Posted on April 5th, 2016

The Geography of My Mind – Human Cattle

In the span of seven weeks I will have taken five flights out of state with three of them being coast to coast. I will have endured middle seats, being bumped off of flights I paid for and had confirmed; had sickly people hack and wheeze all over me and my water bottle; and gotten some of the worst customer “service” in my life. I will have reinvigorated my disdain for the human race and corporations, and wished that we could take a mulligan on society and start from scratch. I’m not a people person (surprise, surprise), and my experiences in airports and on airplanes have only made that stance stronger. I’m not afraid to fly, I just hate it. But strangely I have also come to assume I will die on an airplane. Whenever you get that ridiculously hectic turbulence and you’re convinced this is the end, well, that happens for me an awful lot. I don’t panic, I just get frustrated that “this” is how I’m going to die. How disappointing. We really have zero control over anything when we’re on a plane, and it’s only going to get worse. And even though the likelihood of dying in a plane crash is low, the likelihood of having a horrible time is high.

On a recent flight from South Dakota back to Oregon – through Dallas of all places, great route, geniuses – I had the misfortune of sitting near a perfect example of a wasted human life. The plane was full and the only seat was behind me – I was in the middle, fun – and an off-duty stewardess sat in the window and a late-30s guy in the aisle. She was fairly attractive so I knew this guy was going to hit on her, and sure enough he did. She seemed interested in at least talking to him for a while, and eventually their conversation faded out. I knew he was drinking on the flight, and I assume he had been before as well, and eventually the booze began to take its toll. He continued to try and find new angles into a conversation with this unlucky lady. Before long his speech was dramatically slurred and he was largely incoherent. She pointed out to him several times that he was drunk and likely should stop drinking. He scoffed at this idea and started to call her names and said she was “dumb” and “stupid.” She tried to keep it civil and deflect, but eventually he played his trump card: he said he wanted to see her butt – twice. Well, obviously this offended her greatly and she left to tell the flight crew. They came up to speak to him and took his beer away and told him he had better knock it off. They also suggested he should take a nap. This was not the end of the story.

default_settingThis is my default setting at airports and on airplanes.

Soon after he started yelling things and talking belligerently, making comments to those who were near him, surely ruining their flight (as if it isn’t bad enough without a jerk onboard), and then he took out a lighter and started lighting it – a big no-no on a plane. The flight crew saw this and told him to stop and then went and got the captain. He came out, took the lighter, and said that if there were any more issues they would divert the flight and he would be arrested. Great, just what everybody wanted: to get stranded in some city and extend the trip even longer. I looked around and everyone was on the same page. We had to tolerate whatever shenanigans this fool played just so that we could get home on time. It would not be easy.

As I sat there listening to this idiot yell things that made little sense but were chalked full of swear words, I braced myself for the possibility that I might have to interact with this nincompoop. I sure as heck hoped not, but as I was in his direct line of blurred sight I figured it was inevitable. Right as rain, what I hoped would not happen did: he made contact with me. All of a sudden I feel his hands massaging my head. Immediately I turn around and tell him in no uncertain terms that he had better not touch me again or he was going to get pummeled. His exact words were, “Chill out, dude.” My god. As I sat there fuming, and another round of the flight crew coming by to settle him down, I feel something touch my head again. I jerk around quickly to see his feet up on the back of my headrest, and he is laying in the corner of his row. I stifle my anger only because I thought maybe he’d just pass out. Boy, was I wrong. Fortunately I didn’t have to deal with him directly any longer, but others weren’t so lucky.

The fool woke up a few minutes later and moved back to his aisle seat and immediately started to bother the guy sitting in the aisle seat next to him. He started poking him, which obviously didn’t go over well, and then I heard the victim say, “I know what you’re trying to do and I’m not going to entertain you. But if you touch me again I’m going to hurt you.” He stopped, but turned his attention to someone behind him, bickering about something. Each new person he bothered had to endure his nonsense which ultimately led to telling the guy off. Had we not been on a plane I’m quite certain this would have ended in a public mauling. I think any jury would have declined to find us guilty of assault.

Finally, we get back to Portland and we’re all standing up in the aisle like good cattle waiting to deplane and get away from this fool forever. I make sure that I’m not directly in front of him so I don’t have to engage with him any longer. He starts complaining about how he has been treated so poorly on this flight. We all suppress our vengeful urges. When the pilot took away his lighter, he told him that if there were no issues on the duration of the flight he could have it back. As I deplaned and passed the captain, I said, “Don’t give him back his lighter. He is a public nuisance.” I don’t know why he didn’t listen to me, maybe he didn’t want any more problems, but as the fool approached the captain, he asked for his lighter and was given it back. I can only hope they barred him from flying their airline again.

On my most recent flight down to Alabama, I received a change in my itinerary about 10 days before I was to travel. The second leg of my trip out was changed to have me get in almost 2 hours later – at 11 p.m. – which was unacceptable. I still had to drive an hour afterwards and I had a big day the following day; that wasn’t going to work for me. Besides, I booked the flight I did because that’s what I wanted, and that’s what I paid for. After Orbitz was zero help (I was on hold for 3 hours, honestly), I called the carrier, Delta. Inside of about ten minutes they changed my flight back to what it was originally. Huh, okay, not so bad. Then the day before my flight when I checked in they had changed it back to the unacceptable leg. Steam came out of my ears. I called Delta’s customer “service” line only to be told by one supervisor that the flight had been cancelled. I told them it wasn’t acceptable for me to get in that late and they needed to find another flight, even if it was on another airline. Nope, they weren’t going to do that. I hung up, frustrated. Then I looked at Delta’s flight schedule and saw that the flight was indeed still on. I called back, angered, and demanded to know why I had been bumped off. Likely because some customer who was in their rewards program got preferred treatment, I would assume. I couldn’t get anywhere with them. I tried to get money off a future flight, no dice. I asked at the very least to be put on standby for my original flight – in the first slot. No dice. I got standby, yes, but slot four on a sold-out flight. This was unlikely to happen, and of course I never got on the flight I had booked and paid for over a month before the incident.

The airlines gouge you every which way they can. They charge you for everything now, they give the individual consumer no care. They don’t treat you like a person. I’ve heard that planes will soon feature “seating” that is similar to standup roller coasters just so they can cram on more people and make your trip that much worse. I can’t wait till I never have to travel again. The airline industry has made tourism dreadful. And what they haven’t ruined, my fellow travelers have.

Marco Esquandoles
Grade “D” Edible

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