of those around us dropping like flies from anaphylaxis attacks.