Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Southwest Airlines introduced a new boarding procedure about a year ago, to make life easier for passengers who were lining up for their first-come-first-served policy hours before the flight. They now assign letters (A, B, or C) and numbers as you check in, and that is your assigned place on line. Seating is still open once you hit the plane, but you don't have to get there early to hold a place in line. To facilitate this new thing, they've put up signs with letters, number ranges, and arrows. And, of course, they make constant announcements.

None of this matters. Time after time (and I fly Southwest a lot), people simply refuse to figure it out.

There are varieties of stupidity on display. There are the Hopelessly Stupid, who seem to be lovely people but who just can't seem to figure out where to stand. If you tell them they're in the wrong line, they smile and act embarrassed and move. And one can't help but feel sorry for them. After all, it's just letters and numbers. If the sign says that you should stand here if you are holding A5 to A15, and you're holding C53, and you're still standing there, well...what, really, can be done for you?

There are the Aggressively Stupid, who can't seem to figure out where to stand, but who lash out at you with hostility if you dare to point out that they're in the wrong place. I've seen a few of them, but not so many.

More in evidence are the Aggressive Jackasses, who are not exactly stupid--they understand how the sytem works--but who simply don't care. Tell them that they should be standing behind you, and be prepared for a sarcastic lecture about how stupid the system is, and how petty and small-minded you are for abiding by it, and how they'll stand wherever they damn well please. I don't know why these people insist on flying this particular airline, given their feelings, but they do. In droves.

Then, tonight, I witnessed a new one. Standing in the A line in front of me was a morbidly obsese man who, it turned out, was holding either a B or C boarding pass, and who flat-out refused to move his carcass to let the rest of us pass by when the A line was called to board. 50 people had to walk around him.

It's letters and numbers, folks. It's not rocket science. Between the nice but sad people who can't understand it all and the jackasses who think they're above the world's petty rules, I'm left trying to be polite and friendly, but--far too often--seething.

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