In a past post I opined that Low Expectations were the key to enduring air travel. And though my ability to lower my expectations to meet airline performance is second-to-none, I had those considerable skills challenged on a recent flight.

The fun began with a late arriving inbound flight, resulting in a delay in boarding. Not such a big deal, happens all the time. But once we began boarding, the flight attendant made the first in a series of announcements over the intercom, the gist of which was, “Hurry up and take your seats. If we’re late, it’s YOUR fault.”

Well, weren’t we just the worst, messing up the airline’s on-time stats with our  tardy trundling. The shame we all felt was palpable. Or it might have been disbelief at the accusation. Hard to tell.

Anyway, the boarding continued, with many of my fellow passengers pulling, hoisting and jamming what appeared to be their entire possessions into the overhead bins. Now, I can hardly blame people for wanting to avoid checked-baggage charges, but it seems to me that carry-on requires a couple of basic guidelines:

  1. Don’t carry on anything you can’t lift into the overhead bin.
  2. If you have a roller-bag, take note that the bins are wider at the opening than in the back, due to the curved nature of the ceiling. So, the end of the bag that has the wheels will fit better if the wheels are facing out. I suggest that roller-bag manufacturers place a large sticker on the outside of the bags that makes that clear. Short of that, put one on yourself.

Eventually, all of us pachyderms managed to wedge into our seats, the doors were closed and we began to push back.

And got about 3 feet.

After a few moments, the captain came on and informed us that the tug pushing us out had transmission failure, so they had to get another tug to pull the first one away and then push us out.

Eventually this took place, and we were off. Our helpful captain came on periodically to announce that we would arrive about 5-10 minutes late. As we approached our destination, he began a series of announcements, each with the assurance that we were 20 minutes away from landing. We seemed to be moving at a high rate of speed, so I could only assume that our destination was somehow moving away from us at the same speed. I should have paid more attention in Physics class.

Finally, at 11:30 PM—40 minutes late—we arrived at our gate. This was apparently quite a surprise to the ground crew. Imagine their shock at looking up and seeing an airplane approaching! And at an airport! What are the odds?

Once the guy with the flashlights had recovered, he guided us in to the gate. But the guy operating the jetway was clearly still reeling, as he began a series of tortuous maneuvers, none of which resulted in the jetway getting anywhere near our aircraft door.

At last a less stunned employee took over, and we were at last free.

Now, I have endured much worse (like the time our DC-10 took off with a strap hanging out of the cargo door, causing us to return to MSP because it was beating the tar out of the side of the fuselage). And in the grand scheme of things, these were minor annoyances. But they served as a good reminder that Low Expectations are a moving target, forever downward in trajectory.


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