Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Travel Tantrum

July 22, 2016

 

As most of you know, Mrs. Chatterbox and I enjoy trekking to faraway places and do so frequently, resulting in a lot of air travel. Air travel has changed significantly over the years with consumers being nickel and dimed to death, with fees for extra bags (in some cases even one bag). Headphones often come at a price, as do movies. Adding insult to injury, meals that are gas producing and flavorless are no longer included in the airfare on many flights. But what really puzzles me is the manner in which airlines load passengers onto planes. It makes no sense.

 

It begins with couples complaining that their seats aren’t together, with requests for those of us who planned ahead and preselected our seats—to move. I’m not a tiny guy and my broad shoulders don’t do well in a middle seat where I feel like I’m in a straight-jacket. I’ve given up on window seating but I draw the line at being sandwiched between two strangers. Mrs. C. and I always book opposing aisle seats; we can talk to each other and head to the restroom during the flight without climbing over anyone. Have I mentioned my bladder is the size of a peanut?

 

But the real problem is in the terminal, beginning with people bringing massive suitcases to the boarding gate to be checked and transferred to the luggage hold of the plane. These bags should have been checked at the ticket counter, yet people bring them anyway, knowing their bags will be last on the plane and first off at baggage claim. They also realize this is the best way to avoid being charged for extra bags. I’ve actually seen someone try to board with a kayak.

 

When the plane is ready to board, the gate attendant announces early boarding for the disabled, parents traveling with small children and military personnel. I have no problem letting military personnel board first, they’ve earned the right, and God knows people traveling with small children need all the help they can get, although I’m always piqued with Mrs. Chatterbox for refusing to let me drag a leg to get us through the crowd and onto the plane early.

 

Next to board are those willing to pay through the nose for First Class. If I’d paid triple the cost of a Coach or Economy Fare, I guess I’d want special treatment also; besides, it’s only a few rows. Next comes Business Class, with the bulk of the remaining seats designated as Coach or Economy, usually beginning around row twenty and going all the way to the rear of the plane.

           

The gate attendant allows a few rows to board at a time; rows fifteen through twenty, twenty through thirty, and so on until the last rows are announced. A bottleneck ensues; the aisles are always choked with people struggling to find overhead storage for bags and suitcases that should have been checked, creating a logjam that all too often delays departure.

 

Here’s my beef: when it comes to boarding regular passengers, why not start from the rear of the plane? This way the overhead bins are empty and passengers fussing with their baggage won’t block those searching for their seats.

 

I once boarded a plane using this method and it worked perfectly; our plane left the gate early. I’ve mentioned this to a few flight attendants who just smiled without comment. Perhaps they enjoy hunting for overhead space for a passenger’s karaoke machine.

 

Why not board from the back of the plane? What’s wrong with this idea? Do airlines go out of their way to make travel difficult? Sometimes it seems like it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have any travel pet peeves? Care to share?

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

24 Comments
We always book our seats in advance, and check our luggage in online too. So when we get to the airport we get rid of the luggage as soon as we arrive. We also keep hand luggage to a minimum. We usually fly with British Airways, and my partner is a Gold member and we are all Bronze, so we get on the plane fairly quickly. I always go for a window seat with one of the family next to me as I don't like sitting next to a stranger incase I have to make polite conversation. I actually enjoy the whole experience, even the food. :D
By: LL Cool Joe on July 22, 2016
When I fly to Portland, I book First Class. The seats are very comfy and the snacks are nice. Plus my bag is always waiting for me when I disembark the plane (it's right there at baggage claim every single time). I think that margins are getting so razor thin that if you want to have any creature comforts, you simply have to pay for it. You know...you only live once. You might as well spend some money on yourself and your loved one. What else you gonna do with it?
By: Michael Offutt on July 22, 2016
I usually book well in advance and try to check in online. I once flew on one of those seat the folks in the rear first flights. Many of them put their carry-ons in the first overhead they found and those boarding later hat to go to the back of the plane to stow their luggage. Didn't quite work out so well.
By: Uncle Skip on July 22, 2016
Flight hassles alone are sufficient reason to either stay home or take the train.
By: Snowbrush on July 22, 2016
And I hate when the airline makes a big deal about the amount of carry-on luggage permitted, we carefully review what we have before leaving the house, make adjustments if needed, and then watch people take on whatever they damn well please with absolutely no restriction. I have assumed regarding NOT boarding from the rear that there's something I'm simply ignorant of. I remember that being very common in the past and then the practice suddenly disappeared.
By: Mitchell is Moving on July 22, 2016
Sometimes people just want something for nothing. They want to pay the absolute minimum but get a lot for it. It doesn't work with airline travel any more.
By: messymimi on July 22, 2016
I don't fly any more. Since 9/11 it's gotten to be too much of a hassle & I'm getting too old, feeble & impatient!1
By: fishducky on July 22, 2016
It can be frustrating. The first time my niece flew it was with Jilda and I when we went to San Francisco. She was all dolled up when we boarded in Birmingham, but by the time she wheeled her small bag off the plane and passed a mirror on the concours, she said flying sucks the beauty right out of you. Wise words from a 12 year old.
By: Rick Watson on July 22, 2016
My fear of flying has kept me earth bound and after reading this, I realize my fear should be the least of my concerns. More power to those of you who go fearlessly into the sky.
By: Arkansas Patti on July 22, 2016
i haven't traveled nearly as much as you, but i have always wondered that same thing...
By: TexWisGirl on July 22, 2016
I am afraid I have too many peeves to mention. Sometimes, though I have boarded from the rear doors of the aircraft. Perhaps it's a European thing. In fact, I would say I board from the rear door about 1/3 of the time. As for the meals, they're just horrible and always have been but I resent paying for them on the spot much more I would have resented paying the cost in with the price of the ticket!
By: jennywoolf on July 22, 2016
I spent much of a career traveling around the world on assignments. I could not agree more with you. Boarding from the rear of the plane first makes perfect sense. The alternatives are silly or stupid. Greatest peeve is that airlines, most but not all of them-have little or no respect for those of us who are paying. Seat size and additional fees have become almost criminal-or should be. I've long thought there should be a customer advocate at every gate or on every flight to help monitor and adjudicate issues-from late departure, over booking, seat hassles, where luggage is stored and etc.
By: Tom Cochrun on July 22, 2016
I'm sure the attendants k now very well that boarding from the rear would make logical sense. But they can't do that for all the reasons you mentioned (and what's in the first cartoon). They have to follow the rules and regs. And have to smile while they're doing it. I was once bumped up to 1st class on a flight. (Goodness knows why. I was an American in Germany so maybe that mattered.) 1st Class was heavenly! A ton of room and great food!
By: Lexa Cain on July 22, 2016
I haven't been on a plane since my senior year of high school. Orville and Wilbur did not have rules for carry-on bags.
By: Val on July 22, 2016
It makes perfect sense to me. One time when we flew to Mexico they let people get off from the plane from the back as well as front. It went pretty quickly as you didn't have to wait behind everyone to go through one door. We just got back from a plane trip and no big complaints. Take care, my friend.
By: Mr. Shife on July 22, 2016
Your idea makes perfect sense to me.
By: red Kline on July 22, 2016
Your boarding plan makes perfect sense to me. My pet peeve is mouthy, rude passengers who give the flight attendants a hard time. The FA's have jobs to do, their airline has rules they must abide by, and there are mandated FAA rules. In an earlier life I dated a flight attendant, and I'm to this day protective of them. I always take some small treats on board with me...like chocolate/mint Andes Candies...and after things settle down on the flight, I'll walk to the back where the FA's are taking a short break and offer them some, too. For the rest of the flight I get top-notch service. They're really sweet people, and appreciate being treated nicely.
By: scott park on July 22, 2016
I haven't flown in decades and based on what you tell me, I'll take the camel caravan if I ever have to travel again!
By: Catalyst on July 22, 2016
I so agree with you on the way they board passengers...it makes no sense. I often fly on Air Transat or as my hubby says ...air transcrap. I feel like a sardine and have no elbow room. I take them because they are cheaper although, given the recent news of the pilots being drinker than skunks makes me think to spend extra. Anyways, when we last went, they ran out of water! I mean...no water! No coffee, we could not wash our hands....really pathetic for the price. Another time I used them they had duct tape on the seats!
By: Birgit on July 23, 2016
I so totally agree about boarding from the back! It makes no sense whatsoever. Also, if I were 1st class I'd rather stay OFF the plane as long as possible - I get claustrophobic sitting in those tin cans. I'm ok once we're in the air. So, actually, I take that back - since I'm never going to be 1st class I'd rather get on the plane last! :)
By: The Bug on July 23, 2016
I had never thought about it, but boarding the plane from back to front makes sense! We usually fly Southwest where you don't have assigned seats. My pet peeve is passengers that bring over sized carry on luggage and then have trouble fitting it (or not leaving enough room for the rest of us).
By: Pixel Peeper on July 23, 2016
Boarding from the back to the front makes total sense. And the deal with oversize luggage being allowed to go through the security gates should be halted- and the idiot trying to bring it on the plane should be turned back and made to check it at the ticketing counter. It always annoys me when I check a bag and then others are allowed to drag a boat load onto the plane making it miserable for the rest of us. My sweetie and I reserve seats ahead and we choose the aisle and window since then sometimes we do not have a stranger sitting with us. If someone does show up we just obligingly give them the window seat. Needless to say flying steerage is miserable, but I prefer to spend my money on the ground!
By: Kathe W. on July 24, 2016
I have several and they're all related to the decline in a positive customer experience. As consumers we deserve better.
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 24, 2016
Air Travel. Where stupidity, cluelessness, and inconsideration are on display daily.
By: Al Penwasser on July 24, 2016

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