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Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Returning to the not-so-friendly skies

When we first emerged from pandemic isolation, we looked like prehistoric cave creatures, blinking slowly as we saw light for the very first time. Except instead of light, it was a waiter approaching with a tray of water glasses. What wonderment is this? Someone I don’t even know is bringing me a beverage. Also, I’m wearing pants.

At first, we were happy as a puppy with two tails, ready to ditch our pre-vaccine seclusion the very moment the tiny Band-aid dropped off like a chrysalis signaling our new life. Finally, we were, literally, free to move about the cabin.

Everyone was the kind of nice that holds the elevator door and gives you a big smile. We’ll wait for you, the smile said. OK, maybe not. Nobody knew how much luggage you had. OMG, somebody press the door-shut button. No! That’s the door-open button. THEY LOOK JUST ALIKE SO HOW DO YOU KNOW?

We were collectively nice for about three days before the COVID vaccination goodwill tour ended abruptly. I remember the moment precisely. Walking through the airport, I watched two security officers handcuff a guy who was screaming at a gate attendant because his flight was delayed: “You’re a (expletive-ing) nobody! I want to speak to a (expletive-ing) somebody!” Niiiice.

In the air, the passenger directly behind me berated the flight attendant a few minutes after takeoff.

“There’s something wrong with the engine,” he said in an outdoor voice. “That noise isn’t right. I’ve flown before, you know.”
Calmly, she told him the whining buzzy noise a few minutes after takeoff was normal for the Airbus and assured him all was well.

“NO, IT’S NOT!! THE ENGINE IS MESSED UP! DON’T TELL ME IT’S NOT!”

Heads popped up from Sudoku puzzles and tablets. What the what? Because I was seated so close to Panic Boy, I mimicked the flight attendant’s calm smile to my fellow passengers and added an exaggerated rotating index finger at my temple. You’re welcome. The flight attendant looked toward me with what I hope was gratitude, but although a moment of solidarity passed between us, it did NOT translate into extra Biscoff cookies. Did I not defuse a potential panic by making the universally accepted symbol for “crazy”? Hmmph.

I believe this absolutely true story illustrates I’m a giver but I’m not so sure about the rest of y’all. The FAA reports “air rage” is up from an average of about 150 cases a year to more than 3,400 just since January. If my math is correct, and it almost never is, that’s “a lot” percent more.

Most of the incidents stem from passengers who refuse to wear a mask on board and then things “take off” from there. I admire the restraint of flight attendants who don’t simply say: Suck it up, buttercup. And for the millionth time I realize I would make a horrible flight attendant, rolling my eyes while demonstrating how to use a seat belt and saying how valuable each passenger is to them.

If you think it sounds a bit like the Wild West up in the sky right now, you’re not wrong. Who can forget the unruly passenger who had to be duct-taped into her seat, including a swath of the sticky stuff over her mouth?

Or the Alaska Airlines passenger who urinated beside his seat saying simply “I have to pee” when confronted. In another flight, a woman hit a passenger HOLDING A BABY in a dispute over the window shade.

I’m torn on this one because I hate it when window seat people keep the shade down.

“Ladies and gentlemen, from the cockpit, if you’ll take a look out your window, you will see the Grand Canyon AND BEYONCE unless some selfish porkface has pulled down the shade…”

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at [email protected].

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