The dog days of airports, flying

David Lindeman - Contributing Columnist

There are few places in this world where you can observe human behavior as well as you can in an airport.

We spent Christmas in Denver visiting our grandchildren — oh, and our grandchildren’s parents, who happen to live there, too. Being forced to wait in the airport because of delays on both ends of the trip gave me ample time to make some observations and way too much time to think about them.

First of all, there are the dogs. There were so many dogs in the terminals in Columbus and Denver that I thought I had taken a wrong turn and wound up at the Westminster Dog Show. Little dogs, big dogs, all kinds of dogs.

Apparently, all the Fidos and Butches are what are called “emotional support” dogs. They are allowed to make the trip because if their owners fly without them, the humans will suffer some kind of emotional breakdown. I can see how this could be true in some cases, but I have to say there sure are a lot of people out there whose emotional well-being is dependent on their dogs.

If I had to sit next to someone else’s big dog on a plane it might damage my emotional well-being. It also could cause an allergic reaction, which would cause me to have an emotional breakdown of my own. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

I have to say all the dogs we saw were very well behaved, although a few of them looked really nervous about getting on a plane. Maybe the dogs should be able to bring along a cat to help them feel better about flying.

Here’s another interesting observation. We flew on the airline with the bizarre seating method where you get a number, then grab whatever seat you can on the plane once your number is called for boarding. It’s supposed to be faster. I’m not sure that’s true, but it does increase the anxiety of being able to find seats together. It’s enough to make me want to take a dog with me to calm my nerves.

Anyway, there are all sorts of ways to game this seating system. This particular airline seems to have an inordinate number of people in wheelchairs on every flight. They’re lined up like planes waiting to take off in Atlanta after a power outage. These people get to board early in the process, which is fine with me — except for the ones that hop out of their wheelchairs once they get to the plane as if they suddenly have been the beneficiary of a miraculous instance of divine healing. If I were a suspicious person — well, OK, I am a suspicious person — I would say there is some wheelchair fraud going on.

I really get suspicious when I see someone in a wheelchair with a big dog.

I considered going up to some of the wheelchairs and maybe kicking a few people in the shins to see if they really were disabled but I thought that might be going a little too far. Besides, they might kick back.

Here’s another trick used by regular passengers on that airline. If there are three seats together, one will sit in the window seat and one in the aisle seat, leaving a seat in the center. They hope no one will sit in between them, and then if the plane is not sold out they have extra space. This is particularly successful if the two people in question are sumo wrestlers or maybe dressed like they’ve been sleeping on the streets for a month. I think not showering for a week before the flight also might be effective, but then you take the risk of having a dog wanting to sit next to you.

All’s well that ends well. We did find seats together, the flights might have been late but they were safe and this particular airline doesn’t charge you extra for snacks or luggage or for breathing the air so I guess I shouldn’t complain.

Besides, I got all that entertainment watching people (and their dogs) and coming up with what most likely are wildly inaccurate observations about human behavior. It does make me wonder, though — what do you think all those people thought when they were looking at me?

David Lindeman

Contributing Columnist

David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at

David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at