Saturday, November 13, 2010

Am I on a bus?

People behaving badly. I am on a Continental Airlines flight from Newark to San Francisco, lucky enough to be upgraded and sitting in First Class. Everyone was just boarding and filling up the bins. I watch as a sweaty late 40s white Continental male flight attendant (who calls himself a flight coordinator), “Rick,” from Houston runs around frantically trying to take drink orders, stow luggage for old people and restrict the flow of passenger traffic down the aisle.

The flight seems to have a bunch of New York suspects, claiming large amounts of space in the overhead bins, talking loudly on cell phones with aggressive accents, and making demands that the flight attendant store their belongings in the closet at the front of the plane.

And down the aisle comes Number 1, “Vinny,” a big bonehead of a white guy who is seated in front of me in Seat 2A. He tries to put all of his clothes in the overhead bin, including a massive garment bag. He’s tall, shaved scalp, and of course, reclines his seat as soon as he gets into it. He picks up his cell phone and starts screaming at somebody about their relationship that got all fucked up and there’s something somebody doesn’t know about him.

Number 2, “Steve,” a nebbishy Jewish-looking guy, gets on the plane and wants to put his things in the same overhead bin that Vinny used. Vinny gets agitated so Steve tells him he is going to take Vinny’s garment bag out and put his suitcase in, and then put Vinny’s bag back in. Steve adds his oversized suitcase to the bin and then shoves Vinny’s garment bag back into the overhead. Steve doesn’t want to sit in seat 1B quite yet, so he stands in the front of the plane blocking the aisle and proceeds to talk to Rick the flight coordinator, but Rick politely yet firmly tells him to step aside.

Then comes the fun part: “Gloria,” a Chinese-American woman in her 50s toddles over to seat 2B, behind Steve and next to Vinny. She begins by trying to pull out all of the things Steve and Vinny have shoved in the overhead bin above her seat to make room for her pink oversize suitcase and her leather coat. Rick, trying hard to ‘coordinate’ the flight, informs Gloria that there’s plenty of space in the bin above seats 4 A and B. Gloria is spinning around in front of her seat muttering to herself that she wants to put things above her and she’s not going to put things two rows behind her. That’s when “Denise,” the African-American gate agent with a hefty Jersey dip to her voice, gets on to finalize seating so the plane can depart on time.

It all goes something like this:

“Eunice” in Seat 4A, behind me – (to Gloria) Excuse me! Make sure you don’t put anything on my tennis racket up there.

Flight Coordinator Rick – It’s no problem. I’ve got space for her here. (To Gloria) there’s no room up there, ma’am.

Gloria – We need to move things around so I can put my bag up here. I don’t want it behind me because I might forget about it.

Flight Coordinator Rick – Don’t worry. I doubt you’ll forget about your suitcase when you’re getting off the plane in San Francisco.

Gate Agent Denise – (To Gloria) Excuse me, ma’am. We need to stow your belongings so the plane can depart the gate.

Gloria - [She starts spinning again in front of her seat]. (Shouting) I just had a medical procedure and I think I have the right to put my things above my seat! You cannot tell me where to put my stuff! I want to put it here above my seat.

Vinny (in the seat next to Gloria’s assigned seat) – (To Gloria) I understand. But I got on here first and I put my stuff up there.

Gate Agent Denise - Ma’am you really need to stow your bag so we can go.

Gloria – (Shouting). You cannot tell me what to do. I will forget my bag back there!

Steve gets out of his seat (1B) to look at the bins and to confirm Gloria hasn’t shifted his suitcase either.

Joey (me) – [Starts laughing out loud and then silences self]. (Quietly to neighbor in Seat 3B) Oy vey. It’s just like commuting to work on the bus.

My neighbor in Seat 3B: Oh, is this your regular commute between New York and San Francisco?

Joey (me) – Oh, no. I’m just saying that with the crazy screaming lady [who can hear every word I’m saying], it's like being on the bus for my commute in San Francisco.

Flight Coordinator Rick assists Gloria with her bag and puts it in the overhead bin above Row 4. Gloria follows him to make sure it is really there, two rows behind her seat.

– (To Rick) How am I going to remember it’s there?

Eunice in Seat 4A – (Shouts out). I’ll remind you!!

Man next to her in Seat 4B – I’ll remind you, too!!

Woman across aisle – I’ll remind you, too!

Neighbor in Seat 3B - I think everyone is going to remind you!!

[Laughter from the other passengers.]

I’m hoping they will just drag Gloria off the plane and this incident can end up on the local Newark News at 6 pm.

Gloria - [Says something unintelligible, but recognizing she’s in a losing battle]. I had a medical procedure! I had a medical procedure!!

* * *

Everyone returns to their pre-flight cocktails and fumbles with their DirecTV channels, none of which are working (and none of which work throughout the entirety of the flight).
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