We've all heard about (and sometimes seen for ourselves) the ugly side of the airlines.
I'm talking about Surly Sue, the flight attendant with the fake smile, the snippy manner and the "don't even think about asking for another pack of peanuts" glare. Or how about the Clueless Customer Service Guy, who has no idea when the next available flight is, and clearly doesn't care.
The ones I call nightmare passengers -- the people who torment the flight crews and leave the rest of us begging for mercy. Yes, their numbers are tiny, too. But not tiny enough.
In case you haven't been keeping up, here's my short list of Worst Passengers of 2009:
"Liquid Soap Lady": A woman on a United flight allegedly took pills and alcohol, then tried to bite a crew member's leg. She also reportedly drank down the contents of a lavatory's liquid soap dispenser (apparently for its alcohol content). Her explanation to the cops: "I sometimes do crazy things."
"I-Have-a-Bomb Guy": A passenger on a Delta flight reportedly knocked a crew member to the floor as he attempted to open an exit door while yelling, "I have a bomb!" Passengers piled on, and he was subdued (keep reading for the postscript).
"Drinking Buddy": According to reports, flight attendants on a small Comair jet cut off the booze to a hefty and clearly intoxicated passenger, so he started swinging. The incident took place before 10 in the morning, and the loaded lad was reportedly on his way to his grandmother's funeral.
"Get Me Outta Here": An American Airlines jet had landed but was still waiting for gate space when an impatient passenger decided, "Enough!" He opened an aircraft door, deploying the emergency slide that he then used to make his getaway. He was detained by the cops but so were all the other passengers because they had to wait for "slide removal" before the aircraft could get to the gate.
"Cockpit Crasher": Police say an "unruly" fellow onboard a Delta flight heading from New York to Tel Aviv made a mad dash for the cockpit door and began pounding on it, forcing an emergency landing in Boston. The man blamed it on a panic attack.
"The Screamer": The tantrum began when the female passenger missed her Hong Kong flight and began screaming at the top of her lungs, all the while banging a desk, smacking into people and falling to the airport floor. Her shrill, hysterical screams were heard 'round the world, thanks to a Cathay Pacific employee who took video that wound up on YouTube.
What the heck's going on? Well, maybe not much. After all, most of us don't run into these people in the air or anywhere else, thank goodness.
And, as Emily Post, author of the definitive "Etiquette," once said, "Since it is not likely that anyone would go around the world being deliberately offensive to others, it may be taken for granted that obnoxious behavior is either the fault of thoughtlessness or ignorance."