10 June 2007

Nonsensical Twittering from on High

Thirty thousand feet above Michigan, I realize what it is that has been bothering me since I sat down in my seat. I am being conveyed back to the Midwest by the Midwest. They quiet politeness of the people on the plane, the general pasty whiteness of the passengers, the announcements spoken with just a hint of that nasal, long-voweled accent: these are my

people flying this plane. They know what hotdish is and when you bring it to your neighbors.

I find that airlines often reflect the nature of the country and culture they serve. Sometimes it is a deliberate attempt to stand apart from their competitors, but it is more interesting when it truly reflects the people that run the airlines. The Thais joke a lot, the Japanese are obsequious and happy to serve, Germans efficient and clipped. Most American airlines treat you as if you are an accidental inconvenience and should be dispatched as quickly as possible, which, while not complimentary, is the way Americans like to deal with most service situations. Think of American airlines as simply an extension of our post office.

“You want what? A stamp? What the hell are you doing here at the post office then? Here you go, a stamp. Don't say I never did anything for you.”

Just replace 'stamp' with 'a seat to San Diego' and you could easily be having this conversation at the airport.

Before friends scream that I am being crazy, that there are plenty of asshats from the Midwest, that I am just protecting the home clan, let me disclose: I am from the middle. I don't want to live there anymore, but now that I am an adult I can see things more clearly. Yes, it might be stifling sometimes, but people are nicer. People are more friendly. It might be flat, there might not be that much going on, we might talk about the weather a lot, but things are easier. Am I saying that if the Midwest was as crowded and busy as the East Coast that things wouldn't be the same? No. I am sure that people would be total jerks and owning property would be a sacrifice of great pain, just like it is in our fair city of Washington. But it's not.

A Midwestern airline, it seems, is no different. From the moment I called them on the phone, the agent was all concern and worry (I was calling about a ticket to a funeral). “What a terrible loss for your family! Gosh! I am so sorry.”. The 'o' in her 'sorry' was so long I almost cried. “Let's get you on a plane, boy howdy, right this minute! Ohhh! Are you from Milwaukee? My son has a friend that has that same last name- do you know a Joe in Milwaukee?”. It touched me, stupidly, that this woman would immediately recognize that I was one of us, and assume (correctly) that I wouldn't think it was unfathomable that I would have a cousin in Milwaukee named Joe and that he was her son's friend. I don't, but don't be fooled- it could have been true. This was the kind of thing that annoyed me when I was younger. They flight attendants were painfully chipper and helpful, my fellow passengers as unobjectionable as possible. It's our motto: be unobjectionable and nice. Also, don't think you are better than anyone else. Cause you're not. There is no first class on this plane Everyone on the plane had seats that were wider than normal coach seats, but narrower than normal first class seats, leather upholstered with wide armrests- the Midwestern motto made real, in plane seat form.

But don't get any ideas- we're not better than you. Just our airline is.