Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Exit Row$

Originally Posted: April 24, 2006

Now that airlines are charging us to sit in the exit row$, I propose something even more ludicrous. Since we (we being the passengers sitting in the exit row) are assuming more responsibility, we should be paid for our duty. Twenty percent of the value of our ticket. And I further propose that you must be certified by the airlines, in a one day training class, to man the emergency row. “It” is not as straightforward as you would think. It’s also imperative that we have able bodied people, with sound minds, and acute knowledge of what to do in the event of a water landing, or a general “Holy shit, get me the hell of this airplane,” evacuation. Most of the time, the people in the exit row look like they would have trouble opening a jar of peanuts. I hate to think my safety relies on these people to competently open the door and start inflating that cool looking air shoot. (Did I see a similar shoot for sale in the Skymall Magazine? Next to the 6-pack hot dog cooker? I sure hope so!)

Charging for the exit row$ has essentially created a fourth class in the sky. In this order: First, business, exit row, and coach. Now I tell people I fly exit row. I brag, “Yeah, I’m in exit,” as I look down on the commoners in coach. And yes, I would like a curtain separating the exit row too. And I would also like to be seated first and have them parade all the jealous coach passengers by me… as I sip a cold complimentary soda.

And for those people that think that anybody can do “it”. Well you are wrong. Even I failed the test. Some time back, I was comfortably seated in the exit row when I was confronted by an overly dutiful flight attendant and asked in a very condescending manner if I knew what to do in the event on an emergency. I said, “Take the door off, throw it into the ocean, and jump out.” She said, “That is incorrect. You must take the door off,” and in the most calm manner, she continued, “Place it on the seats in the exit row.” “Place it on the seats? Is there any “placing” in this situation? And where… on top of that guy?” I thought. She said, “Do you understand?” I smiled and retorted lightly, “Yes, but I can’t guarantee that in the heat of the moment I won’t just huck it and get the hell off the plane.” I was then informed that the door is filled with gasoline and if thrown out could cause an explosion. She missed the joke. So better to cause an explosion on the plane? What if the plane is on fire, can I huck it out then? Or is it still better to light the exit row on fire, then leave? I had a million thoughts all fighting for first out of the mouth. But before I could rip apart the safety rules, she had turned around and headed for the front of the plane. I won!

I didn’t like being lectured in school on how to evacuate a bus and I didn’t like the similar tone with this particular emergency exiter enforcer. How amusing were those annual bus evacuation drills in school? We would’ve all protested them if they didn’t eat into class time. I got caught once trying escape out the bus window and apparently very little has changed in my respect level for organized evacuation drills since.

I thought I had won—not quite. In the food prep galley, court was now in session. Fingers pointed, a gaggle of flight attendants broke into an impromptu conference to discuss, I figured, what to do with the errant passenger in seat 10A. My response was not taken lightly and nor should it be. I had questioned the higher power of the F.A.A.. And when two attendants came back to aisle 10, I knew what was coming. They were going to move me and blame the F.A.A.. The FAA-- a mysterious group of rule makers that don’t allow us to use our MP3 players at certain times because they might, “Interfere with the pilot’s communicating with air traffic controllers.” They are fine at ten thousand feet though. What a bunch of hooey. Chalk that stratagem up on the blackboard under the category holding such nonsense as “Something’s in the pool that will turn red if you urinate,” or “Sitting too close to the TV will someday make you re-elect George W. Bush.”

I was just being honest when I told them I might huck the door. I stood firm on my answer when the two flight attendants returned. I was asked to move to another seat. I did. No emergency arose on that flight. The doors were never removed. And not to sound old, but this was in the days when they weren’t charging us for exit row$. Are they really filled with gas?

They love to disguise excuses and redirect the blame. Isn’t that the way of the world? Here is the most overused phrase in travel—security risk. The airlines use it as an excuse for everything. You can’t get up to go to the bathroom right now-- it’s a security risk. No congregating in the aisles—a security risk. We don’t have pillows anymore—because it was a security risk. No more food- it was a security risk. We can’t be nice—because it’s a security risk. Your comfort and happiness—a security risk.

I feel like the airlines are constantly deceiving us. These days, the planes are always full. And yet, they claim to be losing money. So what is the paradigm for success? Is it taxing us for little extras? Like a movie theatre that generates most of it’s money from the $8 bucket of popcorn? It’s odd to me that food has different values in different places. Chocolate in a movie theater-- is like gold. Mushrooms, not expensive in the supermarket, but on a slice of pizza doubles the pizza’s value.

They deceive us! If you travel enough, from time to time you get hit with this oddity: “We may have taken off late, but we’ll make up for lost time in the air.” Well why didn’t we go that route in the first place? Was it a security risk?

The airlines like to control us down to the very last pound in our suitcases. As of two years ago, we can no longer have more than 50 pounds per bag. A sharp drop from the 75 pound allowance. But you can have two bags equaling 100 pounds. But not one bag at 51 pounds. Two bags totaling 100 are free. One bag at 51 is a $100. Do you see what I’m getting at? It is absurd. They claim it is for the safety of their bag handlers. Well then how does my $100 help with their safety? I’m quite sure they don’t see a cent of those extra dollars. They are still unsafe and the airlines are richer. They couldn’t say it was an overall weight limit issue, because 51 pounds is less than 100. It’s an excuse. An excuse to make money. They have all these excuses that make no sense… but they make them a ton of money. I feel like I am in an abusive relationship with the airlines. They are controlling me and lying to me at the same time. And I don’t mind if you lie to me—just buy me lunch.

But they don’t even do that anymore!

Paying more is not a security risk however. SELL! SELL! SELL! SELL! SELL! SELL! That is what the airlines are forcing their employees to do. And oversell that exit row-- they sure do. It was a well rehearsed speech, including exact specifications of extra leg room. I get the feeling they’re rewarded for each exit seat they sell—like an electronics salesman who successfully cons a customer into that unnecessary extended warranty.

Today, I paid $100 more for my overweight bag. $49 to sit in an exit row. And $8 for a meal for purchase. It got so bad, when the gate person asked for my photo ID I inadvertently handed him my credit card. I can’t imagine if they’re this cheap with us, how cheap they are with their employees, or spare parts, or maintenance. Get ready for the pilots to have a tip jar!

I don’t mind that these companies are trying to make money. That is what companies do. I also don’t mind getting ripped off. But only when it’s done really well. Entertain me while you’re doing it, that’s all I’m saying. At least hire a firm to come up with better excuses. I could do it in a snap. Here for example: “You can’t listen to your MP3 players on take off and landing because the music along with altitude change could damage your eardrums.” Which may actually be true now that I give it some thought. Any studies on this?

Here are some other ways I think airlines can make more money: Start charging for sodas. More for juices. $1 charge if you use your, “Call flight attendant button.” Charge for faster check ins, priority luggage that comes down the carrousel first, and for on time take offs and landings. Oh, bathroom tokens. They could get us there (first one free of course). Charge 25 cents to print a boarding pass at the airport. Force us to use more of our home ink supply. I don’t know who’s controlling the ink, but I’m all for a war to bring down those prices. A “War for ink.” Let’s invade the ink producing countries and get this under control. A gallon of gas is almost $4 and a gallon of ink is almost a thousand. Ink is expensive- I still have 2 payments left on my last color cartridge.

They ought to just paint these airplanes school bus yellow. Because that’s how they treat us most of the time. Like little kids on a school bus. And if you don’t know how to buckle a seat belt at this point, you don’t deserve to be wearing one. And don’t get me wrong, I meet plenty of very pleasant airline employees. Unfortunately, when it happens I’m shocked. And I usually write the airline a letter on their behalf. But I am prepared for the worst. And that’s sad. Even sadder, now when they ask me what to do in the even of an emergency, I lie to them.

*** Orny Adams is a stand-up comedian and writer who knows it is easy to go after the airlines.

All material:
© 2006 Orny Adams and Icrushed Productions, Inc.

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