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Musical Seating and other Air Line Entertainment

According to Webster


The state or quality of being earlier in time or sequence.

The right to precede others in order, rank and privilege.


The boarding area for my return flight to San Francisco was crowded. My wife Bobbie’s latest text said she had a surprise. She’d paid an extra $15 to give me Priority Boarding. I had no idea what priority boarding meant.

I stood ill-at-ease waiting my turn in front of the Friendly Skies of United Welcoming Desk. The woman behind the desk gave me an unwelcoming eye.

‘You have only one carry on,’ I told myself. A ukulele bass in a carrying case I made out of a cardboard box. I didn’t count the backpack on my back or my tenor ukulele strapped over the back of the backpack. I was hoping the ‘Friendly Sky’ wouldn’t count them either. After all, those two items were on my back. I was not ‘carrying them on.’

“Next.” Came from the Welcome Desk. The woman motioned me forward.

“My wife says I’ve been prioritized,” I told the Woman. “Do I have to do anything special?”

“LET’S SEE YOUR BOARDING PASS,” the woman said in an unwelcoming tone that included a snarl. I knew immediately her United Flight flew in an unfriendly atmosphere.

I pulled my paper boarding pass from my shirt pocket. It was crumbled. I handed it toward the ‘Snarler.’ She gave it a cursory look of distain. She leaned in, squinted, then snatched it from my fingers. “Sir, all THIS information should already be on your cell phone.”

“I prefer paper,” I lied, too embarrassed to tell the ‘Snarler’ I knew it was on my phone. But, my cell phone and I had issues. Whenever I finally found all my information, I would insert my phone into some slot, usually the wrong way, or hand it to some agent for scrutiny, but by the time I inserted, handed it for scrutinization, my screen would go dark. The little, pale yellow box with all the squiggly lines would disappear. My cell phone was a Judas.

Embarrassed by my lack of technological prowess, I’d panic, swipe here and there to no avail. My cell phone functions when and where it wants to. The ‘Cell’ phone is aptly named. ‘Cell’ as in prison. Besides my cell phone is untrustworthy. On a whim, it can go from a 100% charge to 0% after playing a four minute Beatles tune. Now, I always ask for a paper boarding pass. Admittedly, I shouldn’t fold it and stuff it in a pocket.

The ‘Snarling representative of the Friendly Skies shoved my crinkled slip of paper back to me. “Here.” Her index finger nail rested on the number 2. Her nail was dirty, pitted and edged like rasp file. She pointed to an entry gate at the far end of the boarding area. “Go stand in the number 2 aisle. That’s the priority boarding line. If you would have read the information you would have seen that it says priority boarding.”

I wanted to shout, ‘I had read the boarding pass. I did see it said priority boarding. I just didn’t know what it was or how do it.’

Properly chastised I headed into the main boarding area. Thankfully, the ‘Snarler’ never mentioned my breach of carry-on protocol.

There was no one in the, ‘if I looked carefully, number 2, Priority Boarding aisle.’ I wasn’t going to be the first.

A man with a white Stenson Hat pointed to a vacant seat across from his family. I accepted. The man was huge. Jack Reacher. Six four, maybe six five. Two hundred and forty pounds minimum. His legs were thick. Between him and his wife sat a young girl and boy. The young girl was waggling a stiff finger in the face of her cow-girl doll; apparently admonishing the toy for some abhorrent behavior. I thought the young girl and the ‘Snarler’ could form a lasting bond.

The young boy held his cell phone in a vice grip. He had the air of a cell phone genius. He knew his way around a cell phone. I didn’t. Just as I leaned forward to ask him to show me how to access my damn boarding pass, his mother suddenly grabbed the phone and tucked it in a leather purse that resembled a saddlebag. I don’t know what the kid was playing or watching but it was obvious his mother did not want him playing or watching it.

When I looked up I saw an elderly couple move into the number #2 aisle. They seemed to know the drill. They’d been prioritized

before. I joined them with a smile. “Are you folks prioritized?” I asked. They nodded a ‘welcome-to- the- club’ nod.

The number 1 and 2 boarding lanes were separated by a low white rope. A blaring announcement came over the loudspeaker. It was the ‘Snarler.’ She screeched, “ PEOPLE IN GROUP #1 WOULD BOARD AFTER PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS, PEOPLE WITH CHILDREN AND MEMBERS OF THE ARMED SERVICES.” Unbelievably, not one pane glass cracked or shattered.

Behind me people in aisle number 2, began to increase. When the ‘Snarler’ called, “GROUP #1,” it seemed like all the people in our boarding area and the two adjacent boarding areas rose to their feet. It was like watching a football stadium on Super Bowl Sunday and the entire crowd rising for the national anthem.

The woman in front of me sighed as she looked at the advancing hoard, “What a waste of $15.” Together we counted 77 people boarding before us. But, it turned out to be fine when I entered the plane.

I was number three in boarding group #2 two. While the front of our plane was full of passengers from group #1, there was no one in the back of the plane. I loved life. I loved my wife. $15 dollars well spent. Bobbie and I would ‘prioritize’ for evermore!

I glanced at my boarding pass and strolled up the empty corridor to Row 47. There wasn’t a single person coming up the aisle. No one to push, shove or stand in my way. Suddenly, I knew exactly what a pregnant California Condor felt like when she found the perfect nook on the perfect cliff to build her nest. Building a nest takes time. For the first time, I had time to build mine.

I stowed the cardboard box with my ukulele bass in the carry-on bin directly above row 47. Seat A was mine. By the window. With a wall to lay my neck pillow and drift off to the white noise of the aircraft.

I took out an array of snacks and tucked them in the kangaroo pouch in front of my seat. I blew up my neck pillow. Stuck my clip board with crossword puzzles and Sudoku’s next to a bag of Macadamia Nuts I bought for a friend. And lastly, I put on my headphones and casually inserted my iPad into the pouch of the seat to my right. . . Maybe no one would sit in the middle seat?

My nest was complete. I sat back. Well, as far back as you can in a seat that doesn’t want you to sit back. I’d just plugged in my head phones and started sliding through the on flight film options when my shoulder was gently tapped. A gentle tap is a tap that can be easily ignored. Probably accidental. It wasn’t.

“Excuse me, Sir. You’re in my seat.”

I was in my nest. I heard the comment, but it was muffled because of the ear phones.

I was tapped again. “Sir, I believe you’re in my seat.”

I took off my ear phones. The man had a nice forty year old smile. I smiled back. “I don’t think so. 47A is my seat.”

“You may have made a mistake,” he said. “I booked 47A – B and C. For my wife, son and me.” He showed me his ticket. Sure enough 47 A – B and C.”

‘Ah, ha. A major mistake by a major airline,’ I fished out my crumbled boarding pass. Sure enough 42A. “Sorry, I’m in… well, not in… but I should have be in 42a. 47A looks a lot like 42A,”

“Lighting is bad on these planes,” he offered.

“Real bad,” I agreed.”

“Tony?” He got nudged by his wife. It was the old ‘will- you- get on- with- it- nudge’ familiar to most males.

A legitimate nudge. Accompanied by illegitimate bevy of ‘sighs’ and ‘coughs’ from the tide of boarders stuck behind the man’s wife and son. A human dam in the boarding process. And I was the hairball clogging up the passage way.

I unraveled myself from Seat 47A. I picked up iPad. Jammed it along with my snacks, Macadamia nuts and clip board into my backpack. Shouldered my ukulele and stood. I looked like something out of a Halloween costume catalog. Hat on my head. Earphones on my ears. Sunglasses. Neck pillow. Backpack. Ukulele.

As ‘The Creature from Row 47’ I surveyed the situation and planned a rapid though sheepish retreat. The sea of un-prioritized patrons thickened. The family of three grew impatient.

I juggled my bulk out into the aisle. I was forced to make a right. At row 51, I found the entire middle row empty. I sidled across the four seats and made a left down the far aisle. I squeezed into row 43 to let an elderly couple past then took a right and a left through the bathroom corridor, then another left inserting myself into the stream of people passing rows 40 and 41 and I made a right into row 42 and seat A. There should have been applause. Points for agility and creativity. It was a herculean feat and should have garnered and standing ovation. But since so many people were still standing, I didn’t take a bow.

I was still unraveling when I heard far behind me, “Who’s cardboard box is this?” I didn’t register until the second, “ Who’s card board box is this? It says ukulele.”

Bingo! I turned back toward my original nest in old row 47. A flight attendant, never say steward or stewardess, held my cardboard box high above his head. I waved. He waved back. He pointed to the overhead bin. “We don’t want this crushed, do we?”

‘No, we didn’t,’ I nodded. He pointed to an empty bin and then I was distracted…

The family, lead by the giant in the white Stenson hat, paused at row 42. There were four of them and only two seats. They couldn’t possibly want to sit in row 42? But they did. Two in my row and two in the middle row.

I like kids. Kids for the most part like me. Little kids don’t take up much space. If the two kids sat in my row it wouldn’t be so bad. That was not going to happen. The parents were dividing their children. Father daughter / mother son. The mother and son would be fine neither was huge. The mother and son chose the middle section of the airplane. There was hope if the little girl sat next to me. She’s tiny. If she squirms there are seat belts. When she screams, they usually do, I have ear plugs.

The father flopped into the seat next to me. My five foot condor nest dwindled to humming bird size. If I planned my movements, I could almost move. His arm took over the arm rest. He withdrew my IPad from the pouch in front of his seat and handed it to me.

I offered him some Macadamia Nuts. He declined.

At about 30,000 feet I began to feel sorry for sardines.

Lots more madness and mayhem at


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