The Washington Times - July 23, 2008, 09:20AM

It is surprising just how tiring it is to listen to people drone on about a season that won’t start for another six weeks or so.

It’s not surprising that air travel can be frustrating, especially when the following happens:


* The airline kiosk doesn’t recognize your credit card when you’re trying to check in.

* When someone does help you, all they can land for you is a middle seat. Boo!

* The electrical outlet in a seat by the gate only works intermittently.

* While trying to get some work done, someone ambles out of the dreaded “smokers’ lounge” and plops down next to you. No amount of not-so-subtle coughing will help this situation, but it’s worth a shot.

* Once on board, you discover that adjacent to your middle seat is an “imperial flyer”: One with tendencies like The Blob who happens to spread out as much as he can. That means both arm rests are his, like it or not.

* This is Atlanta, of course, so there’s at least a dozen planes lined up and ready to take off. There’s 20 minutes you can’t get back.

* Thankful your airline has satellite radio, you try to block out everything with some music (this, of course, assumes you’re cheap and don’t own an iPod). Alas, the Imperial Flyer manages the near impossible and leans on the volume button just when you’re ready to nod off.

“At least you’re still awake,” he chuckles as you dislodge his flabby arm to take the volume from “32” to “7”. Every last bit of tact is needed not to reply “Yeah, and at least you’re still stupid and selfish.”

* You land back in Baltimore about 10 minutes late. But since there’s no gates available, the plane sits on the tarmac another 40 minutes. The Imperial Flyer lifts up the arm rest and begins to annex 25 percent of your seat.

Good times, indeed. If nothing else, there’s something to be said about being grounded —- that is, assured of not getting on a plane any more than twice before the season actually starts.

Anyway, there’s plenty of transcribing to be done over the next week or so (starting with Ralph Friedgen’s session on Monday). Whenever a good nugget pops up in my listening, it’ll get passed along.

 —- Patrick Stevens