Usually I have no problem entertaining myself when I have to spend time waiting. When I go for an appointment - of any kind - I have a supply of things to do, just in case I have to wait. I like to take along a magazine that I have almost finished, and then leave it for others waiting after me, but that's another whole story.

But long airplane flights are a different kind of challenge. Last week, I was on one of those and when the captain announced that our flight time would be 12 hours and 55 minutes, I could only think "Uffda." I made the mistake of leaving the flight map illuminated on the little TV screen, so I could see the number of hours and minutes remaining.

At 11:34 left, we were served a beverage and a choice of peanuts and/or pretzels. At 11:29, I made a trip to the blue room, so dubbed because the color of the constantly-recycling flushing water is blue. At 11:04, the full food service was starting and I was determined to make that last awhile. The next time I looked up, a big total of 35 minutes had passed.

At 9:29, I was thinking it is going to be a long trip, and because I have often been on trips that are 17 hours in duration, I needed to get into the rhythm of things, so wisely I turned off that timer in front of me!

Years ago I developed a framework, or guideline, for how to prepare for these journeys. I had learned that a certain kind of book just invited people to comment, thus opening up avenues of conversation and that helps to pass the time. Other titles served to keep people away. Some books, like bedtime reading, can put me to sleep. Others, such as job-related books, are best for when I am wide awake. So my usual carry-on bag for international flights might contain at least two, or sometimes all three, of these categories, one for each part of the flight. I also have a handy small book titled "Sudoku To Go," which provides an alternative to reading.

Having just the right kind of book at the right time served me well on this most recent very long trip. I was reading a paperback version of a well-known mystery author, one whose works I do not save in my library, so I knew that when I was finished with this one I could pass it on or leave it for the cabin cleaners. Another passenger noted the author and showed me that she was reading the same author. That led to an interesting conversation about this writer, and on to other favorite authors. Eventually, we both went back to our reading.

When, finally, we reached our destination, she held out her book to me: "Do you want this one?" Wow, it was hard-cover (meaning much more money) and brand new: this author's latest one. I confess that I only buy hard-cover when it is one of my favorite writers and the book will go on my library shelf. So in my eyes, this woman was being very generous. Did I want it? Of course! Fortunately, I had just finished mine by the same author, and since she had missed this one, she was happy to take it. The one she gave me lasted through the next six-hour segment of the trip and the four days of my stay. When I was finished, I passed it on, as I am sure she did.

Another tool in handling these potentially stressful situations is with humor. One smaller airline has done this for years, making inflight announcements not only fun to listen to, but also ensuring that passengers are listening. I know that many people ignore those announcements as a way of showing they've heard it all before. But in the interests of safety, these messages are important reminders.

So fairly recently, Delta has been inserting some humor into its video announcements. Passengers have to be watching closely to see it, which is the whole point. For instance, when the voice-over is saying something about stowing your smaller items under the seat in front of you, the demonstrating passenger is stowing a very tiny version of a carry-on wheelie, complete with a retractable handle.

When the portion about occasional turbulence is the message, two pre-teen passengers are building a tower out of blocks on a tray table; when the airplane starts bouncing, the tower topples.

When the responsibilities of exit-row passengers are being pointed out, two of the three persons seated there are look-alikes; the third one declines taking responsibility for opening the cabin door in the case of an emergency. He moves, and the person who takes his place is a third look-alike.

When we are advised to turn off our electronics, a robot follows the instruction, turns himself off and sags into his seat.

Each type of aircraft has a slightly different version, so it is important to watch every one. On the next leg of this flight, the item being stowed in the overhead bin was a man's toupee, which he took right off of his head. The turn-off electronics message resulted in a woman shutting off her portable boombox and putting it under the seat in front of her. During the demonstration of the proper way to attach an oxygen mask, a young child was helping to put one on her doll.

There were too many funny scenes to recount, but the closing one was worth mentioning: the voice-over was saying, "Sit back, relax and enjoy the flight" while the captain on the video was looking at his take-off checklist and shaking his head.

It was a long flight, well I should say three flights on the going and four on the return, but with a little humor, some good conversation and books, that countdown clock on the screen did keep on moving.