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. Crowding 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. And 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 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. Of 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. They 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. To 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!