Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Assholes and Elbows

"His Majesty was his usual pigheaded, recalcitrant self and I think the surly bastard was drunk." Michael Collins, Carrying The Fire, (Cooper Square Press, 1974).

One knows the type immediately.

The guy stood in front of his exit row seat, back to oncoming traffic. Talking loudly into his earpiece about something that must be so very important, his five-tenish carried two-hundred-plus mostly in his shoulders. Well-coifed, booth-tanned.... Oblivious to the smaller inconveniences of life, which surely involves the rest of us boarding his aircraft. His tablet is sitting on my seat. He seems...miffed...when I bring this to his attention. With a sniff he tosses it onto his own seat and continues yacking while swaying ever so to and fro. Hmm, had a few at the sky lounge, did we?

"What gate are we coming into?" He directs his question to a nearby flight attendant without a hint of please. She doesn't know. That, of course, is unsat. "What time do we land?"

Really? There have to be a dozen web sites that supply those answers. However, the importance of his phone conversation doesn't allow him to seek them himself. VIAs do not look up information. Oh, our published time of arrival is on your ticket.

When he finally sits down we have an immediate problem - that is, both of us cannot share my seat. Now granted, according to SeatGuru, 22B and 22C are narrower than the other economy seats aboard this pristine Airbus A321-200. He's a big guy, and there is going to be some jockeying. Eventually we settle on a sort of truce - one of us has to lean forward, and he cants his laptop.

Air travel is predictable, mostly. Eventually, reduced thrust in the engines and a slight nose-down angle of attack signals descent and landing. Laptops get put away, tray tables in the upright and locked position.... Why is this a mystery? Yet Mr. 22C is still working on some kind of chart or graph. Forced to slug his scotch and soda (wimp) and prepare for landing, he barks at the FA that he is "self-sufficient" and can do it himself.

He is, apparently, still four years old.

The FA, a pleasant middle-aged woman with teased, bleach-blonde hair and fluorescent purple lipstick, is a pro. She deflects his comments, ignoring the harsher ones, and engages him in light conversation. He allows as how he flies more often than she (she actually giggles at that) and grumbles that it doesn't get him the first class bump that it used to. Other airlines are better about it, and Emirates has business class seats that actually recline and anyway he flies a lot and it's better than staying home (I assume his wife agrees). The subject turns to his eventual destination - Las Vegas. She discusses winning and losing, they agree on recreational gambling strategies and, thankfully, he gets off in Charlotte.

I can't help but be impressed, and say so. Our jobs are a lot alike, I tell her. We encounter vile people, employ proven people-manipulation skills and get our jobs done with minimal fuss. She is good.

I order a gin and tonic when she arrives with the drink cart. I receive a double, she tells me to put my money away.... I return to my Kindle.

The asshole is somewhere else, bothering someone else. I'm sipping, reading and engaging a very nice woman in pleasantries about our respective professions and their similarities. 22C on the Charlotte to Denver leg is a great guy, yet another businessman away from home. He occupies his seat, is respectful of his elders (that's me) and doesn't bother the FA.

What else is there? Six hours after takeoff I am safely at home.

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