I have this terrible habit of assuming that most people are generally good, contributing members of society, and not bat-shit barely-functioning assholes. Every now and then we may deviate from this norm (I once woke up angry with Rand because he’d done something to piss me off in a dream) but for the most part we adhere to a social contract that requires us to at least pretend that we’re simply scratching our nose when we are actually digging around for boogers.
And while I have seen all manner of weird things while on the road, I can safely say that nothing compares to what I saw on the Southwest flight that Rand and I took from Albuquerque to San Diego.
Generally, I don’t fly Southwest because I don’t hate myself. I fly Alaska Airlines, and the delta (ha!) between the two airlines is the same one that exists between Donald Trump and Obama: on some level, these two things are fundamentally the same (men who have held the office of president; commercial airlines) – but seriously, fuck no. No way. These things are not the same. One will get you where you need to go and the other is probably going to get us all killed OH GOD HOW DID THIS HAPPEN.
Anyway, Alaska’s big flaw is that they don’t really operate anywhere but the Pacific Northwest. Outside of the west coast, everyone assumes flying Alaska Air means you are from Alaska. They inevitably start asking questions, and I’m too embarrassed to admit I’m from Seattle so I just say things like “YES PENGUIN MEAT IS DELICIOUS”.
For those of you who are itching to point out that there are no penguins in Alaska: that is not the biggest problem you should have with that sentence.
Southwest does not have assigned seating. I mean, I’ve been to movie theaters that have assigned seating. It the cornerstone of any functioning society. It is what separates us from the Italians. Remove it, and people start strangling one another for free t-shirts. I’ve seen it.
Instead, Southwest is a fucking free-for-all. First come, first served. And that is where I think the root of all appalling behavior on Southwest flights originates.
Rand paid extra to have us board in an early group, because Southwest isn’t going to let its running-of-the-bulls-but-with-children-and-old-people-and-carry-ons seating structure stop them from having a social hierarchy.
I should note that the crew was actually lovely. But they are still part of this evil empire so I blame them, too. Sometimes the devil brings you ginger ale.
We boarded, and the crew announced that there was plenty of room on this flight, which meant that everyone became Gollum, screaming “MY PRECIOUS” while lying across an entire row. I’ve seen this tactic before.
Other people go the more passive aggressive route: they wear paper masks over their faces, despite showing no discernible signs of illness, to frighten away hypochondriacs.
Or they just act like assholes, which seemed to be the school of thought that most of the people on this flight adhered to.
We boarded, and as Rand was graciously putting my carry-on in the overhead, I guess he took a second too long to do it, because some woman passed him and said haughtily, “Uh, they check bags for free.”
OH SHIT, REALLY, LADY? THEY DO? Sorry I’m not fucking up to speed on Southwest’s amenities, but since they can’t even get seating right DO YOU REALLY THINK I’M GOING TO CHECK MY BAG SO THEY CAN SEND IT TO A DUMPSTER ON WHICH SOMEONE HAS HASTILY SPRAY-PAINTED THE LETTERS “SFO”?
I wanted to hurl myself at her like a cat thrown from a car. Instead, I restrained myself. For that, I deserved a cookie, which, like social contracts, is something else that Southwest does not have.
The problem with Rand is that when there is a fight for limited resources he is not strategic at all. He will absolutely not push over an octogenarian for a free sandwich, and that is why he will never get ahead in life or on a Southwest flight.
(Sorry. I don’t actually believe this. It’s the airline talking.)
Rand pointed to aisle and middle seat that were free, but taking a middle seat on a non-full Southwest Airlines flight is basically asking to get shivved.
By the time I realized that wasn’t going to work, the nearest seat available to me was an aisle seat a few rows back. There was a woman already in this row, seated by the window. She’d pulled the tray table for the middle seat down – a subtle way of saying “back the fuck up” – and glared at me as I sat down. Over the course of the flight, she proceeded to eat numerous hard-boiled eggs with her bare fingers. I hate her.
Opposite me was seated the asshole in headphones pictured above.
I call him an asshole because when another another passenger asked if they could take the window seat, this guy yelled, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? THE ENTIRE PLANE IS EMPTY.” He then refused to move, but the other passenger just stood there, calmly waiting, and finally the guy stood up, visibly pissed, and let him take the window. He then mumbled a bunch of unrepeatable things under his breath.
And while I think there is a special circle of hell for all of these people, it does not compare to the gentleman who was seated across the aisle from me and one row back.
His actions made me question whether or not I was hallucinating. I thought my club soda had been drugged.
Roughly halfway through the flight, I heard a metallic clicking sound.
I furrowed my brow. I knew that sound. But … no. No way. I turned, trying to identify the source.
And then I found it.
HE WAS CLIPPING HIS FINGERNAILS. I kid you not. They were flying everywhere like some unholy confetti. There is never a time in which that many pieces of genetic material should be airborne.
There are so many questions that I wanted to ask him.
What is wrong with you?
Are you actually an alien who is pretending to be human, and failing in the endeavor?
Why didn’t you do this in the bathroom? OR AT HOME?
You’re going to pick that shit up when you’re done, right?
What is wrong with you?
Is this your first time on a plane? And around other humans?
No, seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you?
Alas, only one of these was answered. When he was done, HE. SWEPT. HIS. FINGERNAILS. ON. TO. THE. GROUND.
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DO NOT HAVE ASSIGNED SEATING. Everyone has an “it’s me or them” mentality that extends to the entire flight. *I* want to sit here. *I* want to be an asshole. *I* do not give a fuck that other people exist.
I stared, disbelieving. I looked around, to see if anyone else was appalled. Rand was asleep and rows ahead. Asshole dude was watching some video, oblivious to his surroundings. Hard-boiled egg woman was … holy shit, where did she get more eggs?
No. I was the only one who witnessed it. On Southwest, no one can hear you scream.