As I mentioned in Part 1, I hate air travel.
I hate damned near everything about it.
For a economy that’s supposed to be staggering drunkenly towards the cliff edge, there sure are a lot of people flying. I’ve never seen the airports and the airplanes more jam packed. The stores and shops in every terminal are filled to capacity with people buying souvenir hoodies that they’ll never wear, and commemorative shot glasses they’ll never drink out of, and boxes of genuine Hawaiian chocolate coated macadamia nuts that they’ll eat before they even get on the plane. The shitty airport restaurants are packed, with lines out the door despite the lousy service and outrageous prices (what is it about airport restaurants anyway? We ate at Bubba’s in the George Bush International airport in Houston, I do not believe that it would have been possible for the wait staff to give any less of a shit about their jobs. We got a coffee at the Starbucks, also at GBI, and again, I’m absolutely positive that the counter staff could not possibly have given less of a shit about what they were doing, though they did have customer contempt down to a fine art. Worst Starbucks I’ve ever had, hands down). The bathrooms are more crowded than a Wal-Mart on welfare check day, but maybe that’s because every other one is “closed for cleaning” though they never, ever seem to be clean in any sense of the word. Seriously, who are all these people?
As I mentioned in part one of this post, it’s my fellow passengers that really get to me – and in a way I guess I can understand the utter disdain that people in the airline industry have for the average air traveler. I swear I don’t understand why the flight attendants don’t just open the door and start throwing out passengers at 30,000 feet.
I’d like to give a special shout out to a few of the folks that made my last flight such a joy:
- First I’d like to thank The Crazy Guy. Thank you so very much for scaring the shit out of my kid. Just a special kind of idiot, aren’t you? Crazy Guy acts normal in the terminal and on the jetway and in the conga line down the aisle, right up until he gets in his seat – seat 23B, the middle seat directly across the aisle from us (us being my wife, my son, and me). Crazy guy then begins to sweat and act strangely. He grabs the flight attendant and asks for a glass of water, she tells him to wait until we’re actually in the air. Crazy Guy then proceeds to do his oh so subtle William Shatner impression from the original Nightmare at 20,000 Feet - except we’re currently at zero feet, having not yet actually left the ground. It takes about 45 minutes to fill a 757 (mostly because of a lack of general mathematical ability in the traveling public and the inability to sit when directed as detailed in Part 1 – that coupled to the the additional fun of a large number of Texans), since Crazy Guy was in the rear with us, he had about 40 of those 45 minutes to do something about his problem. Instead he waited until we were actually pushing back from the terminal onto the taxiway before coming unglued, jumping up, running to the front of the plane and demanding to be let off. So now, you know, it’s a security crisis. Is this guy Osama? Or just some candy-assed sissy 40 year old who’s pissing his underoos at the thought of flying? My money was on the squealing sissy. So, back to the terminal, back comes the jetway, and we bid farewell to Crazy Guy – we’ll only knew him for a short while, but he set the tone for the flight. It scared the shit out of my son. Way to go, Crazy Guy, way to go.
- Next I’d like to thank Mr. Indecision. “Headphones? Headphones?” The flight attendant comes down the aisle with a bag of headphones. Headphones, yours to keep for a dollar. See, most of Continental’s fleet is shiny new hi-tech Boeing aircraft, and as such their long haul birds have digital entertainment on-demand in every seat. A wide selection of movies, music, and games on an eight inch touch screen on the 757’s, the same and more with an in-seat remote game controller on the 767’s. Seriously, this is awesome. On the seven hour flight from Texas (Arg!) to Alaska, I watched Diamonds Are Forever (Sean Connery James Bond with Bond Girl Jill St. John. Rawr, down boy! Seriously, how could you pass that up?), The Borne Supremacy, and The Incredibles. I brought my own headphones, which I intended to use with my ZEN, but they worked just fine with Continental’s sound hookup. But for those who don’t have the foresight to bring their own, ten minutes after take off the flight attendants come down the aisle explaining the on-demand entertainment and passing out headphones. There’s always Mr. No-Thanks-I’m-Working who waits until the flight attendant is ten rows past to suddenly decide that he does indeed want the headphones after all. He either pipes up with “Excuse me, Miss, excuse me!” while waving a dollar bill like some pathetic white collar drone on lunch break at the Kit Kat Klub, or he chases her down the aisle “heh heh, I guess I’ll, uh, have a pair of those after all, thanks.” No really, thank you, Mr. Indecision,
- Next I like to give a warm sneeze of Stonekettle Station mucus to Lilac Granny, Perfume Lady, and Aftershave Boy. What is it with these people? The old lady I could understand, she kept going past me on the way to the john every half hour, leaving a cloying cloud of lilac and talcum powder – or as I call it, Grandmother Funk – she had to be about 90 and you gotta figure her smeller probably wasn’t working all that great any more. I was willing to cut her some slack. But what the hell is the deal with Aftershave Boy? This guy is what, 20 maybe? He has a nose. You figure he can smell. I mean he appears to be properly equipped for the sense, if you know what I mean. So what the hell is he wearing? The musky reek of Irish Spring Meets Agent Orange On The Floor Of A NYC Taxi Cab in the Sam’s Wholesale size? Every time this guy went past my eyes would water and I felt like I had feathers jammed up by dose! Then there was Perfume Lady, Liz Taylor on a Three Day Gin Bender I believe her alluring scent was. She’d parade down the aisle to the crapper leaving a trail of sneezing about once an hour.
- And speaking of charming smells, special mention goes to Shitty Lavatory Lady. Really, so nice to wait ten minutes outside the lavatory for you, then enter to find a big heap of giant steamers waiting in the bowl, nestled snuggly in a pile of tissue. What was that anyway? Bean burrito and saurkraut? Thanks, really. Next time you might try pushing the handle marked “Flush.”
- But the Grand Prize of Assholedom in the Air goes to…envelope, please…Texas! Yah! Let’s give them a big hand folks. Thanks for coming to Alaska, Texas. Sorry we don’t quite measure up to your standards. You are, of course, welcome to fuck right off back to the Lone Star State, take Sarah Palin with you, will ya’ll? Her and George the Lesser ought get along fine.
See, Continental uses the North Terminal at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The North Terminal, as I might have mentioned somewhere before, is the original Anchorage International Terminal. It’s old. It’s shitty. Uncle Teddy doesn’t have his name on it, or his pork in it. There was a large contingent of Texans on our flight. They were easy to spot, Texans are the epitome of Buford T. Ugly American Abroad. Overfed, loud, obnoxious, and eager to tell you why nothing manages to compare to Texas, land of sand, hats, and horny toads. Everything is bigger in Texas, especially the assholes. These idiots, about twenty of them were first in line at the baggage claim. Oh, I don’t mean they got there first – I mean they pushed through the crowd of people already waiting, elbowing their way to the front as is their right of course. The guy next to me, let’s call him “Hal” shall we? (Short for Hal E. Toesis) begins to comment loudly in cloud of spearmint Redman chew that the Anchorage terminal isn’t very nice. It’s old, and shitty, and Uncle Teddy doesn’t seem to have his name on it – he wonders where all of Texas’ tax dollars went. He laments the fact that we Alaskans are taking his money, and this is the best we can do. Figuring to shut him up, I explain the actual situation, and that he can take the shuttle bus over to the new terminal and see it in all it’s porky glory. He says he’d rather walk (Texans don’t take shuttle buses apparently, perhaps they ride green broke stallions whooping and waving their large hats instead). Yeah, really have fun with that, especially the part where you cross eight lanes of major road.
In the North Terminal, the baggage handling system is old, unreliable, and dangerous. There are large signs attesting to this. All around the conveyor carousal, at a distance of about five feet is a thick yellow and black striped line painted on the floor. Every couple of feet is a sign that warns people to stay outside the line unless grabbing their luggage from the conveyor. Luggage comes out of a chute and slides down a stainless steel ramp at high speed and slams into a stop before sliding out onto the conveyor. Upon occasion, large and heavy items jump over the barrier and slam into the floor. It’s not a very good system and would never be installed today, but, as I’ve mentioned, this terminal has been around for a while and way back when it was built there were different standards (maiming random passengers was OK, apparently lawyers had not yet evolved). The airport knows that this is a dangerous situation, accordingly there is a VERY LARGE sign painted directly on the floor in front of the barricade surrounded by a large yellow and black warning line that specifically tells people not to stand there because of the possibility that they might be, you know, permanently fucked up by a 70 pound piece of Samsonite moving down the ramp at just below sonic speed. I watched incredulously as a grossly pregnant woman wearing a Houston Oilers sweatshirt and carrying a two year old child in her arms pushed her way past me and stopped directly on top of the warning sign and then proceeded to lean on the barrier while arguing about the color of their luggage with her husband. Bags were slamming into the barrier and if it had been only her I would have let the bitch get killed. But there were kids involved, so I said to her, “You need to move, you’re going to get hurt and so is your kid” and pointed to the warning sign. The look she gave me was probably the same one she reserves for the Mexican farm hands who work on her daddy’s ranch, and her husband piped up sarcastically, “Yehay, Honey, guess ya’ll better move along from there. It’s Alaska!” He rolled his eyes at me and snorted. I wonder if he would have been so sarcastically condescending if his very pregnant filly had taken a 60lb hardshell in the belly about then. But then again, Texans are apparently dropped on their heads as infants quite often, perhaps it wouldn’t have made any difference to the fetus other than to dent his little belt buckle.
But the real prize goes to the crowd of pointy toed shitkickers who crowded right up the baggage conveyor, oblivious to the warning signs. They were talking loudly and excitedly and were completely ignoring the announcement blaring over their ten gallon heads – the announcement which said in loud irritated tones, “Everybody step outside the yellow and black line unless you are getting your bag off the belt. You need to be outside the line. If you do not step back IMMEDIATELY, I will stop the conveyor for safety reasons and the baggage claim process will not resume until everyone is clear of the belt. I repeat…” The Texans just kept talking louder and louder and louder and ignoring the announcement.
I couldn’t take it.
I was tired and irritated and we had an hour drive ahead of us. All I wanted to do was get my bags and get the hell out of there, go home and take a shower and sleep in my own damned bed.
And twenty ignorant, selfish, rude, obnoxious, inbred, loud, oblivious idiots were preventing that (Yes, yes, I could have just said Texans, it’s the same thing, sue me).
It pissed me off.
I put on my Chief Warrant Officer voice.
Pointing directly at the idiots, I yelled across the conveyor at the top of my lungs, “Hey! Step the hell back, right now! If you don’t step outside the yellow line, they will shut down the baggage conveyor and it’ll take all damned night to get our stuff. You people are screwing up the process for 400 other people, pull your heads out of your asses now.”
The Texans stared at me in shock.
They stepped back, one step maybe two.
But not far enough.
Obligingly, the airport baggage guy shut off the conveyor.
Appalled the Texans stepped back outside the line.
The baggage handler restarted the conveyor.
One of the ten gallon idiots, a woman, screamed at me, “How are we supposed to know?”
How are we supposed to know?
How. Are. We. Supposed. To. Know?
Try to guess what I said in response. Go on.
Yes, folks, I told her exactly how she was supposed to know. The signs. The announcement she had been ignoring for ten minutes. She looked away instead of meeting my pissed-off tirade. Her drugstore cowboy husband almost looked like he wanted to start something, instead he kept his mouth shut and looked for his luggage. Good choice on his part, actually. My son stood behind me and laughed out loud at him.
Hal, still standing next to me, brown teeth and all, indignantly piped up with, “We’re from Texas!”
“Yes,” I replied, “I recognized you from your description.”
Behind me a woman blurted out in offended superior tones, “Well! At least in Texas we’re not rude!”
“Excellent, why don’t you go back there right now?” I said.
“Rude? You want rude? There are two huge airliners off loading here. There are over 400 tired and angry people waiting to get their luggage and you idiots and your bullshit are interfering with that. That’s rude. Here being rude will earn you an ass kicking. So, welcome to Alaska, better get used to it.”
They shut up at that point.
My luggage dropped down the chute a moment later. The idiots got out of my way pretty damned fast and we headed out to the parking lot where a buddy of mine had left our truck earlier in the day (I should mention at this point that his wife is from Texas, and she’s one of my favorite people and she reads this blog, so, you know I guess not all Texans are idiots – and truthfully she’d have probably lit them up worse than me, knowing her).
Last I saw of them, they were standing quietly at the shuttle bus stop.
Seriously, I say we quit waiting for Texas to secede, I say we vote them off the island instead.
Who’s with me?