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The World Is Not Right

Over the past six days I’ve taken four direct domestic flights on American Airlines. The first was last Wednesday, late morning, from Washington’s Reagan National Airport to Greenville-Spartanburg in South Carolina. Well, it was supposed to be a late-morning flight. The flight wound up being delayed by about two hours and ten minutes.

The first cause of the delay was a crew shortage. The plane was at the gate before I arrived there in plenty of time for the scheduled departure, but there was no crew.

When a crew finally arrived and we passengers were boarded, the pilot informed us that someone mistakenly put too much fuel into the plane. 50,000 pounds of fuel had to be removed. ‘But,’ added the pilot (and here I paraphrase, for I don’t recall his exact words), ‘the ground crew to do the de-fueling is busy. It’ll take some time to get to us.’

Eventually the fuel was removed and we took off for Greenville. This delay, alas, resulted in my arriving in Greenville during the height of rush hour. What would normally have been about a 45-minute drive to Clemson – where I was to speak the next day for Brad Thompson’s Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism – turned into a 90-minute drive because of traffic congestion on I-85 South. My long-anticipated dinner with Brad and Bruce Yandle was abbreviated.

Flying back to Washington on Friday morning brought another delay, about an hour. This delay (I think) was due to foul weather in DC.

On Saturday morning I flew without delay from Reagan-National to Hartford to speak that afternoon at a Brownstone Institute event (at which I had the great honor to meet, and be on a panel with, Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff).

Alas, my return flight on Sunday morning was delayed for about two hours leaving Hartford. The incoming flight was delayed. When it finally arrived, I overheard this walkie-talkie conversation between the gate agent and a member of the ground crew.

Gate agent: “Flight XYZ just landed and needs to be brought into gate 25. Can you get some people over here to do that?”

Ground crew: “Not now. We’re busy. There’s only four of us working today.”

The incoming plane was stranded short of the gate for about 15 or 20 minutes.

Much is wrong with today’s labor markets.


Epilogue: Upon finally boarding the flight from Hartford to DC, a middle-aged couple directly across the aisle from me each had a bottle of hand sanitizer. Before sitting in their seats, they proceeded to vigorously wipe down everything near their seats with the sanitizer – the seat backs and cushions, the arm rests, the window, the panels above their heads, the seat backs facing them, and the tray tables. By the time they were done with this ridiculous ordeal, I was half-surprised that they failed to wipe down also the floor beneath their feet.

This world is not right.

UPDATE: I forgot earlier to recount the following occurrence at the cocktail hour before the Brownstone Institute dinner on Saturday evening. I went to the bar to refill my wine glass with a second pouring of chardonnay. The bartender pulled out another, clean glass. “That’s okay,” I said, “you can refill this glass that I’ve been using.”

“No sir,” she replied. “Covid restrictions require that we always use new glasses.”

I smiled and thanked her as I took the freshly poured wine – and then said softly to myself, as I walked away from the bar needing that second glass a bit more than I did just a moment earlier, “Good thing the Covidocracy is protecting me from catching Covid from me.”

Again, the world is not right.