During a recent flight from Las Vegas, I chanced across the epitome of what, over time, I’ve started calling “the Entitled Traveler”. You know who I mean – that guy (and, I am sad to say, they are almost always guys) who has spent his entire business career on a plane. Mind you, not enough miles to get the big perks – the automatic upgrades, the free flights to anywhere he wants to go - but, enough that he gets a little something extra every once in a while and so has begun to feel that everything should go his way – or there will be hell to pay.
This story starts quite strangely. For some unknown reason, the airline decided to board the flight early. They didn’t leave early…but, because of whatever whim had stirred them (maybe the flight attendants were feeling a little puckish, maybe the pilot suggested messing with the travelers’ minds, maybe someone just read their watch wrong), they started boarding at 5:15 – ten minutes before the schedule boarding time of 5:25.
Not a big deal. I had already used the handy slot machines (conveniently placed within three steps of each gate) to pay my Nevada state taxes, so I was just patiently reading and waiting. I noted the early announcement and joined the line for the cattle call.
A note about the way I travel: unless I have a very small bag, I will always check my luggage. Yes, I know I’m a sucker, I know I could squeeze it in the overhead, I know it winds up taking me longer. But I refuse to be one of “those” flyers. You know the kind, the ones who squeeze a bag the size of Baltimore in the overhead bin and just can’t figure out 1) why it won’t fit and 2) why everyone else is less than pleased when their own bags come out looking like peanut butter after the elephant parade. Which meant that, for this flight, my only carry on was my computer bag. I took out the books I wished to read, sat down, and placed my computer bag under the seat in front of me.
In your mind, picture the swiftly spinning hands of a wristwatch as fifteen minutes pass. Now, the hands slow down to real time and, at this point, my row-mate – occupier of the center seat – came on board. While it is hard to “storm” up an aisle when it is blocked with other travelers who (contrary to what he may have thought to be true) have as much right to be there as anyone else, he stormed up the aisle ranting, raving, and reviling because, since the plane had boarded early, he had missed the opportunity to be first in placing both (yes – two) of his carry-ons in the overhead exactly as he wanted. He moved other people’s bags, he shoehorned his in, he vented to all around how he couldn’t believe they had boarded early, and he crammed his two (one of which was a computer bag that would fit under the seat) bags in the overhead of a very full plane.
Ah, to be so entitled.
He then called what I assume was his wife to do two things – one of which doesn’t matter because the primary focus of the call was to complain even more. He loudly shared with her his travails: They had not upgraded him (full flight from Vegas – unless you know Steve Wynn, it is unlikely), there was no way he was going to pay that much for a drink (I was not sure if I wanted him drunk or sober – neither was going to appeal to me, I could tell), the employees had been snarky to him (I was preparing to climb on the snark-train myself.)
Of course they had to remind him to turn off his cell phone. Of course they had to tell him to pay attention to the exit instructions. Of course the first part of the mercifully short 45-minute flight was spent complaining to the person sitting at the window. (Reason #63 to read on a plane – sometimes it keeps you from having to talk to the people you have the least desire to speak with.)
Look, I get just as frustrated as anyone about flying.
But I have a slight different theory than the Entitled Traveler seems to have about all this. If you do not have fun flying, then quit flying – find another way to get where you need to go, get another job, whatever – but quit flying. Maybe I’m just old (shut up out there), but I am still enthralled with the idea that we can get from one spot on the globe to another in such an amazing way. So, even if I’m running late or there are problems with the flight or the flight attendants are jerks or the guy in the seat next to me is a jerk, I try to sit back and remember just how much fun air travel really is.
You can complain at or to or about the airlines all you want – but it isn’t going to make an oxygen molecule’s worth of difference. So, you may as well go in with an attitude that the overhead bins might be full or you might have to put something under the seat in front of you or you might have to (horrors!) check a bag.
Travel is part of what many of us do. And we have our own choice whether we want to curse the climate-controlled darkness (what's gone wrong the reading light this time) or accept it and continue to marvel that we can do this at all.