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Dumb rules lead to dumb behaviour… and now we’re guilty as well

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When you travel on planes with others you get to see a different side of human nature. I find it interesting as I often like to make observations about people… call it a strange obsession, but humans are interesting beasts and we can learn a lot by observing them.

Take, for instance, the way people behave in the airport waiting lounge. Often many hours are spent waiting for flights in these small, uncomfortable seats in close proximity to other travellers who may not have showered for many hours (or days). Most people take the “don’t talk to me” stance, retreating to their laptops or books to hide from the talkative types. Others are the complete opposite and will strike up a conversation with even the staunchest of recluse… which, in my experience, leads to a long-winded conversation and many boring photos. The problem is, when you are waiting in a lounge for the same flight it takes an extremely creative excuse to get away!

Meals are taken on the run, with McDonalds or Burger King being the comfort food people seek most often when stressed. The smell of someone else’s hot fries leads people to do some strange things… the most common reaction is to seek out their own portion of steamy hot salty fries. But, that is after they stare mindlessly at the person enjoying their fries in a daydream as they argue with themselves about whether or not to get some of their own! (I must confess I felt a bit uncomfortable as I felt Grandma’s laser eyes following my fries as they entered my mouth.)

Bathrooms in airports are also a “no-go zone” for those with weak stomachs or low levels of bathroom confidence. Travellers make the most of the chance to relieve and refresh themselves while not confined to the small space a plane provides. This freedom means that the well used bathrooms are no place for the timid or polite. I have learned that your elbows are your best weapon when standing much closer to another man with open trousers than you may normally care to be! This week I walked in on a man who had chosen to change his attire in the bathroom, but not in a cubicle… obviously time did not permit him the luxury of privacy!

But the biggest beef I have this week is the dumb rules that Airlines have put in place regarding baggage. You now pay for every bag you check in, which could easily be lost or damaged, and are often opened and searched for security reasons. Over weight bags are charged US$125 which is a legal form of stealing, in my humble opinion.

On top of this the Airlines allow you to take on board one piece of hand luggage and one personal item, which means two bags to most people. Travellers have responded to these rules by packing their personal items into the largest possible “carry on” bags allowed, thereby negating the need to check bags and pay the fees. The other advantage in doing this means that they no longer have to wait at the baggage claim area with the less learned travelers, and can rush off to their next destination.

But where do these bags end up? In the cabin, of course!

The Airlines have not increased the space available on the planes so this means boarding has now become a race to get your carry on items lodged in the overhead locker. Let’s face it, the alternative is not something you want to deal with– I mean, having that bag under your seat means you have no room to stretch your legs. That makes a 2 hour flight painful and a 6 hour flight pure torture!

So previously I have laughed myself silly watching these arrogant travelers; many of them hauling the heavy suitcases onto the plane, down the narrow aisle, and then struggling to lift the luggage above their heads and cram them into the overhead locker. Some of the suitcases were larger than they should have been but that didn’t stop them slamming the door repeatedly until a Hostess arrived to help them.

But this week I wasn’t laughing… my closing confession is admission that we, too, have become guilty of making other peoples’ travel uncomfortable.

As we left Florida and commenced our journey towards New Zealand we discovered we had more luggage than we should have had. In addition to this we had some odd-shaped parcels that were impossible to pack in a suitcase. Oh yeah, and 6 out of our 8 suitcases were over the 50 pound weight limit. What to do?

We quickly repacked our suitcases in the check-in lobby and shuffled heavy items into a bag purchased from the airport. We then boarded the plane with a heavy back-pack each and a large bag each, plus a jacket and sweatshirt each… does this sound like we’re pushing the limits?

But because we were in the final group called to board the plane, by the time we arrived at our seats at the back of the plane there was absolutely no room in the overhead lockers. Back-packs were lodged under the seat in front, (oh great, no leg room for me!), and the remaining bags were sitting on our knees… that is, until the Hostess saw them. With no room in the over-head lockers these bags ended up under another seat in front of a different passenger! How guilty did I feel?!!

I suppose sometimes you just have to do what you can to survive.

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