Friday, June 03, 2005

A Kitbag Question

Timing of airline meals on transcontinental flights is always dicey. You’re going from one time zone to another, so when should they serve breakfast, when should they serve dinner, how many meals?… The new consensus, which I applaud, is to serve two meals, one at the start and one at the end, and to leave snacks and drinks in the galley between the meals. That way you can sleep undisturbed, and if you are disturbed by hunger, there’s a solution. Sometimes the snacks are great – Air Canada on its flight to Israel – and sometimes they’re not quite adequate, like on the Lufthansa flight I took this week. Little Mars bars. That was it.

Still, the moment I realized they had put them out, I sneaked into the galley, took one, opened it, and started munching. The stewardesses were the type that would tell me I needed to wait until the official snack hour – very teutonic - but I knew they wouldn’t try to wrestle a half eaten Mars bar out of my hands. Suddenly a young guy came in and looked at me intensely:

“Are we allowed to take these?”

“I didn’t ask” I said.

He took two, stuffed them in his pocket and fled…

I didn’t ask the stewardess because such a question would be, as we used to call it in the army – a kitbag question. Every soldier in the army has a kitbag with all his personal belongings, at least 60 pounds worth. In principal, you’re not supposed to let it out of your sight. In reality, you often do. Hoping, of course, that the commanding officer will overlook it. But somehow there’s always some bright freshman that pipes up and says – “Sir, do we need to take the kitbags with us?” That’s a kitbag question.

The rule of thumb in the airplane galley, in the army, and in business: It’s better to do and then apologize than to ask permission.


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