There are a myriad of skills parents have to teach their children.
We all know what the big ones are, but it’s the — let’s call them the lesser — skills, the ones that don’t even make the Top 10,000 Things Every Kid Should Know Before They’re 18 list, that I have spent the summer working on with my daughter.
The two of us have been traveling a lot together and I’ve seen this as an opportunity to share my wealth of knowledge on all things related to Southwest Airlines. Most importantly, I’ve been educating her in the ways of successfully securing the least annoying seat on a Southwest flight.
If you are an amateur or have an expense account you can pay the $12 to ensure you’re the first to get on the plane. But for folks who like the adrenaline rush, the almost gambling high, the roll of the dice, if you will, of being perched on a computer exactly 24 hours before your scheduled departure time pleading at your screen “Come on baby, give mama at least an A 20 boarding pass,” then prepare yourself for a teachable moment or two.
In fact, responsible seat gambling is the first area I instructed my daughter in. You don’t want to be the idiot, the wanna-be “whale,” that throws caution and common sense to the wind and favors taking a dangerous spin on the Southwest roulette wheel of boarding by checking in the day of your flight, or worse, at the airport.
It’s like rolling snake eyes because all you’ve “won” is probably the dreaded C 30 and beyond seat designation. If this happens, may God have mercy on your soul and most assuredly your spine — it’s going to be getting an origami beatdown in the middle seat.
Now, just because you have what I would call a “high value” boarding pass doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Only the uninformed or novice traveler would take their A 18 as a sign to relax. What an experienced Southwest warrior does is use the pre-boarding time to assess the fellow passengers herding around the gate.
There are personality types that I’m always on alert for and try to avoid once I’m on the plane and praying for an aisle seat. Of course, everyone knows to beware of sitting anywhere near a small child. If I can, I like to put at least a five-row boundary between me and the 5 and under set.
Extra caution must be exhibited toward any parent who already has on noise canceling headphones before boarding the plane and does not seem to be carrying so much as a book or a Cheerio for their little one.
Almost as bad as a bored child who thinks kicking your seat is “awesome” is the Grumpy Business Traveler. This person, usually a guy, seems super ticked off he’s stuck flying with the general public in cargo class adjacent conditions. His audible sighs and reluctance to get off his cellphone combined with acting like he called dibs on sticking his legs in the aisle the whole flight equal jerk alert.
I’ve also been schooling my daughter to always be scanning the passenger horizon for the bubonic plague nomad. Also known as the ope-mouth cougher and/or full-frontal sneezer. These fools act as if they’re in training for some sort of disease decathlon where their bodily fluids are being measured for distance traveled, velocity and force.
Any intrepid traveler knows it’s not just what you see. It’s also what you smell. When everybody else is lounging in the gate area you should be taking a stroll with your olfactory senses at Defcon 5 as you sniff out the discernible odor passenger.
It’s not just B.O. I’m talking about. One time a woman had so much Joy perfume on I thought the flight attendants were going to suggest the pilot do an emergency landing.
The most irritating passenger, by far, is the hoarder. We all know these humans. They’re the ones who think carry-on limits are for suckers. Last month, a lady on our flight to L.A. had a suitcase so stuffed it looked like she had packed watermelons. She was also lugging a backpack and a cooler.
I pointed her out to my daughter and shared that no good ever comes from a carry-on cooler. She gave me some sanctimonious grief that maybe the cooler had an organ donation in it or something. When we got on the plane this woman had opened her Igloo and was laying out a feast of assorted foods that smelled like death walking around Texas without deodorant.
I gave my daughter a nudge and whispered, “Mother knows best.” She would have responded, but it’s hard to talk when you’re covering your mouth and holding your nose.