Living in a Kleptocracy…the Erudite Travelers of Southwest Airlines

Bob the book-reading Dragonfly
Bob the book-reading Dragonfly.

Back from our honeymoon, which was combined with the GCLS (Golden Crown Literary Society) annual convention in – God help me – Phoenix, Arizona. The coolest we found the temperature was 91-degrees (F) at 4:30 in the morning. Why were we up at that time while on a honeymoon? More on that later.

The convention was great, as usual, and you can find photos of the venue, seminars, other things and the awards dinner here: (

We had to take a short hop during our vacation up to Salt Lake City for Kit’s doctoral graduation. On the flight up we encountered (overheard his booming voice behind us) waxing philosphic on everything from the expanding universe to global warming. In his words, “global warming is crap…the Earth will heal itself. It can shake us off like a dog shakes off a flea.” I leaned over to Kit and said, “Don’t we have to flea-dip our beastie to get rid of fleas?”

He went on. And on. And on. However, he couldn’t hold a candle to the guy we had on the flight back from Phoenix to Burbank last night. HE was a prize-winner. After spending 30 minutes of the trip on the back restroom, he came out and loudly began his dissertation on life. From memory: “Paper money isn’t worth crap, it’s part of a government conspiracy. Silver is the only way to go.” That took up about 20 minutes. Then came the discourse on General Patton and his career as a sharpshooter. Apparently Patton “NEVER” missed. Not once. The came the detailing of the amount of “ass” he got while stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War. This was followed up (in increasing volume) by his opinion on the Iraq War. When he began to go into killing women and children I began to gear myself up to address him. He was loud, crass, offensive and very, very drunk. Fortunately the lovely woman squeezed in next to him caught my eye and managed in her very gentle and genuine way, to deflect him.

She was an angel. And after we landed and she and I chatted, she said she “had my angels around me” to help her deal with him. She must have, I tell you.

Then he went on about the “Kleptocracy” of America. As he was going on about that, he insisted, “if you go to Wikipedia, you’ll see…it’s right there.” At that point Kit, me and about six others just lost it, laughing. During his Patton tribute, an older gentleman who probably was around when Patton was on the Olympic team, just shook his head, laughing silently. It’s amazing how much nonverbal communication can be shared amongst strangers while one man is loudly holding court to a captive audience.

Writing this, I decided to look up his word. What do you know? (And yes, this is from Wiki)…

A kleptocracy (sometimes cleptocracy, occasionally kleptarchy) (root: klepto+kratein = rule by thieves) is a term applied to a government that extends the personal wealth and political power of government officials and the ruling class (collectively, kleptocrats) at the expense of the population. A kleptocratic government often goes beyond mere cronyism and nepotism, or awarding the prime contracts and civil service posts to relatives or personal friends rather than the most competent applicants. They also create projects and programs at a policy level which serve the primary purpose of funneling money out of the treasury and into the pockets of the executive with little if any regard for the logic, viability or necessity of those projects.

What do you know?


One Comment on “Living in a Kleptocracy…the Erudite Travelers of Southwest Airlines”

  1. Donna Josie says:

    I’ve always considered Wikipedia “the source” for reliable information.

    Ya’ gotta love the “community” that is the captive audience of passengers on an airplane. Without it, would Lost be a top show on TV? Seriously.

    Now,let me share my little story about a trip and a few flights from a few years past:

    The Road Thru Perdition
    Perdition: Hell, Inferno, infernal region, nether region, the pit — ((Christianity) the abode of Satan and the forces of evil; where sinners suffer eternal punishment; “a demon from the depths of the pit”)

    Donna’s Story
    My flight left first from NC to take me to D.C., where I was to catch a non-stop to Seattle. When I got to D.C., they announced on the plane that we were to check the monitors to find the gates to our connections. The monitor said my flight was “on-time” and would leave at 6:11 p.m. But my ticket said 5:10 p.m. I made the mistake of trusting the monitor and failed to inquire at the gate about the discrepancy. Shame on me. I found myself with what I thought was a hour and a half to kill, so I poked around shops, read the paper, and had dinner (on the “D” concourse where my flight had arrived from NC, rather than going and doing the same thing on the “C” concourse where my outgoing flight was to leave.) At 5:30, I went to my gate only to discover the plane had left at 5:10! Ack! The gate agent said she had paged me, but the page only broadcasts on “C” concourse. Groan. Having used up my Xanax on all my previous flights, I amazed myself with how well I handled this. I did not lose my composure, in part because I was too darned tired. The airline folks were great and they put me on a later flight, but I would have to change planes in Chicago. So much for my non-stop, but it was better than nothing.

    Unfortunately, my later flight was delayed due to weather in Chicago, so they told me I probably would miss my connection to Seattle, the last flight of the evening. They suggested it would be easier to stay in D.C. for the night and get a plane in the morn, or I could take the flight that night and hope that I might make my connection. I opted for the latter, figuring if I missed my connection, at least I’d be closer to home in the morn. Oh, and no matter what I decided, I would not have access to my checked bag. Sigh.

    So off I flew to Chicago. All was fine until about 15 minutes or so before we were to land. That’s when the turbulence from perdition hit. I’m not talking rumbly, jiggly turbulence. I’m talking swooping, hurling, roller-coaster, “let’s roll,” life-flashing-before-your-eyes turbulence. I don’t do well in bumpy flights to begin with (hence the drugs), but this took the cake. In terror, I clung to my seat, trying not to cry, taking deep breaths and all that stuff. Remember, by this point in the trip, I was out of Xanax, so I was mightily challenged to cling to the limited composure I had left. Finally, I just reached over and grabbed the hand of my very big, comforting looking seatmate who did not seem fazed by the rocking and rolling at all. Mr. 16D graciously allowed to to cling to his hand until it was over. His huge, warm paw engulfed mine and he kept squeezing and patting gently until I finally could let go. He then leaned over and asked, “Are you ok?” “I am now. Thank you.” Lest you ever wonder, angels are in our midst and he was mine.

    When we got to Chicago, I had missed my connection by about five minutes. Picture me huffing and puffing from running thru the terminal, sweating in my all-day-long tired clothes, stricken at the gate agent’s news. What now? I persuaded the airline to put me up for the night. By then it was about 10:00 p.m. and I would have to be back at the airport at 5:30 a.m. to catch my morning flight, on the other side of the TSA Iron Curtain at 7:30. Because my checked bag was who-knew-where, they gave me a little amenity kit to get me thru the night (shampoo, toothbrush, etc.). So off I went, in my stinky clothes, to find the hotel shuttle. When I got to the hotel, I washed my sox and undies in the sink, hung them to dry, and then had a hot, soaky bath. I felt much better, and got to sleep just after midnight.

    Next morn, up at 4:00 a.m., only to find my sox and undies still wet. Picture me drying my stuff with the hair dryer for half an hour, sticking the dryer in the sox like a windsock. I then left to catch the 5:30 a.m. shuttle to the air port. This time, my flight left and I was on it. Hallelujah!

    The plane was a huge wide body (a Boeing 777?) with nine seats across in the economy section where I sat. The cool thing about this plane was the little video monitors in the back of each seat. You could listen to air traffic control (we were “United 755 Heavy”) on the earphones and they had a map that showed where the plane was with a red line from Chicago. It also told you how long we’d been flying, how many miles flown, and up-to-the-minute estimated time of arrival. I’ll bet it really cut down on the are-we-there-yet questions from passengers (adult and child alike). This flight was uneventful. Wa-hoo!

    Pam’s Story

    Pam had to change planes in Phoenix on her way home to San Diego. The plane was pretty full leaving NC. When almost everyone was on the plane, a couple with two handicapped kids boarded. Apparently there’s some federal that says one able-bodied adult must be seated next to each handicapped child. Having the three family members in one row and the fourth across the aisle isn’t good enough. So the flight attendant got on the speaker and explained the sitch and asked for volunteers to adjust to accommodate this family. Of course everyone was gracious, doing the right thing and getting them seats. This involved lots of shuffling of seats, but at last they were ready to go.

    Just then, Mr and Mrs Snotsdale boarded. They’d missed the announcement about the family and how everyone had just done the right thing without complaining. In the course of that seat rearranging, passengers ended up in the Snotsdale’s seats. The flight attendant invited them just to take the two remaining seats, a row or two apart. This wasn’t good enough for Mrs. Snotsdale, who whined that she and her husband had just returned from a wonderful vacation and she would not put up with being separated during the last hour or so of their trip. Pam could see that the flight attendant was about to tell them sit down or get off, but we’re leaving. Then, two Southern business men putting their heads together and then standing up and saying, “Ma’am, we’d be pleased if you and your husband would take our seats.” Fine.

    After the plane took off, Pam could hear Mrs. Snotsdale starting to whine and complain to her husband. She got tearful and Pam could hear “humiliated,” and “everyone is looking at us,” and, “how could that flight attendant do this to me.” The next thing you know, Mrs. Snotsdale has buzzed for the flight attendant. She demanded an apology for being treated so shabbily, blah blah blah. Then Pam heard the flight attendant, a credit to the airline, give a priceless, and loud, apology:

    “Ma’am, I’m so sorry that YOU felt humiliated and that YOU are unhappy with your seat. I’m sorry that YOU feel that the other passengers think less of YOU for complaining about your seat,” etc. Priceless. Thereafter, Mrs. Snotsdale proceeded to get blotto and began fighting with her husband. Pam decided not to watch the movie, because these folks were far too entertaining.

    Gotta love plane stories.