Sometimes I go through stretches of time — minutes, hours even — when I forget how dumb everybody is. But whenever I need a reminder of the astounding stupidity of the people around me, I go to the airport. Holy cow. Forget the blog, I could write an entire book with all the good material provided by the people at airports.
That’s not to say I never feel like an idiot at the airport; one time I forgot about the unfinished water bottle in my backpack. But that’s an honest mistake, a careless blunder. We’re not here to list isolated incidents of idiocy. No, no, no, what we’re going to talk about is the stuff that stops you in your tracks and makes you look around in disbelief. This is a special kind of stupidity. This is the kind of stupidity that is so pervasive and yet so blatantly obvious that you fear it must be contagious, because what person in their right mind would think this was a good idea. The, “Really? Does nobody here have a brain?” kind of stupidity. I call it systematic stupidity.
Systematic stupidity is not exclusive to airports, but that’s where it seems to be most prevalent. The airport is like one long systematic stupidity exam; every step of air travel quizzes the traveler on one thing or another that a reasonable person should be able to do — you know, common sense. Packing, leaving for the airport on time, checking in, going through security, waiting to board, and getting to your seat; these are all a bunch of little tests of your common sense. And as you fail these tests one by one, I’m standing right behind you, laughing. Every wrong step you take is on display for the world to see.
Of course, it’s not entirely fair of me to laugh. For some people at the airport, this could be their first time on a plane; I should give them a break. And even for experienced travelers, the airport can be a very stressful place; I should put some blame the airlines for not making this an easier process. Last but not least, I suppose I can’t blame people for being idiots. It’s not their fault. But it sure does seem like there are a lot of dumb people out there, all congregating at the airport. The Newark Airport is their Mecca.
When the dumb people congregate to pray to the Deities of Dumbness (The Saviors of Stupidity? The Idols of Idiocy?), they perform a particular series of rituals. I must admit that I haven’t read the all the liturgy, but the rituals are done in such a public manner that I can’t help but pick up on some aspects of this bizarre cult. For what I’ve gathered, practicing members strive to attain a few fundamental ideals, which can be summarized in a series of commandments. This is my best guess as to what these commandments must be.
Thou shan’t leave anything at home.
The first commandment is an exercise preparedness. What if we need that thing while we’re gone? We’d better bring it with us, it preaches; that way we have it. Dumb people adhering to this commandment can easily be spotted carrying pieces of luggage larger than they are. The culmination of this line of prayer is the long-anticipated ritual of checking luggage. The check-in counter is one of the most sacred places of worship for dumb people. In some stupid sects, parents reward the child who packs the heaviest bag.
In addition to their checked luggage, particularly devout dumb people go so far as to bring a carry-on bag that is too large for the overhead compartment. This is the model idiot, the one who extends the that-way-we-have-it mentality to the plane ride itself.
Thou shalt be, like, totally unprepared to go through security.
Going through security is a cleansing experience for dumb people. So that their soul feels fully refreshed, dumb people want to prolong the experience as much as possible. While standing in line watching dozens of people hand their boarding pass and driver’s license to the TSA agent, a traveler might feel the temptation to find those documents ahead of time, in order to speed things up. Dumb people resist that temptation. They pride themselves in the time it takes them to rummage through their wallets and purses to find their IDs once they’ve reached the front of the line.
These idiots also take great care to ensure that their pockets are fully stuffed and have not been emptied prior to arriving at the scanner. It is something of a rite of passage for young imbeciles to go through the scanner a second time, having “forgotten” about the keys or the spare change in their pockets.
Thou shalt remain close to the gate at all times.
Thought of as the “eternal light,” the gate is an everlasting source of spiritual nourishment for dumb people. Systematic stupidity emanates continuously out of the gate and into the terminal. For this reason, dumb people are commanded to stand as close to the gate as possible. To an untrained eye, it may appear that these idiots are standing in line before boarding has even started. You may find yourself waiting in an unmoving line for several minutes after your row has been called, only to realize that the dumb people around you are there strictly for religious purposes. It’s not their turn at all. A quick, “Are you in line?” or “Have they started boarding?” will sniff out a practitioner from a gentile, and should save you some embarrassment.
Thou shalt be first to disembark the plane (even if thou hast not a connecting flight) for thou art the chosen people.
This is the granddaddy of them all. Even the most lenient, reform, progressive dumb people observe this one. It’s kind of like how some people only go to mass on Christmas; if you’re only going to do one religious thing, you’d better make it count.
So instead of making use of the eighteen thousand things stuffed into their carry-on, dumb people are commanded to spend their time on the airplane meditating. They focus their meditation on one thing in particular: an exit strategy. Since dumb people have to be the first ones off the plane, they have to be mentally prepared to leap to action as soon as the wheels touch ground. Watch as the idiots whip off their seat belts, jump out of their chairs, fling open the overhead compartments, yank their bags to the floor, rush to the front of the plane, and… stand there for 10 minutes while they wait for the doors to open.
What’s especially interesting is that another peculiar ritual can trace its roots all the way back to this very commandment. Since dumb people have to take the time to meditate on their exit strategy, dumb people like to spend as much time in their seat as possible. This means that they not only want to be the first ones off the airplane, but they also want to be the first ones on the airplane. No, they aren’t afraid of gate-checking their bags. No, they don’t just really really want the overhead space (although they do really really need it for their enormous bags). No, they don’t think they’re going to get to Atlanta before everybody else if they get on the plane first. And no, they don’t especially like the uncomfortable seats on the airplane better than the comfy ones in the terminal. They just need to get to work on their strategizing, that’s all.
There are several themes common to good exit strategies. Unbuckle your seatbelt before the plane has even landed –– get that mental preparation started early. Be sure to smack people on the head with your bag as you get it down from the overhead bin –– non-believers should be punished for their sins against stupidity. If you can’t reach your bag, demand that somebody else get it for you –– you’ve got no time to lose. If you can’t get into the aisle right away because you’re stuck with a window seat, stand up and painfully crane your neck against the ceiling –– let everybody know you mean business. And, most importantly, do not wait for people in front of you to go –– even if that means disregarding the flight attendants, running over an old person, or separating a mother from her child.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. It hardly seems fair for the dumb people to cut in line. The people who have to rush to make connecting flights should have priority. Or, at the very least, passengers should file out front-to-back. But you’re forgetting something: we are not dealing with the world of common sense. They fail the common sense exam with flying colors. They exemplify and perpetuate systematic stupidity. These are extremely dumb people. They’re the chosen ones.