Ten (OK, a bunch more) Things That I Find Totally Annoying in Airplane Travel
ONE– The flight is sitting on the tarmac in the departure city. Minutes pass, then tens of minutes. The pilot doesn’t bother to get on the intercom to explain what’s happening. We all have connections to make at the next hub. How hard is it to keep the passengers informed about whatever delays or developments are preventing us from flying?
TWO– The gate agent who lies to you about the status of the flight, knows she is lying to you, knows you know she is lying to you, but cannot be bothered to level with you. It seems that his or her goal is to get you away from the gate desk as quickly as possible, and to throw you into some intermediate space where you are supposed to get help or answers to your questions. I always ask, “Is the delayed incoming flight actually in the air,” and no matter how politely I ask this question, the gate agent either refuses to look it up or says some condescending thing designed to get rid of me.
THREE-You get to your destination, or intermediate destination, but after you linger on the tarmac for a while, the pilot comes on to say, “Folks, the good news is we got to Denver 22 minutes early today, but the bad news is that our gate is currently occupied. We’re just going to shut down our engines for a few minutes and then we’ll get you to the gate.” It’s not just that you are so ready to get off the plane, pee, and get to your next flight, but the tone the pilot adopts is so patronizing—false friendly—that I want to choke him as he stands in front of the cockpit thanking people for flying Air Pluto.
FOUR– I don’t mind passengers who try to talk me into moving my seat so they can “sit together” when it’s going to be a long flight, but this happens to me frequently on a 55-minute flight. I just want to say, “Geez, you’ve been married for forty years; you don’t think you could use a little time apart with one of you in 3C and the other in 4B?” But even worse than that is the person sitting in your seat when you come down the aisle, entirely unapologetic, intending to intimidate you into swapping seats with him or her. Hey, how about work with reservations well in advance to get the seats you want, but don’t make your issue mine.
FIVE– How about the person, almost certainly a man, who sits next to you but has some militant thing about the arm rest, and bullies your elbow off of “his” armrest? We have to share, unfortunately, and that calls for mutual respect. I sat on a plane last year with a man who was so aggressive that he literally shoved my arm away and sighed as if he were the King of Siam, and, when I tried to work out a compromise, was simply abusive. Finally I said, “Well, I wouldn’t want to damage your need to be Alpha Male on your airplane flights.” At which point, he more or less went nuts. He was smart enough to know that I was right, but not wise enough to acknowledge that he was being a jerk.
SIX– I usually sit in aisle seats, and I usually board in the first couple of waves. That means that insensitive or indifferent passengers come down the aisle with backpacks, carry-on bags, computer bags, etc., and jam and thump every shoulder until they get to their seat. I learned long ago that the only responsible way to walk down the aisle is to lower your bags so that they are confined by the outer armrests. When people whap me as they go by, about one in ten apologizes, but the tone is always, “Hey, I’m doing what it takes to get to my seat. It ain’t my fault. Deal with it.”
SEVEN-I shouldn’t even have to write these words. A: Don’t pick your nose on the flight. If you do, please don’t also eat it. B: Don’t clip your nails at 38,000 feet. What kind of animal are you? C: Don’t put on nail polish during the flight. D: Cover your mouth when you cough. How hard is that? E: After your four-year-old kicks my seat for the fifth time and I turn and give you a “please will you attend to this look,” attend to it, for goodness sake. The only thing worse than the child is the adult who thumps the back of your seat from time to time, or thrusts his legs so far forward that you wind up playing footsie with him. I’d rather have this safety briefing than the demonstration of seatbelts.
EIGHT-If you are obese—ok, fair enough—and I’m sitting next to you, don’t say, “Man, they are making these planes smaller and smaller.” If you do, I’m going to respond like a smartass. One man of giant girth said to me, “God didn’t make me for these tiny planes.” I could not resist saying, “I wouldn’t start by blaming God.”
NINE– Don’t say “hurry up and wait.” Ever.
TEN– Why is it that in the age of texting, people invariably stop to read or write a text precisely in the traffic lanes of the terminal? If you want to text, drift to the side of the traffic stream and let other people move on. If people were given an electric shock every time they planted themselves in a place that impedes the flow of airport traffic, it would sound like a bug zapper on a July evening in Houston. And, if you are a couple or a family, don’t just stand in the middle of the traffic lanes debating whether you want pizza or Mexican for lunch.
ELEVEN-Don’t watch me reading and interrupt to ask, “Hey, whatcha reading?”
TWELVE-When we land, I know your bags are four rows back, but that’s your problem, not mine. Don’t ask me to fetch your bag unless it is right over my head, and don’t go charging by me the minute the seatbelt sign goes off. If you will just wait patiently, in a minute or two there will be a gap, provided by the person who is levering his giant oversized bag out of the distended bin, and you will be able to get your stuff.
THIRTEEN-When connections are tight, don’t try to charge past me to get to the exit before everyone else. I will stop you. Chances are that most of the people you are trying to jump ahead of are making close connections, too. If you really need to do this, ask permission, and thank the people who choose to yield to you. I always challenge this, and people get very very angry when they are not allowed to prove to the world that they are the most important person on the flight.
FOURTEEN-Don’t play your Facebook videos out loud. If you have to watch videos in the gate area or on the plane, use headphones. We are not interested in your private entertainment.
FIFTEEN-I know some of you get pleasure playing cards on the flight. OK, it’s somewhat annoying, but I get it. But do you have to snap shuffle the deck ten times between hands? People seem particularly to enjoy this after ten p.m. How about some airplane shuffling?
SIXTEEN-When the flight attendant comes down the aisle with the cart, don’t say, “I want a whole can of Coke!” Wow—militant over a can of Coke? Protecting your natural right to a whole can? The tone with people say this is always of the “I know you are going to try to screw me out of my rightful share, so I’m going to be a bit belligerent with your right off the top so we both know who’s boss here.” There is some of the same in, “Orange juice, NO ICE.”
SEVENTEEN-It’s flight attendant, not stewardess. This is the 21st century.
EIGHTEEN-If you are going to flirt with the flight attendant, don’t ask, “Where’s your home base?” or “Where do you wind up tonight?” Female passengers don’t ask flight attendants these questions.
NINETEEN-There is some inverse proportion rule: older people with very odd personal ring tones–“The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “Thus Spake Zarathustra”–insist on studying the front of their phones for five to ten seconds before they answer. It’s as if they are astonished to discover that they have a phone or something. First, please don’t have a distinctive personal ringtone. Second, if you have one, please just answer the phone.
Clay S. Jenkinson