You may know this by now because I've bagged on gate agents so much, but the process is: the gate agent comes out to the plane if it's more than twenty minutes before departure, and sees if we're ready to board by soliciting a thumbs-up. This is a two person process... one person cannot do it alone. Which is why I thought it was both funny and sad that yesterday a gate agent stumbled onto the plane while I was in the back and, obviously in a state of confusion and disarray, gave himself a thumbs-up and almost sent passengers out. WAOW. Some people really need to calm down.