Enormous Heads Fly Free

Your t-shirt is both amusing and enlightening.

Today I will illustrate the intellectual flexibility that is the hallmark of The Smatter’s editorial staff (me) and audience (you, the dashing lone wolf in the “Rehab Is for Quitters” T-shirt with the frozen veggie burrito in your hand).

Over the years, I’ve come to hate Southwest Airlines, and not just because they’ve discriminated against lovable lardasses like Kevin Smith. After my positive experience last week, I now only modestly dislike the Kia of the sky.

Don’t get me wrong—Southwest Airlines performs an important function in my life. It effectively and efficiently assembles, in a confined space, large groups of people I’d prefer to avoid. Southwest positions itself as a low-cost carrier, but Virgin America crushes it with 10x the quality and customer experience. Once Virgin and JetBlue add some more routes, Southwest will be in trouble.

Southwest has also nearly killed my female flying companion at least three times by neglecting to keep the cabin clear of death-inducing peanuts (serious allergy). Each time, we followed the airline’s process to prevent her legume-based demise and double-checked that nuts were nixed at each point along the way. Each time, someone screwed up, peanuts were served, we complained, and the airline did nothing to remedy the situation.

Whenever her eyes start to itch and swell as the first few packets are opened, we have to cause a minor scene by imploring the flight attendant to stop serving peanuts. Inevitably, the guy whose peanuts are nearly delivered and then suddenly denied groans outwardly, but a couple of pasty groaners is better than a dead passenger. I love peanuts as much as anyone, but I’m an investments guy, so everything boils down to simple, elegant risk/reward equations for me. Serve peanuts = someone might die, therefore don’t serve peanuts.

I’ve never understood why people love Southwest. Is it just because the stock ticker (LUV) says we do? Sure, every now and then a flight attendant demonstrates that he or she has read the training manual and is hyper-friendly, but that’s just a different flavor of annoying.

Now, for the switcheroo. After watching San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy proudly board a Southwest flight in San Diego recently, my stance of unbridled animosity has been substantially weakened. If the man with the largest head in baseball history flies Southwest, it must be all right.

Perhaps he flies Southwest just because all the other airlines charge him $25 for his oversized noggin? Rimshot!

I also have to give Southwest credit for the introduction of numbered sections in its boarding process, leading to a slightly more civil herding of the unwashed masses. Of course, Southwest’s cavalier insistence on letting bags fly free is pure marketing genius and generates significant goodwill, even from the most persnickety of passengers such as myself.

The lesson: Keep an open mind, hate nothing, and be grateful for your average cranium stuffed with well-nourished, Smatter-fed gray matter.

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