Backstory: The not-so-fine print on those discount fares

A fictional $99 fare to Paris comes with some, ahem, unexpected restrictions.

Great $99 roundtrip airfares from Chicago to Paris! (Some restrictions apply.)

* All seats are shared.

** Travel must begin on a Tuesday and end on a Wednesday, unless it is a nonleap year, in which case it must begin on the flight captain's birthday and end on his wedding anniversary, unless the captain is not married, in which case travel must wait until a full moon or Pamela Anderson starts dating Bill Moyers ... again.

*** Fare will be paid in drachmas obtained at the current rate of conversion or the rate determined by a panel of economists chosen by the airline who are familiar with the Greek monetary system, and who are resentful of Bill Moyers dating Pamela Anderson and have vowed to take it out on any passenger flying from Chicago to Paris for $99.

**** One free bathroom visit per flight.

***** Supplemental bathroom visits to be arranged in-flight and voted on by full fare- paying passengers.

****** The losing player in the hourly French pronoun contest will pay a supplemental fee of $300 per incorrectly pronounced word.

******* Fare must be bought in person at a participating 7-11 store along with purchase of two bags of ice. (A list of participating stores is available at www.99dollarfare.chump. Try to click on the moving logo three times and/or wish upon a star.)

******** Luggage will be checked via Vietnam.

********* All lost luggage will be considered lost.

********** Fare is conditional upon delivery of handwritten note from mother of passenger detailing number of visits to said mother in past year. If less than 112 visits, the offending passenger will be required to apologize to all mothers on the flight by opening their minibags of peanuts for them without biting into the bag.

*********** Food may be brought on plane so long as it contains no formerly living or growing ingredient. For a list of approved foodstuffs go to www.99dollarfare.chump and click on the Twinkie icon.

************ All fares are conditional upon airline adding 12 rows of nonreclining seats with breakaway tables.

************* Fares are totally refundable subject to said passenger having a legitimate reason for being unable to fly. Legitimate reasons are: 1. Extreme hair loss on day of flight. 2. Appearance before congressional committee to justify Father's Day gift of small Caribbean island, sans natives, to congressman. 3. Appearance in federal court to justify Father's Day gift of small Caribbean island, with natives, to congressman. 4. Inability to eat warm croissant without crumbs falling on lap.

Chuck Cohen is an advertising writer in Mill Valley, Calif.

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