We all moan about airport security, body scans, little baggies for our “fluids” and how much time this adds onto the whole commute but really – that is not the worst thing about flying. There is something about getting on an aircraft that brings out those “Naked Ape” (1) instincts. First of all there is the gate. You get there extra early so you can be first in line when the gatekeeper comes on duty. While waiting for said gatekeeper you eye up any competition for the front of line and by subtle body movements make it clear that you were there first and will kill anyone who steps in front of you. After all the only thing you want to is get out of that dreaded middle seat. An upgrade wouldn’t be bad either if you can smile ingratiatingly to the girl or guy on the desk. Don’t bother however. Those days are long gone. You will likely only ever get an upgrade when you are about to be bumped, unless you happen to be a Premium 5 Diamond Gold Covered Elite super hero.
Then they do the pre-boarding. George Carlin summed it up well –
What does it mean to pre-board? Do you get on before you get on?
– George Carlin
Some airlines will board by row number from the back of the plane but that usually deteriorates into a scrum as everyone wants to get onto the plane first to grab that overhead bin. And how many times have you stood in the aisle while someone takes their coat off, folds it up, puts it in the bin, arranges their overnight bag in the bin, almost sits down and then remembers that they need their newspaper. Come on people – get organised.
Then we have to do the whole procedure in reverse. Despite the flight attendants requesting everyone to keep seat belts fastened while we taxi to the gate there is always some bright spark who chooses to ignore that. And holy cow when the announcement is made that you can use a cell phone you would think the whole plane was full of Very Important People as phones are whipped out of pockets, purses and briefcases.
And the Blackberries are in the lead followed closely by the iPhone. But wait, as they come round the corner a lone Android is closing the gap. Oh wait – a disaster – the Blackberries are down and the iPhones romp home.
By now everyone is standing up even though we are not even connected to the gate. I know, I know, I do it too. No point in denying it. It’s just that competitive instinct. I know I am in row 23 but damn I am going to get off this plane first if it kills me.
No wonder high speed trains are so popular in Europe.
(1) The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris – also a good read The Human Zoo by the same author.