Not one of the fifty thousand employees that worked at the Mackerel Valley International Airport were happy. In fact, two were downright miserable. Their names were Troy and Janice. They were gate agents and they hated each other.
The rivalry started shortly after they both began. By complete coincidence, they were hired at the same time, started on the same day, and assigned to adjacent gates. When they started working, their planes arrived around the same time, and were ready to board shortly after.
Janice picked up her intercom handset a moment before Troy and announced: “Welcome to Intermittent Airlines flight 1300–”
But she was cut off by Troy’s announcement echoing through the speakers in his gate area.
It was the standard Intermittent Airlines preboarding announcement:
“Welcome to Intermittent Airlines Flight 666 with service to Fish City, Pennsylvania. Because you were either too cheap or too afraid to check your baggage, we are going to have to do it by force. If you prefer not to have it wrestled out of your hands by one of our flight attendants, please come to the podium to surrender it peacefully. We will begin boarding shortly.”
Janice finished making the same announcement a few moments later.
When it actually came time to board the flight, Janice was prepared. She started her announcement a millisecond before Troy started his. When he started to speak over her, she continued her announcement projecting as much as she could:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are about to begin boarding flight 1300 here at gate B17A.1 with service to San Mira Vista Mar, California. Please take a moment to locate the group number on your boarding pass. Here at Intermittent Airlines we board the rich first, followed by the slightly less rich, the disabled, and families traveling with small children.”
At the adjacent gate, Troy continued the standard announcement, glaring at her from behind his com unit, speaking as loudly as he possibly could in an attempt to drown her out:
“If you are in group two, excellent work! You had your finger hovering above the checkin button exactly twenty-four hours ahead of time! If you are in group three, you were tardy, and if you are in groups four or five we actually don’t have room for you on this flight. Please take out your anger at the nearest customer service station.”
Both ended their announcement by asking passengers in group one to line up. The passengers knew something had been announced, and figured it was probably close to boarding time. So they all stood up and gathered in a confused mass in front of their respective boarding doors.
The passengers did understand when boarding began, not because of anything the gate agents said, but because the agents motioned to the closest person to come forward. The people behind followed in a massive stampede.
Both Janice and Troy were too busy glaring at each other to notice that their wheelchair passengers were being trampled on. In the end, everyone found their seats and Intermittent Airlines only had a few lawsuits to settle.
That first day planted a deep and raging rivalry between the two gate agents. Their hatred was so strong that they started purposefully making announcements over each other even when they did not have flights departing at the same time.
Troy would start a boarding announcement and Janice would jump in and gleefully say: “THANK YOU FOR CHOOSING INTERMITTENT AIRLINES! WE KNOW YOU HAVE MANY CHOICES WHEN YOU FLY AND THAT YOU CHOSE US BECAUSE WE WERE THE CHEAPEST OPTION!”
Troy would counter saying: “WANTED TO GIVE THOSE OF YOU IN THE BOARDING AREA A LITTLE UPDATE! THE FLIGHT HERE AT GATE B18A.2 HAS BEEN DELAYED DUE TO BIRD INTERFERENCE. THIS FLIGHT IS NOW DEPARTING AT 10:00PM OUT OF GATE G67C.1. START WALKING, YOU’VE GOT PLENTY OF TIME!”
As you can imagine, this rivalry lead to chaotic boardings and angry passengers. However, Janice and Troy were never fired or separated. You see, no one could remember if they were employees of Intermittent Airlines, Mackerel Valley International Airport, or the Federal Government. They also couldn’t remember whose job it was to find out.
Their peers all assumed this would continue indefinitely. The poor customer service agents despaired, thinking the stream of enraged customers would never end. Fortunately for them, it did end. Here is how it came about.
About three hundred passengers were waiting across the adjacent gate areas that day. A few had pets in crates and one little old woman had an emotional support animal allowed on a leash. It was an evening flight, and a connection for most of the passengers. They were tired and especially cranky.
Janice started to announce boarding:
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen–” she began.
“TO THOSE OF YOU TRAVELING WITH US TO SAN MIRA VISTA MAR CALIFORNIA, THE WEATHER IS SUNNY, SEVENTY-TWO DEGREES WITH A STRONG CHANCE OF SMOG AND AGGRESSIVE DRIVERS!” Troy interrupted.
Janice spoke louder: “AS A REMINDER, THIS IS A COMPLETELY FULL FLIGHT! SO IF YOU ARE A WOMAN PLEASE SCRUNCH UP AS TIGHT AS POSSIBLE TO AVOID ACCIDENTALLY BRUSHING THE MOIST MAN FLESH SEEPING OVER YOUR ARMREST!”
The rivalry grew until the announcements were not only garbled beyond recognition but piercing.
The passengers started yelling and swarming the gate podium trying to snatch the com units away, but Janice and Troy clung on and kept speaking, desperate to win the conflict.
As this unfolded, the little old woman in the gate area started rocking in her seat, mumbling to herself, and stroking the fur of her feline companion. She was already so afraid of flying, and all the commotion was making her heart race.
“Oh dear, oh dear, I’m so dreadfully frightened, Max,” she kept mumbling while stroking his fur harder and harder.
Max was a good emotional support animal and sensed her distress. He decided he would put an end to the noise at once. In one great bound, he tore his leash out of the woman’s hand and charged through the crowd. People dove aside as he sprang past. He gobbled up Troy first and then turned on the petrified Janice.
You see, Max was a lion. You are probably wondering how a lion was allowed through airport security. Normally they aren’t, and a security agent did question it. However, his manager reminded him that Max was wearing an orange vest and therefore had to be allowed through.
When the lion had finished his meal, some of the passengers returned to their seats while others went to customer service to demand replacement agents so they could continue with boarding.
The little old woman, however, gentle stroked Max’s fur and said in a tiny voice. “You’re such a dear, Max. You always do know how to help me calm down!”
I am happy to say that the Mackerel Valley International Airport did eventually hire cheerful employee. His name was Elmer and he was a security dog. Each day he would happily patrol the security lines, his tail wagging, sniffing travelers, and saying in doggish: “I will find the drugs, master! And the explosives too! I do promise I will! I will find all the illegal things! I am so excited to find the illegal things!”
Elmer loved his job and he never had a bad day.