Life As We Know It: September 30, 2013

        Air travel is a game of survival these days, too, and frankly, it’s a jungle up there. Not that you or I would engage if any bad behavior, of course. Well, at least YOU wouldn’t. But I know you’ve seen these folks in your travels.

        The ordeal often begins in the boarding lounge. Why are people so reluctant to sit next to a stranger? A couple will take two seats and then claim the empty one next to them for their belongings. Or folks spread themselves out so that only single seats remain.

        Once aboard, you often have to contend with the guy the airlines call the “middleman,” the passenger who has the misfortune to be assigned to the middle seat between the aisle and window seats and exacts his revenge by commandeering both armrests.

        It’s not just the middleman who’s a problem. I sat next to a guy who told me he always demands the aisle seat for the leg room and ease of exit. Then he fell soundly asleep as soon as our wheels were up, imprisoning me and my wife.

        Almost as bad is the late arriving passenger who hauls aboard everything he owns in a U-haul trailer disguised as a duffel bag and somehow manages to wedge it into an already full overhead bin.

        Speaking of the bins, they truly bring out the worst in us. Waiting to be called for boarding, I’ve seen passengers practically paw at the carpet like bulls in a bullring, so eager are they to get to a bin before the next guy. Even loading the aircraft by “zones,” which most of the airlines do now, doesn’t guarantee space in a bin.

        How about this one? It’s going to be a relatively full flight but luckily the seat next to you is still open as boarding winds down. They’re ready to close the door and it looks like you’ll be able to spread out. Nope. The last guy to board is coming your way. “Is this 32-A?“ he asks. Since you’re in 32-B, lying is not an option. He plops down, and he’s very large.

        Here’s another annoyance, and tell me this hasn’t happened to you. The guy behind you lifts himself out of his seat by tugging on yours. I realize there’s nothing else to grab, but for me it usually happens right after I’ve dozed off.

       And what about that adorable little 3-year-old munchkin in the seat in front of you who stands and peers back at you, staring intently? On a flight from say, Detroit to the West Coast, it’s only cute until Kalamazoo. Just as bad: the kid in the seat right behind who keeps pushing against your seat with his feet. There should be an overhead bin reserved just for him.

        Same for the fellow traveler just ahead who waits for the seatbelt light to go off and then reclines his seat – all the way back. If I can smell his Brylcreem, he’s too close.

        I wish more people paid attention to the flight attendants’ safety briefing. Judging from the indifference of the passengers, nobody has a clue what to do in a real emergency. Maybe the crew should say, okay people, we don’t take off until you repeat this stuff back to us.

        However, I do wonder about that line, “in the unlikely event of a water landing…” Unlikely? It better be. That’s why I prefer non-stop flights. Yes, if I’m flying over open ocean, say from San Francisco to Honolulu, non-stop is a strong personal preference of mine.