(FORTUNE Magazine) – The Los Angeles night had set in a couple of hours before, after one of the truly spectacular sunsets that filter the last glimmers of sunshine through the wheeze and exhaust of a million moving cars. The party in the canyon was in full swing. Clients and executives were mingling over beer and barbecue. The band was pounding out a country disco beat. Still, it was time for me to go. I had a redeye to catch.

The limo to LAX was long and cool, but that didn't help much. I knew what I had to do. I knew where I had to go to get that job done. And there was only one way to get where I had to go to get done what needed doing. A moving cigar tube suspended six miles in the air.

First thing, I stowed my carry-on luggage. One foldover suitcase. One big briefcase with several reams of paper and one six-pound laptop in it. Another, smaller, cloth bag, bursting with laundry. I was afraid to check my bags, this for two reasons. First, I wanted to see them again. Second, when my plane touched down on the other end...if it did...I wanted to get out of the loathsome, fetid dungeon that is Kennedy airport as fast as possible. So nearly one whole overhead compartment was dedicated to my stuff.

I could have hung it up, of course. They offered. It's one of the nice things they do for you. But I don't like my stuff to be out of sight, mixed in with other people's stuff. Something could happen. If, say, one of the engines came loose and tore into the main fuselage, like it did on that Delta MD-88 out of Pensacola a couple of months ago. People might go through my luggage afterward and find embarrassing material. If I'm going to be torn asunder by flying shreds of metal, I want my possessions macerated with me, safe from prying eyes...

Gee, it wasn't a very good track my mind was taking. I had to chill. Flight attendants were offering complimentary champagne. I took some. Maybe it would help me sleep. And I had to sleep. Those who do not sleep on redeyes are condemned to two days of psychosis afterward. I thought of arriving in New York six hours later, unshaved, unrested, with no work done, having seen The Truth About Cats & Dogs for the third time in four weeks. I felt afraid. Suppose I was awake when a rocket launcher in militialand down below took out our checked-luggage compartment?

I nursed the champagne for a while. It was pretty good.

The plane's engines started up, and did not explode.

The seats were certainly big enough. Mine definitely could have accommodated a hippopotamus. It was wide enough, and sufficiently soft and yielding to soothe the average hippo hide over extended hours of uncomfortable constraint. The plane taxied down the runway, and I surreptitiously reclined. I was apprehensive that I would be caught doing so, but it seems business-class passengers are exempt from keeping their seatbacks in an upright position. It was a good feeling. Everyone around me seemed to be reclining during takeoff and loving it. I passed out.

I awoke suddenly, after a dream in which I was falling from the sky, screaming, my entrails trailing behind me in the sky above my head like a parachute.

I took out my work and looked at it. I determined that the best thing to do was to go through the entire bag for crud I could throw away. Turns out there was quite a bit. Then I did the same to my hard drive. It's amazing how cluttered your directories get if you don't take care of them. That was all the work I could handle for a while. I closed my eyes, only to discover the ground rushing up to meet me at 300 miles an hour. I decided to look out the window, then decided against it.

Before long came the hot nuts. This is one of the big perks in business class, and is among the clear arguments for the price differential vs. coach. Hot nuts are real bad for you, and they terrified me, but I ate them anyhow. It was a generous portion, too, and I ate all but one filbert. Pistachios in particular were salty, fatty, and delicious. There were also cashews, pecans, macadamias, all forms of lovely, high-demographic nuts, warmed by microwave and presented in a small, white ceramic bowl.

The airline dinner was served at about two in the morning, New York time. The meat had attained a microwaved perfection. I believe it was intended to be taken for Chateaubriand, and it looked the part nicely, the way those polystyrene portions of sushi approximate the real thing in Japanese restaurant windows. The sauce was kind of gummy, but I ate it, I guess that's the bottom line. There was also a cube of gruyere, with crackers. Scalloped potatoes. Quite good, really. The roll was particularly satisfactory. There was white wine and then red, then after-dinner brandy...I had a little. On came some strawberries with chocolate. An oatmeal cookie afterward. I declined a second. I was on a diet.

A warm feeling of physical well-being stole over me, only slightly offset at one point by the sudden image of my body torn to pieces by a faulty piece of replacement equipment. This was a particular fear of mine. It had come to my attention that many spare parts are supplied to airlines by people who think it's okay to take an old slab of metal, paint it silver, and call it new. Sometimes these bogus pieces don't work. I figured that's probably what happened to ValuJet down in the Everglades. I wondered what it was like to hit the water while you're still alive.

Everybody around me was drinking brandy. The Japanese fellow to my right had so far taken in one bloody mary, a half-bottle of red wine, and a big snifter of Remy, and we weren't all that far into the flight.

The airplane coughed. It was nothing. A little burp of air around the vessel. Ding. A light went on above my head. "We're hitting a little chop over Oklahoma, folks," said a fair approximation of Chuck Yeager. He suggested we keep our seat belts fastened. I determined to read. It was an article for the Sunday New York Times business section that was highly enthusiastic about Albert J. Dunlap, who has just become CEO of Sunbeam. The Times was positively beamish about the fact that Mr. Dunlap was busy firing senior middle managers. In general, I tend to think this is a bad idea. Senior middle managers are the salt of the earth, take my word for it. They risk their lives above us in the sky each day and this is the thanks they get!

Within 30 minutes I had three glasses of cranberry juice and 1 1/2 bottles of Perrier. I was hydrating. After a while I closed my eyes, and was out about 3 1/2 hours. One time, I woke up and watched Janeane Garofalo and Uma Thurman kidding around on the screen.

I woke once more, about 5 a.m. It was gray in the cabin, but a little shine peeked from behind the plastic curtains. Everyone was asleep but me, even a couple of flight attendants. The plane moved smoothly through the dawn. In about an hour, there would be small pastries and fruit, coffee and hot towels, and not too long after, sunshine. I leaned back in my recliner until I was just about prone, and closed my eyes. Things were going to be all right. If I made it through the landing.

And I did, too. This time.

By day, Stanley Bing is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name.