I have what might be best described as a love/hate relationship with flying. I love to travel and see new places – I hate the ridiculous amount of regulations and “theater of the absurd” rules. I’ve written about many of my adventures on airplanes and in airports in the past. This week, I hit a new level of the absurd. It would be laugh out loud funny if it weren’t true.
On a flight to Los Angeles this week, I had taken my seat and was getting settled in for the trip. I’m a quirky traveler, but I have a system that works for me. I pulled out my iPhone and headphones and dialed up my “Plane Music” playlist. I took my book and a thermos of hot tea (brewed after the security checkpoint, of course), and put them in the seat pocket in front of me. I checked my Blackberry, answered a few messages, and then turned it off for the flight. All systems checked out – I was ready to go.
As the flight attendant began her spiel, I only half paid attention. About two thirds of the way through, she said something that caught my ear.
“Due to new regulations, you may not place any personal items in the seat pocket in front of you during taxi, takeoff, or landing.”
I did a brief double take, and then chuckled to myself. “That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. She must be mortified to have to recited such tripe.” I felt bad for her for a second.
As I closed my eyes to get a bit of rest (this was an early morning flight – not my favorite), I felt a tap on my shoulder.
“Excuse me, sir. I need for you to remove everything from your seat pocket for taxi, takeoff, and landing.”
I looked at her incredulously. Surely she had to be kidding. What POSSIBLE reason could there be to actually take everything out of the seat pockets? Airline security? Cosmic balance? Would the plane not taxi, takeoff, or land properly with my paperback book and hot tea in the seat pocket? Would that extra 10 ounces of weight throw off the pilot’s ability to navigate the runway system?
I continued to stare at her until it became clear she wasn’t joking and wasn’t going away either. I shrugged and pulled my items from the seat pocket, placing them in my lap. Evidently having the items located in my lap was enough to restore order to the Universe, and the helpful flight attendant moved on.
As I sat there shaking my head, I thought about the absurdity of the exchange I had just had. Who took the time to formulate such a pointless rule? How did they determine that a barf bag, an American Way magazine, and a Skymall magazine could safely travel in the seat pocket without disrupting the delicate balance of a 737, but adding a copy of “Gateways” by F. Paul Wilson (good book, by the way), would tip the balance over into the area of “potential flight hazard”?
Instead of taking the time to make stupid rules such as these, why don’t the Nice Men Behind The Scenes institute a few rules for the traveling public that actually make sense? Things that we could all agree on and heartily support? To help them out, I’ve compiled a handy and easy to use list of the top 12 rules airlines and airports SHOULD institute.
1. Every passenger should be allowed to take one cup of coffee and/or tea with them through the new full body scanners in airports. If you are going to subject yourself to dangerous levels of radiation (and a frightening loss of privacy and dignity), you should at least be able to microwave your morning java while you microwave yourself.
2. To board a plane, you must have showered in the last 24 hours. Planes are small, enclosed places. The Pigpen-like cloud of body odor swirling around may not bother you, but I assure you – it’s concerning for the other 200+ passengers on the plane. If you can see the funk radiating off your body like the heat rising off Georgia asphalt during the summer, either take a shower or stay home.
3. A plastic bag from the big box retailer of your choice is not an acceptable form of carry-on luggage. I know you may not fly that often, but one of the requirements of flying is owning actual luggage. A plastic bag will not do. We don’t need to see the clothes you’re taking on your trip to Paducah. We don’t need to know how many pairs of flip-flops you own. We don’t need to know what type of deodorant you use (evidently not effectively – but that’s another story). Get a suitcase. Get a backpack. Get something made of canvas with a zipper.
4. If you can’t roll your bag down the aisle, you can’t bring it on the plane. It’s just simple physics. Don’t waste our time and delay our departure trying to manhandle a full steamer trunk down the aisle. Furthermore – if, by chance, you get it down the aisle, don’t stand there acting perplexed that it won’t fit into the overhead bin. And, no – taking the newspaper out of the outside pocket is NOT enough to make it fit.
5. You are not allowed to speak to anyone wearing headphones and/or reading a book, except in cases of extreme emergency. When a person is reading, listening to their iPod, sleeping, or some combination of all three – they are NOT interested in talking to you. They don’t want to hear about your trip so far. They don’t want to hear about your aunt Bertha’s ongoing battle with bunions. They don’t want to swap recipes for your “to-die-for sardine hummus”. They want to read, listen to music, and/or sleep – all while pretending you don’t exist. Don’t make it awkward.
6. Parents whose children refuse to refrain from kicking the seat in front of them will be required to sit with said child in the lavatory for the duration of the flight. I paid for the seat I’m sitting in. I’m trying to sleep. I don’t need little Suzy using my seat as the kick drum in her own private Wiggles concert. I understand that you can’t always control what your kids do. BUT – once they’ve started kicking my seat, I expect you, as a parent, to make them stop. Immediately. If not, you can spend the rest of the flight entertaining them with the swirly blue whirlpool.
7. The seat in front of you is NOT a pull bar to be used in leveraging your 450-pound caboose out of your seat to waddle to the bathroom. I would refer you to rule number #6. I paid for the seat I’m sitting in. I’m trying to sleep. When you decide you need to get up during the flight, the back of my seat is not designed to assist you in prying your massive posterior out of your seat – nor is it an anchor for you to cling to as you shoehorn yourself back into your seat like someone putting 5 pounds of Jell-O in a 2 pound bag.
8. No matter what the temperature is, or what your final destination is, ALL men and women will be required to wear undergarments. NO EXCEPTIONS (even if you’re hot). This one seems pretty self-explanatory. I don’t need to know you in that way. Not now. Not ever.
9. Headphones must be worn if you are playing a hand held video game. If little junior is too young to wear headphones on the plane, he’s too young to be playing his Nintendo DS. I enjoy Mario Kart as much as the next person – but not at 40,000 feet, and not from 2 rows away.
10. Hats should be stowed on your head, not in the overhead bins. If you think you are cool enough to rock a cowboy hat while flying to Des Moines, I think you are cool enough to wear it for the entire flight. The overhead bins are for luggage, not headgear.
11. No one is allowed to open an air vent unless it is aimed directly at him or her. Just because you want a cooler “ambiance” in your seating area, doesn’t mean I want a jet stream of arctic air blowing across my seat and numbing the skin on top of my head as I sit in front of you.
12. Once the plane arrives at the gate, all passengers sitting in an aisle seat must immediately stand up. When we land, and I’ve been stuck in a window seat, it won’t kill you to stand up in the aisle so I can have 6 inches of extra space for my elbows. I didn’t want to sit next to you in the first place – every extra minute you spend sitting there is torture (especially if you are a violator of rules #2 or #8).
I know none of these suggestions will contribute to airline safety in as meaningful a way as the “nothing in the seat pockets” rule – but I think they are regulations we can all rally behind and they would dramatically increase the comfort level of the flying public. Will they save a plane from the certain doom inherent in filling the seat pockets with books, magazines, and water bottles? No. But at least passengers wouldn’t have to face that certain doom while being annoyed at those around them.
© 2011, The Word Zombie. All rights reserved.