Galley Gossip: Electronic devices & the passenger with the cat-like reflexes

When a passenger said to me with a straight face that he had cat-like reflexes, I tried not to laugh. Only it’s impossible not to laugh when a person says something like this, and actually means it. FYI: I’ve been around a lot of passengers and I have yet to meet one with these kind of reflexes. At least not in this day and age of distracted air travel.

How did I meet my funny feline friend? We had just touched down at La Guardia airport in New York. While taxiing to the gate, I spotted him, a business man, sitting in the aisle seat of the last row of coach with a mammoth-sized computer resting on his lap, fingers typing away.

From the back of the airplane over the roar of the engine, I called out, “Sir, excuse me, Sir! “

Either he couldn’t hear me or assumed I was speaking to someone else. I unbuckled my belt and gently tapped him on the shoulder. “You’re not supposed to be using that right now.”

Fingers continued to peck at the keys. Eyes remained glued to the screen. “I thought we were allowed to use electronic devices after landing.”

“It’s okay to use your cell phone after landing, but not a computer. That should be off and stowed.”

On a mission, the fingers kept moving. “I’m….almost…done.”

Almost was not soon enough.

“Do you know why you’re supposed to have that stowed?” I asked. Finally the fingers came to a stop, and for the first time during the course of a two and a half hour flight, the gentleman and I made eye contact. “If there’s an emergency and I have to pop the slide and evacuate this plane, you’re going to waste a lot of precious time fumbling around with that fifty pound laptop! Do you think your neighbor wants to gets blocked in, or worse, whacked in the head? Also what if I need your help?!”

Sheepishly he smiled. “What if I told you I have cat-like reflexes.”

And there you have it. That’s how this passenger, a middle-aged man, became known as The Cat Man. As for his amazing reflexes, I’d seen them in action and I was not at all impressed. During the flight when I went to put a cup of club soda down on his tray table, I had to wait a few minutes for him to figure out what to do with the laptop. And the Blackberry. And the other Blackberry.

On a recent flight a first class passenger thought nothing of pulling out his cell phone and texting while I stood right in front of him demonstrating the safety announcement! Another chatted away in coach as we turned onto the runway. “I heard you!” barked a woman when I asked her to turn off a game boy. Now I had already asked her twice to put it away and I kinda-sorta needed to take my jump seat before takeoff, so now wasn’t a good time to discuss why she couldn’t keep it in “airplane mode.”

Last week on a flight from New York to Aspen, after the lights were turned to bright and the flight attendant in charge made the announcement about turning electronic devices off, stowing bags, and putting seat backs in the upright and locked position, I went through the cabin and row by row had to practically invite each and every passenger to do as they were told – not once, but a few times! No joke, my four year-old has better listening skills than most of the adults on this flight. And there were 124 passengers on board! Never in my life has it taken me so long to prepare a cabin for landing! Because some of these passengers had more than one electronic device in use, I couldn’t get their attention, and when I finally did, they still couldn’t grasp what I was saying. I had to resort to a game of charades. Try acting out “head phones off. Power down computer” twenty times in flight and you’ll know what it’s like to be me.

Now when I encounter these kind of passengers, I can’t help but think of my old friend and his not-so cat-like reflexes. But instead of laughing, I feel more like hissing and scratching. Just consider yourself warned.


Photo courtesy of Svacher