I used to think that Southwest Airlines’ nonsensical policy of not assigning seats brought out the best in most people. You had to talk to one another to find out which number you were in line (A# or B#) and very occasionally this would lead to more interesting, friendly conversations and light humor. Once you got on the plane, you then had to choose your seat mates. Inevitably, this brings out both your own prejudices as well as your irrational belief in the goodness of humanity, your naive hopefulness that this time, it will be different.
You look around the plane, searching for the perfect seat partner. Will that guy smell? Is the old lady gonna be a talker? Is that Marine gonna sit with his legs splayed open wide and not give you any leg room? So you end up picking a seat based partially on your own assumptions about what strangers may be like, and partly based on how long your layover is and how quickly you need to run off the plane.
And thus, I found myself in the middle seat on my first flight home from my work conference, wedged in between two large-ish people who were mercifully quiet after I stood in the aisle holding up traffic for five minutes, begging someone to make room in the overhead bin for my bag. “I have an extremely short layover. Can someone please move their bag?” I asked, mostly nicely.
Everybody pretended not to hear me the first three times I asked if someone could please for the love of god move their shit under their seat. I explained again, this time in a panicked voice and a look of annoyance on my face, that I had a really short layover. No one seemed especially sympathetic, so I decided to hold my ground. I was prepared to stand there blocking traffic until a flight attendant threatened to kick me off the plane, but thankfully someone with a common sense attitude and a good reader of character volunteered a spot in the bin above his seat a few rows back from the middle seat I’d chosen near the front of the plane. I say he was a good judge of character because he clearly realized before anyone else that I was willing to hold up dozens of people in the name of justice, and really you shouldn’t fuck with a person like that, especially if she’s trying to get home for her wedding.
I forgot to mention the people who refused to get in the B line before boarding the plane and then cut in front of everyone. I’ve noticed that very old people – usually women – tend to do this more than other people. One day I’m gonna shove one of those bitches to the ground. You don’t get to be a jerk just because you’ve survived a bunch of recessions, Florida, and tour buses.
So now I’m on this ancient plane that does not have an appropriate amount of overhead bin space in proportion to the amount of people it can hold, trying to get over my irritation with humankind and hoping that through sheer force of mental power that my connecting flight will be delayed by an hour so I can get home in time to make my bridal manicure appointment. Yes, that is a thing.
Two hours later: I was able to sprint to the gate of my connecting flight, which was miraculously being held for stragglers like me. It was also being held for a couple with a very small child and they all needed to sit together. Obviously. Thus, the captain pleaded with the entire airplane for 5-7 minutes, begging people to rearrange their expectations and make room for a dependent toddler and her doting parents. Eventually a few people begrudgingly played musical chairs, as this flight was already delayed and the pilot was pulling a Me, making it very clear that we weren’t getting off the ground until somebody did the right thing.
Thankfully, like the man on my previous flight, a few people eventually concluded that the pilot wasn’t bluffing, and that the only way to get the plane up in the air was to make room for other people and gave up their seats. You just know that baby is gonna cry the whole time and poop in the aisle. But. We got off the ground! I was going to get home in time for my appointment and the baby situation was all good.
Usually I love everything about flying, but if Southwest doesn’t bring out the worst in people, I’m not sure what does. Weddings, maybe?