Age and Genre: Adult Creative Nonfiction
Word Count: 53,000
Boarding All Rows is a humorous, creative nonfiction portrayal of the inconsiderate things people do while getting from Point A to Point B. Since a play-by-play of my twenty years of business travel would be lengthy, it squeezes the funniest events into a weeklong story line and is complete at 53,000 words.
The action follows a colleague and me on a last-minute work trip, but this is merely a framework supporting the real story within: a steady procession of jackasses. One by one, they’re dragged into the open to be cataloged, ridiculed, and released back into the chaos. Anyone who’s spent much time at thirty-thousand feet should recognize the Group Trippers, Power Hog, Juggernaut, and a long parade of archetypal passengers that only crowded airports reveal.
While American society is creeping towards tolerance, our interactions as individuals are often rude, indifferent, and infected by a “me first, then you” attitude. Since people can’t fix what they won’t admit, Boarding gives them a big shove down the road to redemption.
You can learn a lot about a man from the list of people he wants to drown. The names won’t mean much unless you know them, but you still have to wonder how they landed there. You also might be curious how the list got so long. How could a guy described as a fun, easygoing, two-hundred-pound puppy want to fill up a party van with people and drive it into the nearest lake?
Air travel. Years and years of it.
To be clear, I’m not talking about family vacations or weekend getaways. I love those as much as anyone and would argue we should take more of them. No, I’m referring to the soul-mincing meat grinder of work travel. When you’ve spent more time aloft than a flock of Canadian geese, the other passengers almost become a surrogate family. Not in a festive Thanksgiving at grandma’s way, but more of an obligatory family reunion, complete with distant cousins who just got out of prison or blow cigarette smoke in your kids’ faces.
They’re not always the same passengers, of course, but if you pay attention you’ll see many common attitudes and behaviors. Just as heat and pressure can turn coal into diamonds, the chaos of a busy terminal can transform normal humans into colossal douches. Yes, if we are truly the sum of our experiences, then we’re also a product of the jackasses we meet along the way.