Pushers (PSH)

In the world of airports, the airplanes themselves allow you see as much interesting and crazy stuff as you would throughout the terminals. As a frequent flier, I completely understand this. 21st Century Torture DeviceCrowding a few hundred people on a space the size of a single-wide trailer and expecting them to just magically get along is insanity in itself. There are always going to be issues but luckily most passengers have been conditioned enough to go with the natural order of things. Unless you are someone who just doesn’t think that way…that’s when there’s a problem.

As I have written in the past, air travel is made up of routines. Routines for the passengers: getting to the airport, going through security, queuing up to board and taking your seat. Routines for pilots: going through the checklist, constantly checking and re-checking equipment and controls, also queue up the plane for take-off and fly to the pre-determined destination. sxdwnAnd of course, routines for the staff: assign everyone a seat, usher passengers into the plane, work through the safety announcements and serve meals/beverages.All of this makes up the working order of air travel and is widely accepted by the general public. However, when someone decides these routines just don’t work for them, or they feel somehow they are above the socially accepted rule of order, things can get uncomfortable for others on the flight. It doesn’t always turn to a melee that is diverts a plane and is forever captured on YouTube…but it can be just as annoying.

One group in particular who seems to forget the fact that the planet is made up of other humans and chooses to break one highly coveted and necessary routine when de-boarding the plane is the topic of this post. This is the group that chooses not to wait on retrieving their bags from the overhead bins regardless of the distance between their seats and their luggage. They push, squirm, and claw their way back and forth through the throngs of increasingly impatient passengers to claim their prized possessions while not trying to lose their spot on board. This group is known as “The Pushers!”

Pushers have distinguishable qualities that a trained eye can spot sometimes even in the boarding area. They usually come equipped with a designer bag either covered with brand initials or some sort of animal print that I guess is supposed to impress the rest of us waiting around. They’re always relatively high-voiced either on the phone while everyone is trying to hear the crew instructions or with the rest of their party where they continue telling some obviously over-exaggerated version of a story that, again, is designed to somehow elevate their social status. the-rich-daddys-girl-starter-pack-6091394The final, and almost required quality of the Pushers, is that they have been assigned to the LAST group to board the plane. This is where the trouble begins because in the minds of these self-absorbed, members of a pretend royal family, their upgrade to the highest level of first-class should have already been secured. That and being caste into economy class like some hobo is just an oversight that will be dealt with the next time they brunch with the airline CEO.

It’s not until everyone is actually on the plane before the rest of the passengers can start seeing the true nature of the Pushers play out. With the recent addition of fees for checked luggage, the overhead bin space on a full flight has the real estate value of a two-bedroom condo in San Francisco. Flight crews know this all too well and begin informing passengers before boarding gets underway. itll-fitOf course, the “it can never happen to me” syndrome that plagues human nature is in full effect; even for those in Group 9 who watch hundreds of their now enemies walk down the jetway roll aboard in tow. Pushers are never deterred by this spectacle and have already established  that their bags will be safely stowed in the fuselage regardless of the irrefutable laws of physics. To their credit, they’re usually right! Even if they get on right as the cabin door is being closed, a Pusher has the unique ability to get their bag stuffed somewhere in the overhead. This is usually 10 or more rows back from their own seats. At this point, we wait, anxiously as the insanity will inevitably begin the minute the plane safely hits the ground.

Something interesting happens every time a plane lands. It’s hard to explain it but a sudden burst of energy courses its way through the aircraft causing passengers to suddenly turn into a classroom full of un-medicated ADHD 6th graders all with a sense of doomsday-style urgency as they frantically pack of their stuff for arrival. This is when the Pushers really come to life. Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, the Pushers are already putting together an elaborate plan to rescue their prized, PVC-made Louie Vuitton. 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships Beijing 2015 - Day SixThey work out every step and mentally move all obstacles that could possibly get in the way. You see them looking back down the aisle, finding the weakest links and plotting their course well before we hit the gate. And like Usain Bolt during the last leg of an Olympic trial, the ding of the seatbelt sign propels them into a legacy building dash as they fly aisle by aisle towards the bin in which their treasure awaits. They get there in record time, just as planned. However, the battle has just begun. Their seat is now several rows in front of them…and waiting is not an option.

In most cases, I try and create a name that cleverly disguises the true nature of the population being examined leaving enough detail to the imagination (see Griswolds, Techies and Outsiders). However, the Pushers earned their name through sheer force; they literally push their way back to their seats. This is part that I don’t understand. Years of public school education included lining up in an orderly fashion to efficiently move from the classroom to just about anywhere else in the building. single fileTo me this creates a sense of relaxation knowing that years of operant conditioning will allow us all to be guided one-by-one towards the front and eventually to the openness of the awaiting terminal. Apparently, Pushers went to schools that were more like Hunger Games arenas where everyone was out for blood and the need for cooperation was just a disguise. Pushers will use every physical, verbal and nylon-constructed weapon at their disposal to get back to their original spot. The dozens of bodies and luggage in front of them is no deterrent. The endorphins from success must be orgasmic as they seldom fail. They are, however,  usually accosted at least two or three times during the journey. Although, I want to say, “my hats off” to the Pushers and their determination, I secretly plot with my fellow passengers to halt their advance for nothing more than a few minutes of frustration-breaking entertainment.

So push on Pushers! Your impulse to reunite with your carryon obviously outweighs the wants and needs of everyone else on board. Why should you give in to societal norms that say to sit down, shut up and wait your turn? Keep on marching to the beat of your own drum which, of course, is leading you in the wrong direction. I can’t say that I will discontinue my desire to purposely get in your way, making the trek that much harder. Who am I kidding…I definitely going to keep doing that! Best of luck in your quest!

-DPW

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It’s time to stop picking on United

My grandparents used to tell me that when televisions first started becoming popular the news stations had only one job: report the news. It was really simple: here is the story as we factually know it and presto…news! oh-how-the-media-likes-to-sensationalize-things-82123Once the networks realized that sensationalizing a story and essentially beating it into the ground was profitable, there was no stopping them. Everything now is breaking news and having the most up-to-date details, no matter how trivial, can equal millions in extra revenue. This of course means that networks have to continually provide new content and what better way to do so than to go back and further scrutinize a person, business or organization that you have already slammed before. At this point, it’s no longer called news…it’s called bullying…

The easiest way to describe the behaviors of news organizations is by comparing them to a middle school gym class playing dodgeball. The networks are the taller, stronger kids whose pubes have already started sprouting and have the cool parents who let the kids get drunk at their house because they say, “it’s safer under our own roof.” The target organization is the overweight, nearsighted sci-fi nerd who accidentally shit his pants in 4th grade and still hasn’t lived it down. dodgeballOver and over they pound him with red balls and insults, laughing at his cries for mercy and mocking his very existence until he finally cracks and (well, I’m not going to go there…do have some resemblance of a conscience). Celebrities, oil companies, fraternities and sororities, and political parties (varying depending on what channel you watch) are all easy targets that never make it off the bench before taking a round, rubber bullet to the side of their head sending their glasses screeching across the gymnasium. Airlines are in the same boat. Every now and then, one airline will screw up big which will put them in the media drawn crosshairs for at least a few years. Right now it’s United’s turn…and there seems to be no end in sight.

I’m sure United has gone through their share of issues but this particular onslaught seems to have started with one incident which I’m sure we’re all too familiar by now. Let me provide a recap: guy purchases a United ticket from Chicago to Louisville; while buying this ticket he also checks the little box which, paraphrasing, says something like, “I agree with the terms and conditions”; guy gets on United flight; guy is asked to de-plane because of overbooking (here is where those ‘conditions’ come into play); guy refuses (therefore, violating those ‘conditions’); 170410170634-united-airlines-mobile-cut-full-169guy gets dragged off by security allowing another passenger to become a momentary Twitter sensation. Remember that? Immediately following came a serious of unfortunate events including a rabbit dying, two girls not being let on a flight for wearing leggings (or tights…what’s the difference…), a musician fighting a flight attendant and a parent getting pissed for her snot-nosed little brat having to share her seat. All of these things seem to suggest incompetence amongst the airline. However, as bad as they are, this is just the nature of air travel…plain and simple.

Airlines exist for two reasons. To fly passengers and cargo from one point to another and to make a profit while doing it. 26_DrunkPlaneThat’s it…nothing else. And they have to do this while also facing constant public scrutiny, regulations from every government agency on the planet, tight schedules, exhausted employees, new technological breakthroughs, political correctness and the person in seat 30F throwing pretzels down the fuselage because the airport TGIFriday’s served him one to many. Oh and at the same time, do all of this on the cheap because, lord knows, people get pissy when an airline tries to send up a 200,000lb, gasoline filled Megabus across the United States for more than $300.

The one common denominator for all the issues faced by any airline including United are humans. Yes, I know, a rabbit is not human but it was a person who decided that the fucking Easter Bunny needed to fly economy that day. All being said, people are what causes the problems on flights. f129046538de1d7dc688a4e2377ed284People refuse to follow FAA regulations and crew member instructions, people bring their precious animals on board and let them shit all over the aisle, people book tickets way too late leaving them a crappy seat and people dress in provocative clothing and then get mad when it’s brought to their attention. Jerry Seinfeld said it the best, “people are the worst!” He wasn’t kidding.

I have no emotional or economic reason to be defending the airlines but I feel it is necessary to be a voice of reason when it comes to all the bad things we hear about one over another. I’ve had plenty of issues while traveling but never let it get to me. Don’t let the media be your deciding factor when choosing who to board. All airlines are going to have their problems from time to time but for the most part, you’re going to take off, land and live to enjoy your final destination. United we stand (no pun intended) with you through this time. It won’t we long until another carrier screws up enough and you’ll be off the hook for a while. Until then, I’ll see you at the airport!

-DPW

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International Travelers Guide to American Airports

Despite questionable travel bans, negative media coverage and an a politically divided rhetoric surrounding the entire country, travel to the United States (U.S.) is still as popular today as it has ever been. Travel for leisure, business, academics and myriad of other reasons keep the U.S. as a top destination for people around the globe. With so many flying in and out of the country every day, your good friend, Dr. People Watcher, is going to take a break from ridiculing various airport subcultures and instead put his knowledge to good use for the sake of our soon to be foreign friends. Statue_of_Liberty_-_4621961395I’ve chosen to focus on the airports because in many cases this is the first impression a visitor will have of our country and I would like to make it a good one.

Here are some useful tips that anyone traveling from outside the U.S. can utilize to help make your trip easier, stress free and less likely to start an international incident!

  • Americans only speak English

No matter where you come from, the easiest thing to do is just assume that nobody in the U.S. speaks a language other than English. In fact, only 1% of Americans are fluent in a second language which compared to other countries is a complete disgrace. Therefore, learning a little bit of English before heading over is not only a good idea, but a necessity especially if you plan on spending time outside of the major metropolitan areas like New York or Los Angeles.

englishIn the airports, be prepared to go English only the minute you land. Some of the larger airports have multi-lingual signage but it is usually restricted to Spanish, French, and maybe Chinese. However, just like anywhere else, following the crowds will usually place you in the right direction. America does have a fairly diverse population (again, mostly in the large cities) so you can find help there. Still, brushing up on your English and downloading some translation apps will go a long way after you land.

  • Personal space is a necessity

One thing America has in abundance is space. As the #3 largest country in the world (in overall square miles), we have plenty of room to grow which is a point of national pride. Unlike cities in Europe and Asia that were built in close proximity for protection against invaders, U.S. cities were built with space in mind and stretch for miles in every direction. This has created a space themed obsession amongst our population.

personal-spaceWhen you land in the states, keep in mind that Americans are accustomed to at least an arm’s length of separation from anyone around them. When getting off the plane, waiting in line at customs and getting your luggage at baggage claim, be sure to put enough space between yourself and those around you. Also, enjoy this as a luxury add-on to your trip. If your home country doesn’t have the same practice, this will be a nice vacation in itself.

  • Tipping is an unfortunate custom

The U.S. likes to brag that its low taxes (compared to other countries) keep the economy strong by putting more money in the pockets of citizens and visitors. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we will find any way possible to nickel-and-dime you during your trip. Tips are not just common courtesy; they are pretty much required. tippingBoth in- and outside of the airport, you are going to be inundated with hands reaching out for an additional payment for everything from being served meals, to giving you a (paid) ride, and even transporting your luggage. At the airport specifically, if you use the curbside check-in, sit down for a meal or even get a cup of coffee, the expectation is 15-20% for a tip. Exceptions being at fast food restaurants and retailers.

The best thing to do is to budget a certain amount of tips into your travels plans. You can also avoid some tipping outlets by not using the curb side check-in, carrying your own luggage and utilizing shared service companies like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. Of course, if you do run across a tipping situation, be generous. Many service workers rely on these to supplement their income.

  • Smokers are being phased out

Smoking is not allowed anywhere surrounding air travel including the plane, in the terminal and in some places, even within a certain distance from the airport entrance. This varies significantly by airport but many are phasing out the designated smoking areas to promote a healthier lifestyle amongst travelers.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Even outside of the airports, smoking is looked down upon. While growing up, most restaurants had both smoking and non-smoking sections which was abandoned city-by-city, state-by-state starting in the early 1990s. Of course, that practice was like having a pissing section in a swimming pool so it has been well received by most Americans. As a visitor who smokes, be conscious of where you can and cannot smoke especially near tourist heavy sites. You can still have your smoke break outside, but just keep it in your own lungs, not ours.

  • Security will be tight

After 9/11, airport security became serious business which has not subsided especially with the onslaught of terrorist attacks routinely happening around the world. With all governmental fingers pointing to sources outside of the U.S., visitors from just about any non-Western country can expect multiple layers of security while entering and exiting America. Even those from our more trusted allies are going to be thoroughly checked out upon arrival.

tsa-searchTo prepare, make sure you have all your documents ready and answer questions from security personnel truthfully and with a certain amount of confidence (uncertainty will just bring on more questioning). Don’t take anything personal as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) folks are just doing their duties and trying to keep everyone safe. In the event you have to go through additional screenings, just continue my advice from above and all will be fine. Unless, of course, they do a cavity search…that part sucks!

In conclusion, I hope these tips help you have a more enjoyable experience state-side. With all the great things we have to offer (unnecessarily large food portions, an entitled yet whiney population and people everywhere running around yelling “America is the greatest country in the world”) how could you not have fun. Thanks and enjoy our little piece of the globe!

-DPW

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welcome-to-america-sign

Vacationers (VAC)

The days of the annual family trips are upon us and airports are filled with small platoons of sun-seeking travelers dressed in their best polyester, Hawaiian print shirts and loud, obnoxiously colored flip flops. hawaiian shirt dayThe air reeks of coconut and sunscreen and the giggles of the overly tanned moms and daughters can be heard has they sip from their virtually virgin Pina Coladas. The family vacation which is a tradition that dates back to  after WWII is as American as gun ownership and apple pie. However, for those of us who still have to use the skies as a place of business, the Vacationers (VAC) can be nothing less than wolves in khaki-colored clothing!

Although the vacationers share many similarities to other groups on this site, they have enough unique traits that make them a separate category and therefore open to analysis. Also, not all vacationers are families and can consist of couples, friends, large tour groups and even loners who choose to see the world on their own. But because of their lack of airport experience and general disregard for anyone else around them, they are open to scrutiny and ridicule alike!

There exist two types of vacationers in the airport universe: Outbound and Inbound. batman two faceBoth of them are the same people, on the same trips, with the same ugly and out-of-date luggage, but they are completely different personalities when they hit the terminals. Outbound vacationers are usually upbeat, full of hope and excited at  even in the most stressful parts of flying like security lines or baggage claim. They glow with enthusiasm as their destination is something they’ve probably been looking forward to for a long time and its finally upon them, just a few hours away. Outbound vacationers spend money like its water. Snacks for the flight, souvenirs at the airport and they even splurge on the inflight booze just to keep their heads in “vacation mode” at 30,000 feet.

Inbound vacationers…well, they’re a little different. The depression of knowing their time of leisure is over and they’re heading back to the hell that is a meaningless and mundane job casts a huge shadow on this group as they move through the airport corridors. after vacation 2The smell of desperation and aloe engulf them as they stride with a thousand-yard stare leaving a trail of sand and misery. They watch every dime and are known for violent outbursts when the slightest delay keeps them from making it home right on schedule. Any relaxation that this group accumulated on their trip immediately evaporates the minute they hit the tarmac. The only reminder of better days comes in the form of slightly out-of-focus, iPhone photos and the temporary tattoos that are slowly fading away from their sunburned skin.

Vacationers can be further divided by sheer numbers. friends 1Couples are easy and are barely noticeable outside of the obnoxious honeymoon bound, newlyweds who insist on holding hands throughout the entire flight and feverishly try to talk gate agents into an upgrade (BTW, that never happens; thanks a bunch “Friends”). Loners too can be incognito with the exception of the chatty, world traveler who insists on peppering anyone who will listen with their endless stories of being chased by a pack of Baboons in Africa or swimming naked in the Danube with some fellow hostel guests who don’t speak English (why do all their stories involve naked people?). Families have been thoroughly covered (see the Griswolds) but vacations do bring out another whole dimension of insanity. The sheer thought that packing up a herd of children or teenagers, putting them on an uncomfortable, ear-popping, recycled-air, flying minivan and thinking they will by some miracle behave, makes me want to sprint to the near Urologist.

Tour groups have emerged as the new cluster-fuck of humans to avoid if it all possible. In fact, tour agencies now make up the third largest segment in the travel industry behind air transportation and accommodations. Imagine hordes of geriatrics or foreigners, wearing matching T-Shirts and large, straw hats, strolling at a snail’s pace as you race to make a connection. walking_dead_what_lies_ahead_zombie_hordThese groups come in like clowder of cats, wandering off into oblivion, needing constant herding and all wholeheartedly unprepared for any process regarding boarding a flight. There is usually a guide of some sort trying his or her best to keep them as a cohesive unit but themselves rendered with a look that makes you believe they have just rethought every decision they’ve made since college. If you get behind these groups in the security line, then go ahead and pop open your in-flight entertainment because you’re going to be there for a while. Hopefully their disruption of the airport force means they are getting ready for an experience of a lifetime which is little solace to those left in their wake.

Vacationers do mean well and enter the airports usually in a good mood which is nice to see amongst the crowds of annoyed frequent fliers. They’re stimulating the economy (or economies of wherever their heading) and for the most part are trying to inject a little joy into the world one trip at a time. So in essence, throw on your best floral prints and Jesus sandals and go out to find your own little piece of heaven. The rest of us will watch and judge, while planning a time soon enough where we will join you for a vacation of our own.

-DPW

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