I think there's probably not a one of you that doesn't know that feeling you get when the plane you've just been on for four hours on pulls up to the gate; get the hell off this plane I've just been on for four hours. And if you don't happen to be one of the first six people in the front of the plane, there's also another feeling; what the HELL is taking so long up there? Well, I'm here to de-mystify the mystery... jetway drivers are, in fact, taking so long.
The jetway is the plastic hall that takes you from the terminal to the plane, and vice versa. Because planes often don't exactly park exactly where they're supposed to, jetways have two gigantic wheels at the outside end, and what's supposed to happen is a jetway driver comes out and drives the thing over to meet the plane door, and everyone gets off. Notice I said supposed to happen. I said that because in my short life here in airplanes, that's a thing I've hardly ever seen.
Thing That Takes So Long #1: No Jetway Driver. An airplane is in the air for at least fifty minutes the way we fly, and can be there for four hours. And when it does land, it looks remarkably like a one-hundred-and-seven-foot airplane, when observed through a jetway driver's office window. So why then, I wonder, is it so hard to have a driver there and ready when the plane pulls up? Only about half the time is someone present to drive the jetway... the other half, I'm stuck standing there, staring at the first class passengers, who are all wondering why they can't get off the damn plane.
Thing That Takes So Long #2: Brain-Dead Jetway Driver. A jetway is such a big piece of machinery that OSHA stuck an annoying schoolbell on it that rings constantly every time it's being controlled (a term I sometimes use in its loosest possible sense). Even when things go right, I usually have to hear someone in the second row scream, "RECESS!" When things don't go well, I want to fling myself screaming into the engine. All you have to do is aim the jetway at the plane and press go. That's all you have to do. What you most often get is someone with whom you wouldn't be comfortable behind the wheel of a go-kart, working the jetway forward and backward with excrutiating slowness, that bell ringing the entire time, trying to get things juuust peerfect. I've had the jetway in contact with the plane, only to have the guy driving start backing it up with an amused and earnest head shake. "Nope, nope, well heavens, bless my stars, a whole micrometer off! I can't let that happen, nope, nope, not on my watch, good heavens!" The record is a New Orleans driver who went back and forth a sense-defying six times. Did I mention that happened at midnight?
Thing That Takes So Long #3: Slow Jetway Driver. There are only three ways a jetway can go: forward/backward, left/right, and up/down. In a society of multi-taskers, surely there is one person who can make at least two of those happen at once. When it's not someone who's driving the thing wrong, it's someone who's driving it right and just hardly at all. Nothing's worse that having eighteen passengers chew on you from behind because they're late for a connection and watching someone in command of the jetway who thinks they have to come back to the home position between every movement. There has never been a jetway driver who played video games. Often you'll get someone who combines the worst features of Things That Take So Long #2 AND #3, and it's then that you realize that you're never getting off the plane.
Thing That Takes So Long #4: Not-Handy-With-The-Adapter Jetway Driver. When you finally do get the jetway mated with the plane, there's this small bridge called an adapter you have to wheel over to cover the gap. In true moron fashion, it's been designed with a height adjuster, but only on one side. Basically it's less of a bridge and more of a thing that accentuates the terrible parking job you've done and makes you go try again. I've seen four drivers all bunched up the jetway door all doing what looked like advanced calculus to try to figure out that they just needed to get the jetway closer to the plane.
Thing That Takes So Long #5: Trainees. Jetway drivers are, so far as I've been able to discern, gate agents that have made the jump to driverdom. Every time we pull up to the jetway, there's a supervisor and a scared-to-death trainee, guaranteeing a half-an-hour purgatory on the plane. Statistically, everyone in America should be trained to drive a jetway by now.
Thing That Takes So Long #6: Jackass Jetway Drivers. My job is to hold passengers on the plane until the driver gives me an actual thumbs-up. Their job is to, after they've brought over the jetway, attach the vinyl curtains to the adapter (presumably to stop passengers from plummeting lemming-like over the sides) and lower the rainguard, which is the big accordion-looking ceiling that leans forward from the jetway. Now I already know that jetway drivers (who are also gate agents) hate flight attendants because we can count. And that's why, after they've accomplished the Herculean task of getting jetway, adapter, and plane to meet, some drivers saunter through these two tasks, eyeing me the whole time as if to say, "You know you're waiting on me, right?" What's painful about this is that the vinyl curtains can be pre-attached (as I've seen done) and the rainguard can be lowered as people are getting off, especially when it's not raining. Also, the rainguards are usually so rusty that they screech Amazing Grace while moving. Today, while we were waiting for passengers to arrive, the jetway driver just started rolling the thing back and forth, ostensibly to while away the time. The world was almost short one driver.
So now you know that there is such a thing as a jetway driver, and that you should get out of a car that one is driving. You might also know that I've become a bitter hag. Pay no attention.