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United Needs Info: a screenplay

United Airline’s new app let’s you watch free entertainment on flights on your Android or IoS device. But it wants to know a lot about you first:

United app's permissions

Some find that a tad intrusive. Not at all. Let me explain why…


You’re watching a movie on the new United in-flight app when suddenly a perfectly groomed middle-aged white man in an expensive suit and a carefully cropped goatee stands up and announces that the plane is now under his control. He turns his palms up, and one by one six young men rise from their seats spaced throughout the plane. Their dark faces are covered by bandanas so that all you can see are their dark eyes and dark skin. One of them coughs in Arabic.

All of your instincts, honed by years in a service known by a three-letter acronym that no one knows, not even you, come into play.

You gently swipe your thumb, scarred and weary from your many exploits, across your iPhone7™ on which you had been watching a movie, using United’s revolutionary YouScreen Personal Full Entertainment System — the Home of the Whopper — revealing what to the shapely white woman in the seat next to yours appears to be a game of Ultimate Fighter. The quizzical but charmed look on her face says she’s thinking it’s an odd time to play a game. But you know better.

Click left-right-right-up-up-A-left-D-down-right-down-down-up-A-A-B-A and … you’re in.

YouScreen slides a special screen in front of its usual friendly GUI. The YouScreen ATM (Anti-Terrorist Mode) displays blinky data and little fiddly bits against a camo background. It does a quick matrix analysis and reports on all non-white passengers currently not activating their AIS (Ass In Seat) sensor.

Got ’em!

The YouScreen’s map reveals that the one closest to you, in seat 16B, has some Arabic name that sounds all the same to you, lives in, let’s say, Iran, has been treated for cardiac arrhythmia, and during the flight watched two Jennifer Aniston movies and an episode of “Touched by an Angel.” He is clearly the weak point where you can begin.

But then you notice something interesting. YouScreen tells you that the man standing at the front of the plane is Fritz Deutscher, a German national. YouScreen reports that his phone is filled with TED Talks about leading through intimidation, and that he recently searched for “shoe inserts that embiggen you.” You can see that on his calendar are weekly therapy appointments, and twice weekly tanning sessions. There are daily skype calls to and from his mother with an average her-to-him talk time ratio of 14:1. Herr Deutscher may look tough, but is quite insecure.

You have the YouScreen ATM call Deutscher’s mobile using the special ring tone he’s set for his mother. As he lifts it to his face, you have it take a selfie, knowing that the lighting in the plane is low enough to trigger the flash. He is just for a moment dazed, confused — why is Mutti calling him in his moment of triumph? Why can’t he ever satisfy her? — and blinded.

You are out of your seat. Within moments you have subdued the terrorists.

Humbly waving off the cheers from the rest of the passengers, you slip back into your seat. The white woman next to you touches your hand. You go back to your movie.

And that movie is … Die Hard. Or maybe Air Force One. Something self-knowing and ironic. Doesn’t matter.

[Fade out]


You see, ladies and gentlemen, it’s all for your safety and convenience.

One Response to “United Needs Info: a screenplay”

  1. Well, Weinberger, I hope you are happy. For years now you have been chipping away at the foundations of consensual reality with your infernal doctrine of Miscellaneous and now the “Everything is Miscellaneous” candidate has been elected President. Don’t go your next class reunion. You will be tarred and feathered and ran out of Lewisburg on a rail.


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