15 Minutes of Torture: From Landing to Deboarding


I have known boredom — frightful, soul-desiccating boredom. I have watched a low-scoring Monday Night Football game in late December, on a night when a blizzard made it impossible to go out, contested by two teams not headed for the playoffs, described by broadcasters who began yawning audibly a couple of minutes into the second quarter.

I have, in hopes of being seen as supportive, accompanied the missus to the local karaoke pub on a Friday night, and sat through couples mewling “American Pie” and Meat Loaf’s excruciating “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” out of tune before the missus was finally summoned to the stage.

As a college freshman, I read Beowulf and attended performances by the Grateful Dead.

I have not only known boredom, but become a connoisseur of it, and as such am able to assure you that there is no boredom on earth to compare to that one endures between his flight landing and his actually getting off the damned plane.

If he is as neurotic as the author, one thanks his lucky stars as the plane lands, and savors a lovely feeling of arrival, of completion. But the seatbelt sign remains illuminated as the plane makes its way to its gate and even, tauntingly, as the plane comes at last to rest. Having presumably spotted a fellow passenger getting antsy behind one, a flight attendant, reminds us censoriously that the seatbelt sign is still illuminated, and we feel as though back in grade school. Then at last the light goes off, and I and all the other eager beavers among my fellow passengers spring from our seats like meerkats off an electrified grid, and plunge into the aisles as determinedly as tailbacks into the end zone to snatch our carry-on cases and jackets from the overhead compartments. And then we stand there and stand there and stand there and stand there, our hair losing its color and luster, our joints their flexibility, our hearts their buoyancy, while the less eager between us and the cockpit (or, in some cases, the rear exit) reluctantly wind up the gabfests they were having with fellow passengers and do what we have done already, but at a tenth our speed, a hundredth. And then they too stand there and stand there and stand there as some mama’s boy, some loathsome kissup, some drinker of pink tea nearer the cockpit decides that he’ll earn karmic brownie points by stepping back, rather than forward when his time comes, and allowing the indolent laggards with whom he shared his row to get up and out and retrieve their own stuff. And everyone behind them stands there and stands there and stands there, as the minute hand of every non-digital wristwatch ceases to move and those of us in the middle of the plane lose the will to live. One thinks maybe of reviving a conversation he was enjoying before the plane began its descent, but it never works, for the spark has been extinguished, the moment lost. No one wants to think now about anything but being bidden buh-bye and getting the hell off already. But no one is moving.

The futility of human existence writ large.

But we shall not fail to acknowledge even this cloud’s silver lining; we shall not! The attentive passenger seated mid-plane who endures the cruel tedium between touch-down and deboarding is able as he makes his way exit-ward to harvest a wealth of magazines and even books left behind by earlier deboarders. And won’t said literature come in handy if, for instance, he has now to hurry to his connecting flight to Sydney?

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Comments (Showing 7 of 7)

  • rwmiller56 at 10:43pm January 28, 2013

    Interesting article.
    But, after seeing 200+ Grateful Dead concerts, I can say they were anything but boring.

  • bconver at 11:16pm January 28, 2013

    Welcome to FT. Great first piece!

    I guess the waiting on the flight only takes 15 minutes. But the Grateful Dead played for hours.

  • EnLasNubes at 1:29am January 29, 2013

    A lot of tasty words in here. Nicely done and so true.

  • Snacky at 7:55am January 29, 2013

    I have felt this, I am feeling this, I will feel this again. Why, oh why? By God, make it stop. Sometimes I’d be grateful if I was already dead.


  • mikeef at 2:48pm January 29, 2013

    Those fifteen minutes are often my favorite. On a late night flight, after having been woken by the landing, I get comfort that I will have a few more minutes of sleep due to that interminable taxi effort to the gate.

  • Eric Westby at 1:50am January 30, 2013

    I’m scratching my head over the “drinker of pink tea” slur. Care to enlighten me? Is it a movie reference I’m missing?

  • guytrenzich at 8:41pm January 31, 2013

    Eric Westby, the drinker of pink tea thing was the famous baseball player Ty Cobb’s way of describing fellow players he ajudged to be less manly than himself. Thanks, bconver, for your kind welcome. Yes, the Dead played for hours, but it seemed like weeks.

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