Stop shaming me for shaming airlines on Twitter

People like to complain about things on the Internet. People also like to complain about the vast amount of Internet devoted to complaining. I rise today to defend an unjustly maligned form of gripe: Twitter-shaming airlines for bad service.

Since Twitter became the main method by which journalists talk to each other, some have spoken out against the microblogging tool as a way to yell at airlines. To wit, just to quote people I know in DC:

And, most relevantly, here is Jack Shafer reacting to my gasket-blowing about a botched American Airlines flight today, which as of this writing might strand me in O’Hare for seven hours and cancel two in-person interviews.

Here, I would refer to the wisdom of Ricky from “Trailer Park Boys.” If you’re inclined to nag someone for using Twitter to talk to an airline, make like a tree and fuck off.


1. A problematic flight is a time-suck at every level. If I’m on a work trip, I likely spent a few hours setting up interviews, a rental car, a hotel room, etc. A late flight or blown connection means I erase that work and start over. Emails, phone calls, online wrangling to reshuffle plans. You can see why the person doing all that might also take to social media to say “hey, this is no fun.”

2. Stranded airplane time is arguably the most unproductive time. Trying to do work? You need to hunt for a place to charge your device. Oh, and most planes don’t have places to do that, and neither do (most) airplane restaurants.* No, you’re likely be spending this time in a cramped space, at high risk of proximity to a baby (loud but harmless) or someone who doesn’t want to dirty his hand by using it to block a cough.** You could make a phone call, but you can’t exactly tell people to call you back, because — optimistically — you want to be in the air. Also, how effective are you when your brain is calculating and recalculating whether you can make a connection or land before Hertz shuts down?

The answer is “not very.”

3. Twitter gets results! Honestly, most of Twitter — the part I love most — is bullshit self-promotion and joke-telling. Do you need that in your life? You do not, fun as it is.

Ah, but airline-shaming — airline-shaming is a shotgun wedding of stupid form to beautiful function. As popular as Twitter is, it’s easier to reach a human being at an airline there than it is over the phone. Let’s use the example I’m most familiar with, today’s. I needed to connect in Dallas to a flight to O’Hare, which would connect me to a Sioux City flight. (I note here that I woke up at 4:10 am to do this.) Two stupid events intervened. One: A plastic bag had blown on the plane’s wheels earlier that day, and melted a bit. That took twenty minutes to clear. Two: A plane in O’Hare needed a part, so our (already delayed!) flight was chosen as the vehicle to bring it. Another twenty minutes.

I was supposed to land at 12:41 in pursuit of a 1:34 connection. Good enough! Instead, I spent 40 minutes watching as the arrival time crept just late enough to likely guarantee that I would arrive as the gate closed. (Let’s say 1:24, to be safe.) At 12:05 I tweeted:

Will you slam the doors to my connection and strand me in the airport overnight? Flight 3404 to SUX. This delay is outrageous.

At 12:30, this DM came through:

We’ve alerted ORD of your tight connection. We can’t guarantee that they can hold the connection, but they’re aware. In the event you don’t make it, you’ve been protected on the next flight to SUX, which is at 8:39p.

See? That… technically did not solve my problem at all. But that confirmed my presence on the airline’s radar, and gave me something to point to if I’m screwed again. (A few times I’ve been given airline miles and whatnot to make amends.) In a pre-Twitter world, what would I have had? Maybe, maybe, some ear time with a call center staffer who could not help.

In conclusion, hail Twitter. And fuck O’Hare. I swear if I give myself a 20-minute connection, I sprint across the entire airport. If I have a three-hour connection, I get a two hour 40 minute delay and spring across the entire airport.

*Some appreciation here for Minneapolis, with its identical but convenient bars that plunk down stools right in front of outlets.

**Not to capsize an already-irritating post with something yet more irritating, but if you have an Apple Watch — yes, yes, I know — and do not engage in some light walking or aerobics every hour, you get an alert shaming you to do so. Getting that alert when stuck in a tarmac’d airplane is a special sort of shit-nudge.

Movies of 2015

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
The praise for this movie has reached the rare incandescence granted to the sort of religious texts that start cults, or to the first season of the Sopranos. Goddamn if it ain’t earned. It’s hard to avoid metatextual details here (How, how did George Miller outdo his earlier movies 30 years later?), but the movie stands without them, all unforgettable imagery and eyeball-burning stunts — one long chase scene that never let you stop feeling the stakes. The acid test of a great movie is whether you smile when you remember it. This one passes.
2. Spotlight
Forget what I said about smiling.
3. Amy
4. Mistress America
Noah Baumbach’s work has inspired and frustrated me in equal measure, but Greta Gerwig is the best thing that ever happened to him.
5. Sicario
6. Inside Out
7. Ex Machina
8. What We Do in the Shadows
9. The Martian
10. It Follows
11. Avengers: Age of Ultron
12. Tangerine
13. Creed
14. The Big Short
15. Clouds of Sils Maria
16. Ant-Man
17. While We’re Young
18. Straight Outta Compton
19. Brooklyn
20. Love and Mercy
21. The Hateful Eight
22. Trainwreck
23. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
24. Magic Mike XXL
25. Spy
26. The Revenant
27. Mr. Holmes
28. Steve Jobs
29. Jurassic World
30. Kingsman: The Secret Service
31. Far From the Madding Crowd
32. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
33. People Places Things
34. The End of the Tour
35. Paddington
36. Queen of Earth
37. Pitch Perfect 2
38. Spectre
39. Crimson Peak
40. Joy
41. The Overnight
42. The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
43. Welcome to Me
44. Jupiter Ascending
45. Truth
46. Maggie
47. Furious 7
48. The Wolfpack
49. Tomorrowland
50. Black Mass
51. Chappie
52. Terminator: Genisys
53. Fantastic Four
54. Ted 2
55. Fifty Shades of Grey
56. The Human Centipede: Final Sequence
57. Aloha
58. Hot Tub Time Machine 2
If a truly great movie raises your dopamine levels, a truly bad one makes you want to sit down and drink in the sorrows of wasted talent. A murderer’s row of talent is, well, murdered — Adam Scott, Gillian Jacobs, Rob Corddry, Clark Duke, all subsumed by a dark, homophobic saga of revenge and greed. Like light devoured in a black hole, otherwise wonderful people become grim.