Stop Whining and Turn Off Your Phone

I learned when I was a camp counselor that you should always support the person up front. When they say something wrong, let it slide and fix it later. When they suggest something unpopular, go with it, and if it proves unsuccessful, it's no big deal. I never had a camp director suggest we run naked through a poison ivy patch, or show up to Hershey Park at 4AM so we can get a good parking spot. Usually, things worked out in the end.

It's important to support the person up front because in times of stress and adversity, the little authority you've invested in that person will pay off. When that person tells you to leave the building immediately, you'll do it. You won't ask questions until you smell the gas leak. In a way, this is like a military command, but without all the imminent peril and killing and stuff. It's about trust. I put my trust in the person who is leading the group from the front. At best, things go very well. At worst, nobody gets hurt, and it's all over soon.

When a flight attendant tells you to turn off your cell phone, just do it and don't complain about it. Airports and air travel are a sore point for me on Twitter and other social networks. It used to be people complained about flight delays. Then they complained about the airport gates. Once, a friend complained that his windshield was cracked by an errant pebble kicked up by a truck in traffic on the way to the airport. From where was he tweeting? Now, the complaints are all about turning off your phone, your laptop, your iTouch, your tablet, and all the other junk you carry with you.

I'm sick of it. I couldn't care less.

I know, you're right. Phones probably don't crash airplanes. Okay, it's debatable what is the effect of a couple hundred cell phones scrounging for service as the plane tries to catch air. It may cause interference, but a cell phone has never been pegged as the lone culprit in an airline disaster. And if the wireless radio in your cell phone probably won't bring down the plane, certainly the slight trickle of juice through your Kindle won't hurt anything.

I don't care. Turn it off. Turn it all off. And don't complain about it.

[aquote]You're not in charge of the airline[/aquote]

Want to know why you should turn it off? Because the flight attendant told you to, and he or she asked nicely. Try to argue with that. You can't. If you do, you're just a jerk. You're not in charge of the airline. You're not a pilot or a flight attendant (and if you are, I'm betting you're agreeing with me anyway). I don't care if you're an electrical engineer specializing in RF interference. If someone asks you nicely to turn off your gadgets, and makes it clear that your refusal will seriously inconvenience the people around you, just do it. Stop wasting time.

If you want to argue this policy, do it. Go to your congressperson and voice your concerns. You'd be amazed how few people have to call a congressional office before they start taking the complaints very seriously. If that doesn't work, complain to the FAA. Complain to the airlines. Then, start taking the train. Take a greyhound bus. Chances are, they have better Wi-Fi and more power outlets anyway.

By the time you get on the plane, you've already lost the argument. It would be like walking into an Outback Steakhouse and yelling at the waiter because the beef is not locally grass fed. It's too late. You knew it was Outback Steakhouse. Enjoy your Bloomin' Onion and shut your trap.

Partially, this argument is about respecting the limited authority of the flight attendant. I've never honestly seen a flight attendant abuse his or her authority. If anything, I wish they would flex a little more authority. Time to start harassing the idiots who can't figure out how to stow a piece of luggage WHEELS FIRST on the LEFT SIDE OF THE PLANE! Is it so hard? Instead, I have to check my bags or pay extra to make sure I can get on the airplane before those spatially inept morons.

I'd like to see flight attendants chastise people who listen to music through their laptop speakers, instead of using headphones. I'd like to see a flight attendant tell the inconsiderate nincompoop in front of me that slamming his seat into a reclining position while I'm eating my expensive cheese and crackers and raisins is inconsiderate.

[aquote]Suck it up, hipster[/aquote]

I'd like to see a flight attendant explain to some mid-twenties hipster that babies can't control their crying, but unwashed hipsters can certainly control their eye-rolling and obnoxious deep sighs. Suck it up, hipster, or I'll take away my toddler's iPad just before take off and let you enjoy his reaction for the next 3 hours. I've heard it for 3 years, so I can just fade it out. Good night.

The best reason I can think of for turning off your gadgets is because it helps you pay attention. The most dangerous time to be on an airplane is during takeoff and landing. That's when the bad stuff happens. Maybe your cell phone won't cause it to happen, but it might make things work. If you have to tweet that your plane is going down while I'm trying to reach over you for my oxygen mask, you're going to be the first person I eat when we crash land on the island.

I've never heard a flight attendant claim that the electronics interfere with the airplane's controls. They only ask you to turn off your gadgets, they don't explain why. I've always assumed it was so you could offer your undivided attention at the only time during the flight when they want you to be conscious and alert.

I'm cool with that. I turn off my gadgets. I power them down, I don't just put them into airplane mode. Before I board the plane, I store all my extra gadgets in my carry-on, powered down.

Just remember, air travel is amazing. Air travel is cheaper now than it has been at any other point in history. You can fly across the country in less time than it takes to drive between Dallas and Houston. You can leave Korea at 10AM and arrive in New York at 8AM ON THE SAME DAY! We've invented time travel, and you're missing it because you have to check in on Foursquare. If the airlines insisted that you cannot even bring anything electronic on planes, it would still be worth flying. If they told you every flight would be a "Grease" singalong, it would still be worthwhile. Actually, that would be cool at first, but as a Platinum flier I could see that getting old.

Stop whining and turn off your phone, you self-absorbed, super-entitled, do-nothing. Instead, spend the time pleasantly reminiscing about your trip. The sights. The culture. The business at hand. The cab driver who wouldn't stop talking on his Bluetooth, even though the sign clearly says the driver will not talk on the phone. See? It's contagious.