you lose, or you lose

November 17, 2009

Remember how I couldn’t stand the heat in the RedBox kitchen? I dithered and dawdled, and ended up renting Twilight or something.

Flying Southwest Airlines takes that pressure and doubles it.

First, you have to try to get some kind of fancy early check in, so you can stand next to one of the low-numbered shiny posts at the gate. But that’s just for starters. When they call your number RANGE, you head for the jetway and the real jockeying begins. Some business traveler with an earpiece elbowed me to get to the cabin door first. And I don’t mean “elbowed me” in some kind of figurative, he got the hole-shot sense.

No. I mean he ELBOWED me. I looked incredulously at the woman just behind me, in that brothers-in-arms way where I’m hoping she’ll have my back. She shrugged and smiled, as if to say “What? First time on Southwest? Cowboy up Nancy!”

So then you have to pick a seat. Sure, that sounds easy. But what if you’re like the 20th person getting on? How do you choose? Some of the people ahead of you studiously avoid looking up, like they’re hostages trying not to get noticed when the crazy man wants to send a statement to the FBI negotiators.

And others look up almost hopefully, like they are hoping for company. There’s not as much of that.

A few look up with a totally hostile glare, just daring you to sit by them. My sharp-elbowed friend was one of these.

I wanted a lifeline, to call Kim, or a co-worker, to get advice. “Do I take the aisle on the row with the old lady? What if she talks to me the whole time?” It’s a no-win situation. If you sit by a guy, so you don’t seem creepy, well, THAT could be creepy. But if you sit by a woman, what statement are you making? “Don’t mind me, I’m just trying not to be creepy.”

In the end, I moved past the occupied rows and took an aisle seat in an empty row. But that brings its own potential disaster. At least if you sit with someone, YOU get to choose your row-mate.

Or, in my case, when you choose an empty row, you could end up with John Candy.

I got up and let him past to the window seat. His first order of business? Asking for “one of them extender seatbelt thingies.” Then he fell asleep and snored for two and a half hours.

At least he didn’t offer me a tic tac.

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25 Responses to “you lose, or you lose”

  1. KanyonKris Says:

    I think the lesson here is: Choose your seat-mate.

    You should have sat by elbower and claimed the armrest.

    Flying should be fun, but it’s loaded with hassles and awkwardness.

  2. Big Boned Says:

    Did you NEED a tic tac?

  3. Lifein360 Says:

    At least he didn’t say “come here often”.

  4. Jeff Says:

    Did he give you a breakdown on the shower curtain ring industry?
    (I hope I’m getting my movie reference right here.)
    I don’t get why Southwest can’t just assign you a seat. Even Air Tran does that.

  5. MOCougFan Says:

    At least he didn’t take his socks and shoes off.

    When I fly… I generally put the iPod on. I smile casually, but don’t talk much. Then fall asleep.

  6. bikemike Says:

    i always take the window seat so i can become part of the wall/window and then activate the invisible force field between the middle seat. then i’m the one climbing over the other two and my elbow doesn’t get smashed by the beverage cart.
    i make sure i fart/belch/ blow snot rockets just as everyone is sitting down…i would also pee a circle on the floor to mark my territory but that would be gross.

  7. hubcityrob Says:

    I know people who hack, cough, and wheeze with great abandon until the plane pulls back from the gate, then they are suddenly “cured,” and sitting with the row to themselves.

  8. Doug Says:

    That is some great strategy. I am going to use several of these. I bet if I put a small amount of tobasco in my eyes no one would even come close and I could stretch out.

    • mark Says:

      I’m going to take up chewing tobacco only when I fly Southwest. Not the sissy Copenhagen or Skoal. I’m talking real tobacco like Levi Garret or Redman in a pouch. Or better yet, plug. Then I’ll sit there with an old coke cup and spit into to it until everyone is seated, at which point I’ll spit out the tobacco into the cup and ask the flight attendant to take it away.

      If we all did that, the flight attendants’ union would demand assigned seats at the next contract negotiation.

  9. Travel Agent Says:

    #1. I am sorry you had to fly Southwest – I shall see what can be done to not let this happen again.

    #2. I think your friends might be even funnier than you are.

    • bikemike Says:

      Dug is the Harvey Korman of the blog world…best straight man in the business, sets ’em up for us all the time, believe me it takes talent.

  10. CB Says:

    Remember when Southwest had two rows of seats in the bulkhead that faced each other? Like train cars? (I don’t think Southwest uses these anymore…I could be wrong…haven’t flown them in a LONG time.)
    But those seats were the worst. Sure you were at the front of the plane, but now you had to deal with not just two row mates, but FIVE.
    I was on a flight to Vegas once in said seat configuration and had a guy and girl sitting in front of me (facing me) that were heading down for their nuptials. Of course the adult beverages had been flowing LONG before they boarded the plane so their lips and jaws were well-lubricated. Hellish flight…before the days of noise-canceling headphones. Not that they would have helped…

  11. MrsTeamPhillips Says:

    I think I would have a meltdown if I had to make all those decisions as I boarded the plane. At least the assigned seat lottery is somewhat random. And as a female, I would hate to think there’s some skeezy guy getting on the plane going “hey, she’s cute, maybe I’ll plunk down there and hit on her…”. Yech.

  12. ShedBiker Says:

    I hate Southwest.

    • dug Says:

      you know, it’s not so bad. just the seat thing. well, and their planes suck.

      they have great waiting areas at the gate. comfy chairs, usb plugs, kid friendly area, all that.

      okay, the only good part is the waiting area. the rest sucks.

      • ShedBiker Says:

        My last trip was to Albuquerque. I got on line to get my boarding pass no less than 23 hours 59 minutes and 59.999 seconds before my flight. (Or is than “no more than 23 hours….” I can’t figure it out.) Anyway, my pass was #B3. That’s in the freaking B section! That means one third of the plane beat me to the punch in less than .0001 seconds. I guess they all bought the “early bird special” thingy SW sells now. That’s just a dumb game. I’m going home.

        • D. Says:

          You got your late number because you were on a connecting flight. Other people had their 24 hour window start before you; they were flying the earlier legs of your flight number. That’s the reason.

      • D. Says:

        Those sucky planes have never crashed.

  13. stevebpt Says:

    I don’t fly often but when I do I try to use Southwest first. They are nicer (the employees, not the passengers), funnier, cheaper, they don’t charge for luggage and fly most places I want to fly. That said, Bikemike has the idea! Of course, if I am flying I usually have my two little ones with me and if we pinch them enough we usually have a pretty good space around us. Especially if we are passing the kids over seats and aisles to their big sisters and back and forth.

  14. Jube Says:

    Southwest is the best airline because they have the best pilots; they have the best pilots because the pilots like the company they work for. Can’t say that for the other US carriers. A happy pilot is a good pilot. They tend to not miss their destinations as often.


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