I flew to Barcelona and back yesterday, on one of my monthly day-trips for work. I’m getting pretty used to the journey – this is month seven of these visits and while it involves an early start (0430am!!!) working with the clients in question more than makes up for the lack of sleep.
Last night’s boarding was, however, one of the worst I’ve ever witnessed. It was as if the ground staff abandoned all standards of what was and wasn’t allowed on as cabin baggage. And as if ever objectionable and difficult person in Europe was on my plane.
I was probably person number 10 on the plane and sat down with my iPad, ready to listen to a podcast and chill the hell out after a long work day (a long work week, actually). So I got to see the majority of the boarding nonsense, which descended into farce in record time.
There was the surprisingly large number of passengers who could’t find their seats, despite it being marked on both their boarding card and above each seat. They wandered around the plane like lost souls, frequently trying to walk against the tide of oncoming passengers. It’s really not the entry exam for Mensa. It’s a simply matching exercise. Even if you’ve never been on a plane in your life.
There was the group of passengers who decided that they could bring on full-size (and over-stuffed) suitcases and somehow fit them into the overhead bins. They tried and tried, grunting and moaning, hoping against hope that physics would somehow warp around their need to avoid checking in a bag. All the time balancing these heavy objects just inches over other people’s heads.
The cabin crew were saintly in their patience, so kudos to them. I would have started to throw these idiots out of the nearest emergency exit within minutes. Two women in particular were indignant when told that they may have to move their unfeasibly large bags to the hold. That this would be done for them, and that the bags would be waiting for them at the other end. Not for them! Simply not good enough. Cue rant.
They somehow managed to jam their suitcases above me, during which manoeuvres, I had to move seat to avoid getting smashed in the face with suitcase wheels and straps. No apology, obviously – I was merely an object between them and suitcase satisfaction.
A middle-aged lady sat next to me, but only after getting a total random stranger to lift and pack away her bag for her. She sat down and gave me the stink eye before getting stuck into her (you guessed it) Daily Mail. Moments later, she was moved by the cabin crew, who had managed to reunite her with her friend at the back of the plane.
I stood up to let her out and she turned to me and said: “My bag, please.”.
I said “I’m sorry?”
“That’s my bag there. Get it down for me, would you? It’s heavy.”
Stunned into action by her attitude, I pulled it down and it was indeed heavy. She took it from me as soon as it was on the floor and walked away. No thanks, nothing.
Capital B to the atch.
Then there were the guys who boarded late, but who someone believed that a special piece of overhead real estate should have been kept aside for them. “But this is my seat – why is there no room here?”. Maybe if you’d been at the gate when we were boarding, you’d have stood a chance. But since everyone else here has decided to bring on every single suitcase they could possibly carry, along with a party-sized Duty Free bag, we’re all a little short of space.
You could hear them harrumphing all the way back to London.
For my part, my bag was under the seat in front of me and I was still wearing my jacket. No need to store or fold anything. That didn’t stop at least half a dozen people asking me to move my suitcase. The massive, neon pink suitcase jammed into the overhead bin above my head. I had to point out that it wasn’t my bag and that it belonged to the delightful ladies several rows behind me.
Some passengers tried to move it, but just like Tony Stark trying to pick up Thor’s hammer, the bag was going nowhere. And then some idiot thought it was sensible to empty his carrier bag of duty free champagne bottles and squeeze them in between various suitcases above and behind him. No danger of damage there!
And – you know where this is going – as soon as we’d reached cruising altitude, half the plane got out of their seats to take down various bags they’d only minutes before squeezed into the overhead bins. I just tried to keep my eyes closed, but it wasn’t easy when people moved massive bags mere inches from the top of my head, while others (I was by the aisle) just had to get in and out of their seat three and four times to check on their bag and remove several small objects from it.
Landing was, if anything, slightly worse. Seat belts were cast aside as soon as we hit the tarmac and people argued over their right to get their bags out from bins far away from their assigned seat. To make things worse, we had a 15 minute taxi to our stand as there’d been an error at traffic control. All this time, the cabin crew were asking people to sit back down, but they were ignored.
Despite being in row 9, the people next to me almost climbed over me to get off the plane – all passengers ahead of us where still standing and waiting for the doors to open. Maybe they possess the power to disintegrate and pass through solid objects, I thought to myself. Nope. They just wanted to passively-aggressively queue far too closely to the people in row 8.
In was hit in the face by backpacks, on the head by suitcases and in the back of the ankle by briefcases, all before getting of the plane at Heathrow. I was never so glad to see miserable Terminal 3.
Many of these assholes had to join the “you’re not European, so get over there” queues at passport control. I sailed through in moments. They’re probably still queuing there now.
Also, when getting to the Heathrow Express, some of the particularly annoying men in suits missed the train by seconds as they argued among themselves whether it was the right train or not. I stepped on as the doors closed, watching their sweaty red faces through the glass.
The moral of the story? It’s not “don’t get on planes”, as that’s impossible in my job. I think the moral for me is to practice (even more) mindfulness meditation before getting on flights from now on. I amazed myself at how calm I remind – until the matron told me to move her magically heavy (carrying lead, are we dear?) suitcase.
Most of the morals of this story are for other people, actually. Namely: when flying, as on the internet, “Don’t be a dick”.