It was July 2004, and my wife and I were on an Olympic Air flight that had just touched down in Athens, about to begin our Greek island honeymoon. The wheels were barely on the ground, but a Greek woman seated to my right – whom we still refer to to as the Elephant-Assed Woman – couldn’t wait another moment to retrieve her black rollaway bag from the overhead bin. She unbuckled her seat belt and stood right on up – turning her ample, grey-shorts-clad posterior to my face – to wrangle the bag out. It was a dangerous situation, as we were still speeding down the runway, brakes applied, flaps up, bouncing and rolling, and she didn’t look all too steady on her feet. Seeing what was happening, a flight attendant got on the intercom and, in a terse tone, announced in Greek what might reasonably be translated as “Sit the fuck down, you elephant-assed moron.”
It’s a scenario that’s repeated countless times every day, and it makes not a shred of sense to me. What could the Elephant-Assed Woman possibly gain by removing her bag before the plane reached the gate? When the seat-belt light goes off, everyone immediately stands up, creating an instant queue that mirrors the seating assignments. People exit the plane more or less in the order they are seated, and everyone has a chance to get their carry-ons from the overhead, because it’s not like the people behind you can squeeze past. Yet some people simply must lay their hands on their precious duffels, totes, and backpacks early, or else … what?
There are conflicting stories about what, exactly, set off Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater, who famously deployed an emergency slide and got off his flight in a hurry after arguing with a passenger – and possibly being struck in the head – over a piece of luggage in an overhead bin. But it’s clear that the overhead bins are a flashpoint of conflict, the Gaza Strip of the airline world. And if one could actually gain something by the early liberation of their bag, I’d understand it. But it’s a pointless act of idiocy that does nothing but piss off flight attendants who may or may not lose their shit over the incident.
Of course, I also question the wisdom of standing up once the all-clear is given and having to bend your neck 90 degrees while waiting five minutes for the exit line to start moving, but hey, it’s your life.
And as for the Elephant-Assed Woman, I imagine she does the same thing on every flight she’s on, to the same fruitless end.