The Tarmac Experience


Finish off draft beer in the lounge. Head to the gate. Flying used to be a premium experience. Now it’s like a bus terminal. If you want to get any peace, you’ve got to pony up for the lounge. Free food, comfy chairs, plenty of outlets to charge your devices. Beer is free on tap. Cold micro-brew. Flight is on time. Drinking is not advisable when you fly a lot due to the potential for dehydration. But what’s the alternative? Amateur yoga, nicotine lozenges, plus free beer. Seems to work just fine.

No delays. Yet. There is however a dark storm cloud approaching.

Now boarding parents with small children. Or persons with special needs. Diamond. Platinum. Zone 1.

Aisle seat. Near the bathroom. Nod off. Zapped. Deep REM sleep.


— Uh this is your captain speaking. Some pilots are lazy but we’re pretty insistent that you wear your seatbelt at all times. If you need to use the restroom by all means do that. But know that turbulence is no joke. It occurs when the wind hits you from multiple directions at once. That’s turbulence. I could show you pictures of people with their heads stuck in the ceiling. Not pretty. So when we put on that seatbelt sign over your seat, keep your seatbelt on.


— This is your captain speaking…looks like we are number 3 for takeoff here. While we’re waiting I want to tell you a little story about my mom. She was Norwegian. And she would always tell us kids, be nice to other people and they will be nice to you. I’ve always remembered that. Call it karma, whatever you want. But keep that in mind when you are dealing with our flight crew. Be nice to them, they will be nice back. Make sense?


— Uh this is your captain speaking again. Well it looks like I’ve got a bit of news here folks. So the mechanics were just performing a routine check of the plane before takeoff as we always do and well get this. They discovered that at least one of the computers is not working right. And these planes are now all computerized. We can’t do anything with them. So hang tight, we’re going to see if we can fix it.

— Give us water! Shouts a man behind me.


— Ah this is your captain speaking. When it rains it pours. Anyway, looks like two CPUs are broken. I have no idea how long it’s going to take to fix folks. If you want to leave the plane you can. But you need to take all your stuff and re-board.

A truck loaded with pretzels and water arrives outside. Thunder and lightning.

— No m’am says the flight attendant behind me. We cannot serve alcohol right now. You can deplane and go to a bar nearby by you need to take all your carry-ons with you and re-board.

More children on this flight than I’ve ever seen. And they are starting to go apeshit. People start deplaning. The air is off now. Smashed pretzels are scattered up and down the aisle.


— This is your captain speaking. I have an update. First the good news, the crew on the ground managed to swap the CPUs. But and get this in the process a hose was busted and it has started spewing out liquid (septic?) on the crew. I give them kudos for continuing to try to get that all fixed before the lightning comes and they have to run inside. Anyway, we need to get a new pump for that and we don’t have that pump here at this airport so we’re going to need to fly one in from one of our good friends at __________ airlines. So… again if you want to get off the plane, you can feel free to do so. Just make sure you get all of your stuff. And you will need to re-board.

— Just cancel the frickin’ flight yells the man behind me.


— This is your captain speaking. I have a new update, it looks like it’s going to be at least another hour. We’ve got plenty of pretzels but unfortunately no booze.

No rage remaining among the passengers. They have a kind of stockholm syndrome, resigned to the situation.

— Well, safety first I guess says one woman grabbing her leopard skin roller suitcase which is much too heavy for her and requires assistance from the flight attendant and two other passengers to bring down without giving anyone a concussion.


Robocall from __________ airlines. This is _____________with an important update on flight ________ to ______________. The new departure time is 12.30…

Hang up. That’s it. Rebook for tomorrow morning. Different airport. There is something definitely wrong with that plane. It is cursed. A coffin with wings. And the pilot seems to be on something. Remember stories about pilots hanging out at the airport bar and getting loaded and then using autopilot the whole way (“these planes fly themselves nowadays”). Awesome. There is a tipping point for such information though, and the pilot was sharing just a bit too much about himself and the inner workings and weaknesses of the aircraft. Like seeing sausage made if you are a vegan. Trust degrading each time he picks up the damn microphone. Frustrated wannabe radio host. And what if it were hacked? Some times you just need to go with your intuition and walk away from a death trap.

1.45 Email from _____________ airlines with a request to fill out a customer satisfaction survey. If I weren’t entirely convinced that it was going to be read by machines, or at all I might take the time to give them some actionable feedback. Life’s too short to fill out an online survey. Especially on my smartphone on which filling out forms is a painful experience.

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