Saturday, 14 September 2013

It's just plane etiquette

There's something about the confines of a plane that dramatically alters normal human behaviour.

As I pack my bags ready to depart next week, I steel myself for the inevitable fact that even the most tolerant and generous folk will revert to a primal, disorientated and selfish state once they step onto the plane.

Once on board, I believe a socialist approach is needed to cabin life so that the greater good outweighs the interests of the individual.  Sure, I would love to lounge across many seats or clog up the overhead locker with my stuff, but I realise others have needs too.

I know I will share the 20-something hour journey to Europe with a range of weird, wonderful and wacky people.

Here's the 10 most common characters I expect to encounter on a plane:

1. The Dazed and Disorientated
A passenger who struggles with the simplest of tasks, such as operating the in-seat television monitor, connecting their headphones, lowering their tray or opening the toilet door.  This may be a sign that they are tired, jetlagged and/or just really stupid.

Subset:   The Numerically-Challenged.
This passenger walks all the way to row 60 only to realise that their ticket says row 24.  Mayhem ensues as they try to "swim against the tide" back down the aisle.

2.  The Sleeper Agent
A coveted role, this passenger is able to "pass out" naturally or with chemical assistance for the duration of the long flight, even in the most uncomfortable of positions.   Normally an ideal companion, unless they are sitting on the aisle and trap access to the bathroom.

3. The Family
Enough to cause a collective groan from other passengers is the arrival of parents with one or more children who are old enough to wander around but, not old enough to realise they can't always do that.  Also easily identifiable by having at least two bags per person.   In their wisdom they may have also given their toddler a small Dora the Explorer wheel case so they can effectively clog the aisle and trip people in the terminal.   People in the row behind must submit to numerous hours of peek-a-boo with one or more of the children.

Subset - the Lone Parent
A sad and downtrodden figure who has resigned themselves to 20 or more hours of no sleep.  They'll happily let their children roam the entire cabin, just as long as they get a minute's peace.   Despite being sapped of all energy from their long journey, they are remarkably adept at throwing their children are waiting relatives.

4.  The Lone Ranger
Usually a man, this passenger seems keen to assert their individuality and resists caving in to societal pressures while on board by keeping their seat reclined during meal time and continuing to use their phone as the plane heads down the runway.   This person feels the purchase of their ticket enables them to do whatever they like so watch out!

5.  The Coloniser
This passenger races to claim empty seats for their own empire as soon as the seat belt sign has gone off after takeoff (or even before).   Accompanied by jumpers, books and other items to "reserve" spots, this person stakes their claim on any unoccupied seat.  Turf wars have been known to erupt when two colonisers plan to invade the same territory.

Subset:  The Hopeful
This character only makes an appearance during the boarding of the plane.  This solo traveller has empty seats beside him/her and lives in frantic hope that anyone approaching them is not going to sit down beside them.   Needless to say, their hopes are usually dashed and the spend the flight depressed and defeated.

6.  The Destination Dropper
Proving all social awareness goes out the window at 5,000 metres above sea level, this passenger is not afraid to tell other passengers, crew and anyone else that they've been there and done that.   This can create amusing moments as they try to tell veteran flight crew how to travel or offer unsolicited advice on the best sights in the crew's own town or country.

7.  The Speed Racer
Reaching for their bag as soon as the airplane's wheels touch the ground, this traveller is hell bent on disembarking the plane first, even if they're in row 56.   Not-so-discrete shoving and manoeuvring see them push ahead, race off the plane and speed to the immigration line.  Their efforts appear slightly futile when they're still left waiting at the luggage carousel long after everyone they pushed past has collected theirs and gone.

8.  The Lads
Dressed in shorts and thongs despite flying to Japan's ski fields, this male traveller usually travels in a pack and orders rums and bourbons as soon as the seatbelt sign is turned off.  Keen to drink their ticket price in alcohol, they also continually tussle with their companions with a rowdy "wayyheeyyy".

9.  The Overextended
Depth perception isn't everyone's forte, but these passengers are under the misconception that they will be able to fit their own body weight in carry-on luggage into the overhead locker.  They're sometimes thwarted by airline staff before they've even set foot on the plane and spend the rest of the flight grumbling about the injustice of it all.

10.  The Diseased
Sounding more like they have pleurisy than the common cold and apparently incapable of covering their mouth or using a tissue, this passenger knows how to leave their mark.  You can almost see their germs crawling across the cabin in your direction and if you could down a bottle of bleach as a preventative measure you would.  

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