Travel file carts on wheels

Unless they’ve signed up for a gym membership, people don’t typically pay for experiences that come with a high probability of physical trauma.

That’s why it’s odd to me that when you book an aisle seat on an airplane, there’s no disclaimer mentioning there’s about a 30% chance that you’re going to get hit with a moving filing cabinet.

Because, basically, that’s an accurate description of an airplane’s beverage cart (galley cart, drinks trolley, mobile foot smasher, call it what you want) - a filing cabinet filled with soda cans, wine bottles, ice, straws, napkins and whatever cost-saving sesame- or rice-based offering that an airline is currently promoting as a snack.

Oh, and it weighs about 300 pounds, it’s on wheels and it likes to hit people.

Preferably when they’re asleep.

Last week news broke of an Australian man suing Qatar Airways, claiming that the beverage cart that he took to the knee caused physical and psychological damage. I understand his pain, and I think a lot of us do.

The first time you’re hit by a beverage cart, you take it as a personal affront.

You’re sitting there, leafing through SkyMall, getting interested in a set of laser-guided golf clubs, when your reverie is shattered by a blow to your shoulder or knee. It feels like somebody driving down the road at 70 miles per hour leaned out their window and threw a mailbox at you.

If you’re lucky, you’ll hear a singsong voice say, “Excuse me.”

After the first couple times I suffered through this, I thought that perhaps I’d done something to anger the flight attendants. Maybe I didn’t provide a warm enough counter-greeting when boarding the airplane. Maybe they missed me taking the safety information card out of the seat pocket in front of me and reading it, just like they’d asked.

Once you’ve been hit by many beverage carts on many airplanes, you realize that these collisions aren’t intentional.

Sure, you hear stories, such as the one from my friend who was hit by the beverage cart four times on the same trip, by a flight attendant who had, she claims, “dead eyes.”

But for the most part, I think this sort of airborne collision is just unavoidable. That’s probably why half the time you’re hit with a cart, neither you nor the flight attendant even acknowledges the impact. You both know that wheeled refrigerator had nowhere else to go.

Elbows, knees, beware. It’s a matter of space. I’m certain that any airline worth its jet fuel will tell you that their seats are the perfect fit for the average-size passenger. However, I’m equally as certain that every time I get on a plane, I’ll end up like a slice of luncheon meat, sandwiched between other people’s arms and elbows.

It doesn’t help that I have large shoulders, just as it doesn’t help the people sitting next to me that I have large shoulders.

Consider the Boeing 737-800. A typical economy seat on a cross-country flight is 17.2 inches wide. My shoulders are 20.5 inches.


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