I had an uneventful flight back home from Charleston, South Carolina, on Saturday morning. I just wonder, though, with all the security restrictions in flying these days, why they do not require an IQ test before issuing airline tickets. The following is a true story, which I wrote down as it happened so I wouldn’t miss it. It was hilarious (to me), as well as sad.
[Preface: nobody wants to pay Useless Airways its rip-off fees that they charge for baggage handling at US$20 – $30/each, so for puddle-jumper flights like this, most folks do like I do, and carry their small suitcase with them. We know that we can leave it with a ramp attendant who will load it into the plane’s baggage compartment without charging a fee. Plus, when the flight lands, you get the bag back immediately as you leave the plane, so you don’t have to wait at baggage claim to get it back.]
The gate agent called for people to board our small regional jet bound from Charleston to National Airport (please, don’t call that airport by the name of the former President who fired all of the air traffic controllers!)
My fellow passengers and I walk down the jetway and then down a set of stairs at the end of it, onto the tarmac. We see our plane and walk toward it. We put our small suitcases with the gate tag next on a cart near the stairs that go up to the plane. This is standard, normal procedure. What was a bit unusual, though, is that the flight attendant wasn’t anywhere to be seen as we walked aboard the plane.
I find my way to my seat, which is near the back of the plane. Then I see this, umm, “individual,” moving down the aisle carrying a rather large rollaboard suitcase. He lifts it up and tries to push it into the overhead bin. The problem is, the overhead bins on these small regional jets are not very large. His suitcase was at least 4″ (10cm) wider than the opening of the bin.
Instead of it dawning on him that his bag is too wide, he turns it 90 degrees and tries pushing it into the bin again. Duhhh… still doesn’t fit.
By then, a line is queuing up as he is blocking the aisle. But no matter, after all (to him), he’s the only one in the plane.
So instead of figuring out that the darn bag won’t fit in the bin, he turns it 90 degrees again. I kid you not. He pushes and pushes, and the bag won’t go in. It’s nowhere close.
The person standing nearest to him (who he is blocking to get to his seat) politely suggests, “why don’t you put the bag under the seat in front of you?”
The guy doesn’t say a word. He apparently is getting frustrated, and scrunches up his face like he is trying to solve a complicated jigsaw puzzle. So he drops the bag 45 degrees and gets a corner of it into the bin, and then pushes and pushes until he turns so red in the face, I thought that he was going to explode.
The bag ain’t goin’ nowhere. And by now, the line of passengers is out the door.
The flight attendant works her way down the aisle to see what the problem is, and tells him flat-out, “sir, your bag won’t fit. You should have bag-tagged it and left it on the cart outside. Here…” (she pulls the bag toward her and attaches a bag tag to it). “Let me take it for you and have it gate checked.”
But instead of releasing his grip on his bag, Mr. Struggler says, “well, it fit on the other plane.”
“What other plane?”
“The one that I flew here on.”
“Well, sir, some of the larger jets have larger overhead storage bins. This jet doesn’t. Just let me gate check it for you so these people can get to their seats.”
“Well, let me try one more thing…”
Believe it or not, he wants to try again and Einstein has figured it all out. He reaches up with one hand and grabs the bottom of the storage bin and pulls down on it while trying to stuff his suitcase into the bin. Thank goodness those storage bins are made of strong stuff. While it bowed a little bit, it did not break. And all the time, Mr. gotta-store-his-bag has an expression on his face like, “I know I can make this work if I pull down and push the bag hard enough!”
By then, the flight attendant is getting anxious. Passengers waiting to take their seats are beginning to call out and tell the guy to move out of the way.
The attendant grabs the bag and says, “sir, I am going to gate check this bag. Have a seat!”
She took the bag and everyone standing between her and the door moved so she could squeeze by them to take the bag out. Mr. Einstein, however, stands there with his mouth agape, still blocking the aisle. Someone finally told him to please move so they could get by. He finally did, and when he did so, some people exclaimed, “yeah!” and clapped.
Okay, Mr. Einstein may not travel very much, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that his bag wouldn’t fit. I don’t know why he was so insistent on trying to stuff his big bag into such a small space.
This incident gives me renewed respect for the crap that flight attendants have to put up with all the time.
The rest of the flight was uneventful, and we even landed early. My partner picked me up at the Metro station on my end, and we got reacquainted.
Here is a photo that I took out of the window of my plane as we were about to land at National Airport.