The “Barrister of the Air”

I love traveling for all the obvious reasons and for the fact that it never disappoints in giving me something to write about. For example, as soon as I got on a plane bound for D.C. last month it only took 30 minutes for me to have a “there’s a blog” moment.

The plane we had recently boarded had yet to leave the tarmac due to a “maintenance issue.” Now, we knew about this issue before the boarding sequence began. When we got on the plane I assumed, I’m guessing along with the rest of the passengers, that whatever the problem was it had been taken care of.

As so often happens in my life, I was wrong. Once we had all been herded on the plane and buckled in there was an announcement that the aforementioned maintenance issue was still being worked on. Hence, there was going to be a “departure delay.”

This didn’t even elicit a sigh from me because if there’s one thing getting older teaches you it’s prepare for life’s inevitable holding patterns. This meant that I had two books with me that didn’t depend on any sort of battery and thus I could entertain myself for at least six hours. I also had a “sharing” size package of peanut M&M’s so I was good to go in the sustenance department for quite some time.

I settled in and started reading. After about 15 minutes of being on a plane that was still grounded some passengers began to grumble. The number one grip was, “Why didn’t the airline wait to put us on the plane until the problem was fixed?”

That’s a solid compliant. But, I’m going to assume that they wanted everyone in their seats so the plane could take off as soon as it was good to go without the inevitable time suck of the passenger loading dance and shoving my carry-on into the overhead bin waltz.

Twenty minutes into still being tarmac tethered things started getting more heated. This was led by one man who by this time I was calling the “Barrister of the Air.” He was very vocal and prided himself on knowing his passenger rights, primarily that he was “emphatically due a beverage.”

All I could think about was how would this guy act in a real crisis if he was losing his mind over not having drink service after less than 30 minutes on a plane. This made me ponder that perhaps this cry baby should not be seated in the emergency exit row. It’s obvious he couldn’t handle the pressure of opening the exit door or assisting in a plane evacuation. Besides, I’m sure he would refuse to open the door until he got at the very least a Sprite.

I desperately wanted to say something to this know it all because while he was obviously in love with the sound of his own voice no one else was. In fact, I can’t imagine any scenario where I would be appreciative of another human orating a series of opinions while sequestered in a steel tube. At the very least he should tweet his outrage and spare the rest of us his bluster.

But, I knew that me speaking up wouldn’t end well so I shoved peanut M&M’s in my mouth to keep quiet. Finally, we took off. I silently rejoiced. This was premature.

When we were 15 minutes into the flight the “Barrister of the Air” started up again. This time it was about his “inalienable rights to recline his seat.” The fool didn’t know the emergency exit row seat didn’t recline. I decided this time to not put a M&M in the mouth and with great joy shared this information with him.

It made my flight. 

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?