Ben Stein's Diary

The Woman on the Plane

Don't kid yourself. We are heading into oblivion.

By 10.18.11

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Monday
Here I am in my sickbed in Beverly Hills. I traveled last week from LAX to DCA, where I sat one row in front of the absolutely fattest woman I have ever seen. How she got on the airplane and down the aisle to her seat is a puzzle. She was so large that even sitting still, her ample knees pressed against the back of my seat.

Plus, she shifted often in her seat. I don't think I will sit in that seat again. Bad karma. I had felt a bit off when I got on the plane and the vibe of sitting next to that extravagantly enormous woman knocked me off my bearings totally.

I didn't even feel the usual elation I feel when I step on the marble floor of DCA.

In D.C., it's not the same at all now. My pal Russ is no longer there. I got in too late to see his girlfriend, Clare, and I did not feel up to going out to Clyde's. So my driver and pal, Bob Noah, and I just had ham sandwiches in my kitchen at the Watergate. Then I watched the Military Channel, about a terrifying tank battle in Iraq, until I fell asleep. I really miss Russ, who is an amazingly smart young man with a truly unique sense of humor and ability to tell the truth. However, he's in Charlotte now, following the life of the law. His destiny, I guess.

The next day, off Bob -- who is also a great guy -- and I went by car to Philadelphia. It was a gray, miserable day, with rain threatening. Bob talked incessantly about baseball and football, as to which he seems to know every possible detail.

I was still feeling dazed, forgot my phones until we were on Capitol Hill, then had to go back to the Watergate for them, a total waste of time.… Very typical of what my brain does when assaulted by fatigue.  I blame that immense woman who sat behind me.

We stopped at the Maryland House, a fine rest stop with many different restaurants between Baltimore and Wilmington. Bob and I had crab cakes at Phillips Crab House, and they were swell. We even had cream of crab soup, which was also fine. There was a high school field trip stopping at the Maryland House. The kids looked bleary-eyed but they recognized me and crowded around me for photos. I liked that. I felt physically better almost immediately. I love positive attention. Like a dog.

Really, at heart, like Homer Simpson, I am a big dog.

Rain was falling as we headed back towards Philadelphia, I fell into a deep sleep until we arrived near the hotel. We passed and then went back to a totally, 100 percent empty CVS. We could not even find a clerk for five minutes.

Then, into the Marriott. I'm a stockholder, but I don't like them at all. The halls are too narrow and the room service is pitiful. It took them way over an hour to bring me toast. That's pathetic.

I watched a bit of the news. Lots of it about the Occupy Wall Street people. I am getting sad about them.

1. They don't know anything about Wall Street. If they did, they would know that Wall Street is all about greed. It's a sort of intensified microcosm of the human soul, where greed comes out to feed upon greed. Wall Street is not a foreign body in our midst. Wall Street is us. They -- the demonstrators -- are not morally superior to the people on Wall Street. If they had a chance to make money, they would make money, too. The main difference between them and the people on Wall Street is that the Wall Streeters work. These guys play and pretend it's revolution. They are very lucky it's not revolution. We already have the best system there is. Whatever comes after this will be dictatorship. (How long until the demonstrators are shouting about "the Jew blood suckers," I wonder.)

2. The demonstrators don't have a clue about what to do to fix the economy. The economy is afflicted by fear following the credit collapse in late 2008. The economy will revive when confidence revives. Businessmen's confidence will not revive while they are being reviled, spat on, targeted by Mr. Obama and his pals and by these often-violent Occupy Wall Street children.

Businesses are like animals. When they are confident and there's a meal around, they are extremely active. When they are being hunted, they are fearful and they hide.

For the demonstrators to be taken at all seriously just amazes me.  They are just whining children. WHY DO WE PAY ANY ATTENTION TO THEM?

That being said, I have to add something else: while I was watching TV, I got an e-mail from my old pal, Samara, who was reading some smear against me on the Internet. That smear claimed I had said I felt no sympathy towards the unemployed.

That was supposedly from a speech I gave in Florida.

It's a complete lie. I feel tremendous sympathy for hard-working people who really go out and try to get a job. Few feelings are worse than pounding the pavement looking for a job and getting turned down. It's just an awful feeling. I have done it, and it is cruel.

As I've said many a time, my grandfather was involuntarily unemployed for most of the decade of the 1930s. It hurt him badly. He had been a brave U.S. Army Cavalryman and then a skilled tool and die maker and for him to be supported by my grandmother was a sustained torment.

Likewise, if you have been supporting your family at a certain level and you lose your job and can only get much lower paying jobs, and thus have to live at a much lower scale, that is extremely painful. I have had this happen in my own life and I hated it. (By the way, this is the future for a large part of the nation.)

But I know for sure that there are not just some but many Americans who are faking unemployment, who are not sincerely looking for work, who are staying home getting high and collecting government (taxpayer) handouts while they get high. Those are the ones I have no sympathy for.

Meanwhile, to get back to square one, the economy will not recover until we have far easier credit, especially for home buying. When will we have it? I don't know. The bankers are terrified and the hostile attention of government, press, and demonstrators does not help.

Why did the Admiralty shoot Admiral Bing? "Pour encourager les autres," as a French wag said. That's sort of what we are doing.

I finally got to sleep.

The next day I got up, pulled myself together, had my stale toast and jam, and went to meet the venture capital and private equity people of the Association for Capital Growth.

They were an amazingly good-looking and well-dressed and pleasant group. Far from being downcast, they were bubbling with enthusiasm and excitement about their projects. From these people will come the recovery. There are no demonstrators here. There are builders and creators of the prosperity that will eventually come back. I was well impressed.

Bob and I drove from Philadelphia through Northern Delaware to a beautiful, untouched stretch of narrow highways, broad meadows, and woodlands. Rain was falling and the sky was growing dark, but the beauty of the landscape and its peace were marvelous. I wished we could have stayed there for hours. Like being inside an emerald.

However, I fell back asleep and when I awakened, we were in Easton, Maryland, and then at my favorite east coast restaurant by far, the Tidewater Inn.

While we watched the Rangers play the Tigers, we had magnificent cream of crab soup and crab cakes. I could eat them all day every day. That food is simply off the map.

Then, back to the car, back asleep, and back home to The Watergate.

I could not sleep until about five in the morning. I am still having nightmares from that woman on the plane.

The next day, off to IAD for my flight back to LAX. It's a great United Airlines 777, with comfortable seats and fine service. The food is so bad, though, it's almost as if they were trying to poison us. I know that if the management of United Airlines knew what they were serving people in three-class first, they would do something about it. If only Stalin knew!

Now, it's three days since I got back and I still don't feel very well. But there is a silver lining here. I sleep most of the day with my new lover dog, Julie. I am happy. I hold her paw and go into dreamland. We are very happy together as the nation heads into oblivion. Occasionally I get up and read a few pages of The Great Gatsby, a work of unique genius, or else I watch a few minutes of a super-upsetting movie called Downfall about the last days of Hitler. Creepy. But the acting and lighting and the whole production is spectacular. As I said, disturbing, but spectacular. The man who plays Speer may be the best supporting actor I have ever seen. The man who plays Hitler is also great. So is the woman who plays Eva Braun. When Hitler orders her brother shot (or is it her cousin), she argues with him, then says with a smile, "Du bist der Führer."

On the way home from the doctor today, though, on the radio news, I heard President Obama dropping the "g" sound at the end of his sentences the way he does when he thinks he's addressing working people. When he thinks he's addressing business people, he keeps in the "g" sound. That's politics. He could be a lot worse.

Just so you know, we don't have anyone who can beat him. Get used to him.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.