The Yuck Factor of Flying is Getting Worse

When did we become a society devoid of being cognizant of our surroundings? And what has happened in the past decade to give people the mistaken belief that they possess a super power and are cloaked in a shroud of invisibility?

Nothing brings out these let’s call them personality foibles like sitting at the Southwest gate at the airport. Oh yes, you’re right I’m going to go off on airports – again. Sorry not sorry because the issues I’m about to delve into need to be discussed so corrective behavior can begin.

Let’s tackle the whole being cognizant of your surroundings first because this seems to be getting worse at such an alarming rate I fear I’m going to become some sort of rogue airport manners sheriff and end up in an altercation that might lead to me being arrested.

Lest you think I’m being overly dramatic I’ll give you a brief synopsis of what I saw earlier this month while seated in the gate area of three different airports. Behold the woman who took what looked to be every article of clothing out of her suitcase, laid these clothes out on the less than hygienic airport carpet and then began to use a battery operated sweater shaver on her clothes up to and including a bra.

For those of you blissfully unaware of what a sweater shaver is let me share that it defuzzes your clothes. I’m on team sweater shaver. I have one and love it. What I’m not on is team sweater shaver at the airport.

Besides the yuck factor of having your clothes mating with the floor of the Southwest gate area there’s the inappropriate nature of doing personal laundry care in a public venue.

While this was unsettling it had nothing on the woman gleefully plucking her companion’s ear hairs while seated at a restaurant inside LAX or another woman pumicing her heels because nothing says, “I value public health” like jettisoning your hoof detritus into the atmosphere.

Because I’m now a little nauseous let’s move on to the truly disturbed masses that believe they’re invisible thus enabling them to Facetime their loved ones, a doctor, co-workers and perhaps even a telemarketer while waiting for their plane.

I know the whole talking on speakerphone in an airport is nothing new but this assault on the ears on the traveling public has reached an epidemic.

What must have happened to someone to make them believe that putting their phone on speaker and shouting into while corralled in a public space is okay? My theory is these speaker shouters are narcissists.

This behavior fits the classic narcissist profile where the person has an expectation of special treatment and an insatiable appetite to be the center of attention. There’s nothing that says “look at me” like having a “yellversation” on speakerphone at Gate 35 at KCI.

You know how some people have a travel bucket list? Well I also have one and it’s not to walk the Great Wall of China or to scale Everest (hard pass). On my bucket list is to start telling people to rein in their desire to do laundry remediation, eradicate wayward hair follicles and purge their foot funk while at the airport.

I also would love, really love, to tell the speaker phone aficionados to turn down their phone volume and comport themselves in a manner that doesn’t scream, “I might need counseling.”

I’ve never seen the Great Wall but I’m thinking to be able to be the “Manners Sheriff” at the airport just might top that experience.

Welcome to JFF – Jerk Free Flying

I’ve got a good story to tell you. It’s kind of one of those tales from the “olden days.” But that makes me sound like I’m working a Little House on the Prairie vibe and who wants that?  So, I’m going to call it a throw back. Oh yeah, saying throwback is sooo much better. I may even be feeling kind of hip.

Now before I begin my throwback I must warn that what I’m about to share may shock and even frighten you. Perhaps making you question everything you thought you knew about the world, especially if you were born after 1979.

Ready because I’m about to blow your mind? Here goes, people,  as in bipedal mammals, scientifically referred to as Homo sapiens, used to dress up, as in donning one step below evening wear to board a plane.

Are you still with me? I know that was a lot to take in. If you’re feeling faint there’s no shame in sitting down and doing a couple of cleansing exhales.

Better now? I hope so because I want you to join me on a journey back to 1972. Mark Spitz was swimming up a storm to Olympic Gold Medal glory, Watergate was getting juicy, the hand-held calculator had been invented and my mother was having a nervous breakdown.

The stress from the extensive clothing and grooming required for her family of six to fly on a 747 Boeing Jumbo Jet was this close to stroking her out.

There were haircuts for everyone, new outfits were purchased, shoes were shined, clothes were starched and lectures on good manners were given repeatedly (along with threats if those good manners weren’t used). My mother’s favorite refrain during the pre-airline boarding time was, “I want all of you to act like you’re about to be at Buckingham Palace taking tea with the Queen of England.”

When my eldest brother (bravely I thought) asked, “Why the Queen of England and not the President?”

My mother pursed his lips and hissed, “Because no one wants to take tea with Richard Nixon.”

Being the youngest I could care less who I took tea with all I wanted to do was admire myself in my smashing new sailor dress with nautical navy and white stripes, a jaunty collar with embroidered anchors accessorized with a red hair bow and patent leather Mary Jane shoes that I had polished with Vaseline (Don’t ask why. It was a thing.) I was the epitome of 70’s styling.

In fact, my whole family was fancy. My brothers had on seersucker suits and my dad was working a bow tie. My mom’s look could best be described as aging Texas debutante the maternal years. She even had on white gloves.

When we boarded the plane there were 400 more passengers dressed exactly like use. Looking back it was as if the entire cast of Mad Men had been on the jet. There wasn’t a speck of denim  or a  tennis shoe in sight. Air travel was something “you didn’t disrespect with common clothes or common behavior.” (Again, words from my mother.)

I never would have imagined all those years ago that in the future flying would have soared right by common and taken a sharp, whiplash inducing detour to ugly, really, really, ugly. With the beat downs, drag offs, baby strollers being brandished as WMD’s and all the other assorted melees we might as well attach wings to an outlaw biker bar.

I feel like something has to be done. Being worried about terrorism when you fly is stressful enough. We shouldn’t have to live in fear about a crazed flight attendant or a passenger “that’s not afraid to mix it up.”

This is why I feel we need to kick it old school and in homage to my mother (and all the cotillion and etiquette classes I was forced to attend) establish a mandatory manners class for anyone who steps on a plane – pilots, flight attendants and passengers. I’m thinking if you’re going to be fastening a seat belt and putting your tray table in an upright position you’re taking this class. We could call it Air Etiquette or something more to the point like Jerk Free Flying. Hmm, I like that and the acronym is snazzy – JFF.

JFF would be offered in two separate classes – one for airline staff and one for passengers. The airport staff class would be taught by kindergarten teachers. Is there anyone better and more qualified to teach a class on crowd control, using your inside voice, sharing is caring, playing well with others, getting the best out of an uncooperative, hyper humans and turning around a tantrum?

Heck no.

I daresay if some flight attendants had the happy, persuasive, demeanor of your kid’s kindergarten teacher a lot of the recent incidents would have never happened, been nipped in the bud or solved with a cookie. Included in the airport staff class would be a lecture on “Your Word Is Your Bond.” Any staff that has problems understanding that concept would be forced to watch special episodes of Barney where the purple dinosaur explains and sings about such fundamental moral issues.

As for that passenger JFF class it needs three areas of focus. 1) You’re not that fascinating or special so please follow the rules of the airline and common decency. 2) Silence is golden especially at 50,000 feet. 3) And although your seat can go back does it really have to go all the way back?

An exam would also be given to test passenger’s spatial relationships skills. For example, you have a “carry on” the size of a baby hippo. The overhead bin has room for a something the size of a Chihuahua. How do you think you’re going to stuff your hippo into the bin?

A) By recklessly taking out other items already in the bin because your stuff is more important.

B) By repeatedly jamming your hippo in the bin and not caring if the bin doors won’t shut because that’s not your problem

C) Throwing a hissy fit because there’s not enough bin space for your hippo?

D) None of the above because you’re not crazy

If you answered anything besides D you’re not allowed to board a commercial aircraft – ever.

Just imagine a plane full of passengers who have graduated with honors from the Jerk Free Flying School and airline employees who radiate sunshine and have the problem solving skills of the very best kindergarten teachers. Can you say hello to fabulous?

Sure, there would still be fools who would think Family Guy fleece pajama bottoms are suitable day wear for boarding a plane. Plus, I don’t think there’s anything we can do about folks wearing flip-flops with toe nails so long they’re curling under the rubber sole, but at least they wouldn’t recline their seat all the way back.

I call that a win. So come on let’s do this! Who’s with me on starting the Jerk Free Flying School?





All I Really Need to Know I Learned From the Airport

2012-11-15-20121115Travel_Infographic_Travel_Then_and_Now_FriendlyPlanetTravel-thumbIf you want to learn important life lessons all you need to do is spend some time at any airport. Consider it a course in Reality 101 where your classroom is the Southwest Terminal and your teachers are the educational stew known as your fellow travelers.

The first thing you’ll discover is that following directions is important and vital to your existence. You’ll also learn that a majority of the population can’t process information very well or as my son’s kindergarten teacher used to say, “everyone isn’t using their listening ears.”

I mean, come on, how many times do you have to be told to have your I.D. and boarding pass out to go through security? These instructions are not only on a continuous audio loop, but are on signage throughout the airport. Yet people are still stumped by this instruction and flustered to find out they have to dig out their I.D. to pass through stage one of the TSA experience.

Once that hurdle is successfully completed you learn the underrated, yet oh so very important, life skill that sometimes you are not an individual. You’re part of a herd. Most of us were raised to think we’re special, unique and one-of-kind. That’s all good until you do the death march known as putting your crap on the TSA conveyor belt. This is when you must do what everyone else is doing.

Don’t think you’re too important or too much of a free spirit to not follow the rules. Yes, you must remove your bulky sweater. No one cares that it was crocheted by Bakhankala tribal women and you consider it a hand loomed work of art that is much too precious to be shoved in an off brand Tupperware bin for a non stop ride through X-ray island.

All this “I’m special” behavior will accomplish is a disruption in the herd. Primarily because you will be slowing down the herd. Do not make the herd angry. Especially any herd member carrying a brief case and clutching a phone like it’s a primary source of oxygen.

Once you’ve finally cleared the security gauntlet and made it to your gate you will take a pass or fail test on patience (especially if you’re flying on American Airlines) because there’s always a chance your flight is delayed. You can either throw a fit or suck it up.

A person’s reaction to a time change in their itinerary is like an audible I.Q. test. If someone goes ballistic you know they’re an idiot with impulse control issues. Because if a flight is delayed screaming at a gate agent is going to be an act of supreme futility. They’re powerless. It’s like yelling at your television set because the your hometown baseball team is down in the bottom of the ninth inning. Your TV can’t control the outcome of the game and the airline employee at the counter can’t make the plane fly faster.

Your only choice is to accept that you’re trapped in the gate area that should more accurately be called a holding pen for humanity.  Don’t worry about being bored. This is when you settle in and observe the peculiar and sometimes disgusting behavioral characteristics of your fellow homo sapiens. Consider it an anthropology course and take notes under the heading – “Never Ever Do This.”

At the top of the syllabus is grooming in public. Here’s a quick pop quiz. Is trimming your fingernails acceptable behavior outside the confines of a bathroom? If you answered no give yourself a high-five because you’re smarter than three people waiting for the Frontier Airlines Flight to Phoenix.

Nail clippers are the ninjas of grooming implements. They should never be seen. Ditto for your nail remains. Why anyone would think it’s sanitary to prune themselves in public and then let their leavings jettison into the atmosphere for all to experience is beyond me.

I get it. Some folks, who pride themselves on multi-tasking, may be thinking, “Well I’ve already got my shoes off to go through security why not just take out my TSA approved nail clippers and trim that hangnail on my big toe.”

To these individuals may I suggest another mode of transportation that doesn’t require you to commingle with other mammals?

Alas, at least these creatures are using tools to trim their hooves. Prepare to avert your eyes as a man in a $1,000 suit uses his mouth to attack a cuticle and then spits it out all while taking part in a conference call on speakerphone. I hope you’re writing this down because it will be on the final exam – no one wants to hear your phone conservation.

I don’t care how fascinating you think you are being subjected to another person’s phone conversation is an auditory assault. For sure, I’ve make cell phone calls at the airport, but I, using the gift of sight, realize that I’m surrounded by other mortals and therefore talk in a moderate tone.

I don’t know why, but have you noticed that the people with their ears hermetically sealed to their phones at airports all seem to project their voices like they’re in a one act play? Forget Broadway if you want to see showmanship go to gate 34 at JFK on a Monday.

Let’s now move on to a life skills multiple-choice test. If a grown woman who is ambulatory, in seemingly good health, and is wearing fleece pajamas pants to the airport that are so long they’re getting stuck in her Crocs sandal she is:

A) Suffering from a crippling addiction to polyester fleece and rubber shoes

B) Just woke up from a slumber party at the airport

C) Given up on life

D) All of the Above.

If you answered D congratulations. Yes, all of the above are correct. Any healthy person over the age of 10 who can not sufficiently groom themselves, and by that I mean getting out of the p.j.’s when leaving their home, is indeed suffering from chronic life self-esteem issues and is in dire need of a fleece intervention which in my book takes precedent over a 12 Step Program for Crocs addicts.

Your airport class is now over. I urge you sign up for the “Boarding Your Plane” lecture. Don’t worry it’s not that hard. Everything you just learned has laid the foundation for success in this course of study.

The class will feature a shock and awe portion where you can behold people who can’t grasp the concept of how to properly line up to board a plane. Plus you can learn exciting aviation math. Here’s an equation for you.  A suitcase that can hold two months of clothes = not fitting in the overhead compartment no matter how hard a person attempts to cram it in there.

Air travel – where the learning never ends.

*Attencover_1.3-2tion Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂



I Hate People

God, I hate people.  There’s nothing like a couple of weeks on the road to solidify my raging dislike of a hefty portion of the human race. People are beyond annoying and I eagerly lump my family into this category. (The annoying part, of course, not the hate.) Brace yourself, because I’m going to share my vacation travelogue with you. This is a true and brutally accurate account of my recent journey.  If you want the pretty and polite version you’ll need to go to my husband’s Facebook page where he has posted  pictures of happy, smiling children cuddled up to gorgeous vistas that scream, “This is in the running for my 2011 Christmas card.”  What I’m about to tell you wouldn’t make the FB cut.  It’s too honest and we all know that Facebook has no room for factual data about your family.

Step 1: Getting to Our Destination.

Give me your tired, your poor, 

Your huddled masses yearning to wear flannel pajama pants. 

The wretched rejects of Jersey Shore. 

Send these, the tasteless, house-shoe wearing losers to me, 

I lift my Southwest boarding pass to thee!”  (apologies to Emma Lazarus)

Is this inscribed at the entrance to every airport in America? Because there seems to be a call, nay, a battle cry for people to treat air travel like they’re going to a slumber party at a Chuck E Cheese in foreclosure. Yes, yes, I know I’ve expressed my concern before about adults wearing their p.j.’s out in public and many of you scolded me for not giving in to the exquisite comfort of traveling in Homer Simpson themed pajamas.  I know I embrace the fashion statement of Target track pants (aka day pajama’s) but I would not venture beyond the city limits in my 100% polyester with dry weave technology athletic wear.  Furthermore I would not wear house-shoes, slippers or whatever you want to call them beyond the perimeter of my yard.  Lastly, I would not accessorize this tragic ensemble by clutching a king size pillow like it was a life-preserver on the Titanic post iceberg.

What’s up with these pillow folk?  They drag their pillows everywhere with them and worst of all they lay them down on airport terminal chairs, on their luggage, in the public restroom stalls and on the TSA conveyor belt where their pillow can get a rolling massage by the bacteria of travelers past.  Do these deranged and obviously non-antibacterial hand gel people not realize that these pillows they tote with them are in scientific terms mobile feces collectors? Their beloved pillow is the airport Swiffer. The fiberfilled lumps they lug and hug are filled with every filth known to man because there is not much out there that is more hygienically foul than airport terminals and planes. Every time they fondle their pillow they’re releasing a disease cloud into the atmosphere. Really, they might as well french kiss the bottom of their house-shoe and then lick the underside of their airline seat tray table.

Okay, I need to stop here because this is where it’s important to note that I started my journey to Fibville, Liarsburg, Dishonesty Lane, whatever you want to call it, I just started being untruthful and this campaign of earnest storytelling and exaggeration lasted my entire vacation.  In the “It’s never my fault” defense my plane was delayed and I had to resort to entertaining myself by observing the travel rituals of my fellow passengers who were milling around Gate 26.  I was notably distressed by a family of pillow lovers who were decked out at 2:30 in the afternoon in p.j’s, t-shirts and slippers for a two-hour flight.  They were a family of three kids – all over the age of 9 and a mother who could put on a liberal amount of makeup (think smokey eye with extra eyeliner) and jewelry, but apparently couldn’t extend the extra effort to get out of her pajama’s before heading to the airport. Yes, once again I know the nurturing qualities of an elastic waistband, how it snuggles into your stomach’s fat roll and gently embraces it.  If it could talk it would be saying, “Go ahead and eat some more honey there’s still room.” I  also understand that jeans can be uncomfortable, but wasn’t there a Chico’s, the women’s elastic waistband superstore, in her neighborhood or how about some yoga pants?

I had no choice but to engage the mother of this pillow brethren in a conversation.  I started off by asking her if they were about to embark on a lengthy day of travel.  I would cut her some slack if her family were on the first leg of a what would be a 24 hour flight to, I don’t know, Cambodia, or something. Maybe, just maybe I could excuse their sleep-wear attire and bedding accessories. But no, they were simply traveling 2 hours to Grandma’s house.  I then inquired about their p.j.’s and pillows.  “So cute,” I exclaimed, “How your family is all ready for bed.”  P.J. mom laughed and said, “Oh my gosh, we just live in our pajamas!  I have more pajama bottoms than regular pants, I think.”  We both chuckle and then I begin my crusade of lying when I ask about the pillows. “So,” I say, “Pardon my curiosity but why does your family travel with their bed pillows?”  She pauses for a moment like I’ve really asked her a Double Jeopardy brain teaser and then replies, “I don’t know exactly.  We just like our pillows, I guess.”

Wait for it, wait for it, here it comes the big fat lie. “Well,” I say, “I don’t mean to scare you or involve myself in your lifestyle, but I am a microbiologist specializing in 21st century bacteria at the Center for Disease Control and I’d like to ask you a few questions, if you don’t mind, about those pillows.”  “Um, sure I guess it’s okay,” she says.  “That’s great, thank you for your time,” I say in the most intellectual voice I could muster. I was going for a sexy doctor voice, but I don’t know if I really pulled it off.  “Now, do you find that you or your children become sick during or after you travel?”  This question gets her all excited, “Why yes, yes we do. Usually, at least one of us comes down with something”, she eagerly replies.  “Now, during your travels how many times will you wash each pillow case?”  Once again, I’ve stumped her.  “Um, wow, I guess not until we get home.”  After hearing this response I slide as far away from her and the pillow she is holding in her lap as I can and still remain in my chair and say in now a stern, sexy doctor voice, “That’s a problem madame.” (I thought the madame was a nice touch.) “Why?” she asks while stroking her pillow.  “Well, that pillow you are petting is currently carrying at least 156 diseases.  You are caressing the equivalent of a port-a-potty toilet bowl at day 3 of a 4 day outdoor rock concert and I’m not talking about the lid.  I mean the seat and all it has to offer.” I was on a roll and for the life of me I couldn’t shut up. I swear I tried, but on I went.  “Also, the flannel in the pajama’s pants you and your children are wearing are proven germ collectors. It’s very complicated to explain to someone not in my field of research, but it’s something about the flannel and it’s fiber connectivity.  Your family is the equivalent of a germ strip.  Everywhere you go the flannel seeks out and absorbs bacteria.  Flannel is the toilet paper that wipes the backside of humanity.”  I don’t mean to brag, but Lord I thought that sounded not just “sciencey”, but also somehow very poetic. P.J. mom shrieks, and asks, “My God, what should I do?”  “Now, calm down. There is no need for panic. Let’s get rid of those nasty pillows first.  Just stack them up and leave them by a waste receptacle. (Once again I was trying to sound all smarty pants.)  It’s too bad, there’s nothing you can do about the pajamas.  But, I strongly suggest the next time you walk into an airport you wear something besides attire meant for the privacy of your home.”  She thanks me and jumps up to collect up her kids pillows.  I get up to stretch my legs and bask in the knowledge that I have saved a family from not just the dreaded pillow disease, but from the egregious fate of wearing pajamas in public.  Yeah, I lied and schemed and misrepresented myself, but I did all for you – the traveling public.  No worries, your gratitude and continuing good health are all the thanks I need as I continue to sacrifice the truth in the name of science.

Snark Week continues – Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of I Hate People – A Travelogue of  a Snarky Vacation.  Also stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.