* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are always looking ahead. Partly to make sure we don't hit anything with our flying car. Please say hello to C.J. Scuffins, whose first piece for us explores the wonders and risks of airborne automobiling.

Return Of The Flying Car

By: C.J. Scuffins

Accident Diary
Dealership: Just Plane Cars, Mill Valley, CA.
Model: Ford Departure Convertible
Complainant: Mr. Fred Buchanan
Date: Oct 25, 2037

Overview: My wife and I were excited to buy a new flying car, as the time had come to change our old one. We visited Just Plane Cars (JPC), a dealership we trusted. Salesman Dan Neilson suggested we buy a convertible because “the sedan is like flying about in a silly old private jet.” We took his advice. Regrettably, the ensuing debacle has made us second-guess that decision entirely.

Sept 5, 2037: While merging on the Lakeville Flyway, a woodpecker lands on the steering controls and tries to bore a hole in my forehead. I almost swerve into the flight path of a Buick 787. “The bird mistook your leathery skin for tree bark,” says JPC Service Manager Arnold Owens. His recommendation? “A good moisturizer.'”

Sept 7, 2037: A flock of wrens take up residence on our back seat as we lift off from Shollenberger Park. They begin to molt wildly. The car soon resembles (in the words of our teenage son) “a flying pimpmobile.” At JPC, salesman Dan Neilson assesses the damage as “pretty rad.” We ask to speak to somebody more professional, but Service Manager Arnold Owens is the only person available. “Most customers have embraced the birds,” Mr. Owens reckons. “One guy is basically flying about in an owl sanctuary.”

Sept 14, 2037: My wife is waiting for clearance to land at the Mill Valley Scout Reservation, when an American eagle rips through the soft top. The car is difficult to keep in a holding pattern at the best of times, never mind when your 14-year-old boy is in the passenger seat fighting off a sky predator. To lose the bird, she is forced to break the flyway code and perform a couple of loop-the-loops. JPC General Manager Buck Sampson says: “I wish the government would genetically modify birds to suffer from air sickness, just like the North Koreans did with wasps.” But he refuses to sanction a buyback. “Do what I did,” Mr. Sampson counsels. “Get a hunting rifle and dog.” We stare at him in disbelief for several minutes.

Sept 16, 2037: Flying home from my place of work, I fire a couple of warning shots over the head of a loitering sparrow, while the dog tries to launch off the dashboard to get at a gang of thrushes. There is no accident, as such. I am merely documenting how we live now.

Oct 15, 2037: After a relatively incident-free month, we decide to risk a transatlantic trip to Europe. Our son stays home. Since the American eagle attack he won’t go near the car. (Nor look at the Boy Scouts logo.) After dark, in the middle of the Atlantic, we are boarded by swallows. Waves drown out the dog’s barks. Shooting accurately proves impossible at night. Flying upside down is really uncomfortable after a couple of miles. We are stuck with the stowaways.

Oct 16, 2037: At dawn the full extent of our predicament is revealed. Due to the swallow tonnage, we are flying three inches above sea level. One observant shark could bring down the whole enterprise, so we are forced to turn around and head for home. The swallows come with. Shouldn’t birds migrate south during winter? Or are they depending on us for a ride? Flying cars have confused Nature.

Oct 17, 2037: We land the car in our converted attic — for the last time. I send a plaintive holographic message to JPC, urgently seeking a buyback. My wife advertises “one hunting dog with flight experience.”

Oct 18, 2037: JPC Service Manager Arnold Owens drops by first thing in the morning. He wants the dog.

Oct 25, 2037: Eventually we are contacted by JPC General Manager Buck Sampson. “All you people ever do is moan and groan about your flying car,” he says, “so I’m going to make you a generous offer: how would you like to manage our Customer Complaints Department?” We start Monday.