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Letter America: Dear Southwest Airlines

May 20, 2013, 1:00 am
By Robert Wilder

Dear Southwest Airlines,

I’m writing to complain about the unfair way I was treated on a recent flight from San Francisco to Phoenix.  I had just come from a comedy festival the night before so my head was full of jokes and bits and things like that. Have you ever seen Jim Gaffigan? If you haven’t, you totally should. He takes the most normal and boring things and turns them into comedy gold. His bit about eating french fries without salt was high-larious and this is no small praise coming from me. I am a serious student of the form.

This festival was held in wine country and I like wine so, naturally, I drank a lot. Mostly red but I tried some white and a rose made by a fashion model because she spends so much time in France and needed a hobby. I will admit freely that on your flight I was in that spot between still drunk and hungover where you feel like you are dreaming and sucking helium instead of air. I didn’t have time to shower but that has nothing to do with my story.

I’ve flown Southwest before and never had a real issue with it except for an episode with an obese person and what he claimed to be a service dog, but I have my doubts. If you want to look that up, it’s under case # 9856-A, filed last year. Anyway, I enjoy SW’s laid back style unless people cut in line or obese men want to invade others’ personal space (see case # 9856-A). The flight attendants were really funny that day. The guy who showed us how to use the seatbelt wore an Elvis wig and glasses and the woman explaining the system had some funny lines about crashing over bodies of water. The whole crew even sang a song together. I don’t remember what it was but it went over well, especially with the old folks and special needs people who weren’t faking.

Once the captain took off the fasten seatbelts sign and we were free to roam about the cabin, I got this idea. I’d been waiting to try out my own material but never knew where exactly to do that. My town doesn’t have a comedy club and the open mikes at the Lavender Café is more for singers and the kind of poets who don’t believe in shaving anywhere if you know what I mean. My brand of comedy would totally not go over at a place they serve gluten-free cupcakes and steam almond milk during your set. So, on flight 424, I stood up and said “Excuse me.” I may have shouted. It got very quiet so I asked if anyone was in the mood for some comedy. Then it got really quiet. I told my first joke about how if you eat beets and forget what you ate, you’d think you were dying of rectal-colon cancer in the bathroom the next morning. Some kid laughed, but I think he was watching a cartoon his iPad. I told another joke about asparagus and then I saw the stewards and esses talking to one another. Like they were serious. I got nervous and fumbled through my bit on hotel soaps, but I’d seen comics bomb over the weekend and they gave me strength to carry on.

Southwest, you talk about “freedom” a lot in your ads. The captain even mentioned it when we reached cruising altitude but there’s no freedom of speech on Southwest. All the stewards and esses surrounded me as did this other beefy guy who I think was an air marshal (because of the handcuffs) but he never identified himself. I had to sit, handcuffed for the duration of the flight. He held a roll of duct tape in his hand as a “reminder to be quiet.” I have never been so humiliated in all my life. I bet you wouldn’t do this to Jim Gaffigan or Louis CK or even Maria Bamford and she’s nuts! For reals!

I’m hoping you can apologize and make this up to me, Southwest, by giving me a free flight or some drink coupons at least. I’m not kidding.


Bud Pasnut


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