You have to feel for flight attendants. Not only do they have to deal with assholes on a regular basis, but they have to deal with them for hours on end, in the sky, in a cramped space where there is nowhere to run, no place to hide, no escape. After 9/11, flight attendants can assert their power more forcefully if they really need too, but most people probably aren't quite bad enough to warrant the full extent of the law that could potentially be brought down (despite the fact that they won't put away their cell phones and lap tops when asked repeatedly).

Recently I found myself traveling from Puerto Rico back to Chicago on an ATA flight filled with a small posse of approximately ten assholes all seated either across the aisle or in several rows directly in back of me. It was clear that things might not go well when a number of these people - apparently not sufficiently drunk yet - began demanding booze from the flight attendants before the plane took off. Naturally this was not going to happen and at least one attendant explained in both English and Spanish that beverage cart service would not begin until after the plane was in flight. This was met with a lot of resistance and lip, which immediately pissed off the ATA staff who quickly realized they had a problem.

After some shouting and a variety of other rude demands and loud complaints, the group of asshole passengers were instructed that that they were to be on their best behavior during the flight, that they could stay in Puerto Rico if they couldn't treat the staff more respectfully, and finally, that they could be banned from flying on ATA if they weren't going to cooperate. The one twenty-something year old passenger I could see most easily had the look of perpetual stupidity on his face that allows one to easily imagine a lifelong history of being scolded for doing dumb shit. I overheard one flight attendant quietly mutter to a coworker that the plane should not be taking off with these people still on it.

Nonetheless, a few stern warnings later we took off with the flight crew looking apprehensive and the group shouting "Bye Bye Puerto Rico!!" Just minutes after the wheels left the tarmac one of the assholes went chasing down an attendant for booze. He was loudly instructed on how to use the flight attendant call button and that he was not to leave his seat when the fasten seatbelt sign was lit. The group was promptly informed that they were completely cut off from all alcohol sales for the entire flight. They had to be reminded of this fact several more times by a variety of other attendants who seemed to be taking turns dealing with these fuckers.

For the rest of the flight the group seemed to have been reasonably well behaved but I was also successfully ignoring them. I was returning from a trip that featured an unusual amount of drunken adult behavior on buses (dancing, jumping and screaming in the aisles while wearing masks and drinking excessive amounts of Bacardi Silver); I had had my fill. I slept through much of the flight with a Walkman on so aside from the occasional kicking of the seat, I didn't notice much.

But apparently not all was well and I periodically cracked open my eyes to find flight attendants struggling to pacify this group of loud scumbags. I found out from one of my traveling companions that there was evidently some smoking going on in one of the bathrooms while a female companion stood guard outside the door. When we finally touched down in foggy Chicago, one of the assholes jumped out of his seat while the plane was racing down the wet tarmac - not only standing while the plane was very much in motion, but opening the overhead compartment to remove a huge bag. Again a flight attendant on her last nerve raced down the aisle, grabbed the bag, threw it back in the compartment, and yelled in Spanish and English that this fucker was not to move until they signaled that he could.

As the plane came to a complete halt and passengers flooded the aisles to retrieve their stowed items, an apologetic bilingual announcement came over the PA, informing passengers to please return to the their seats because a number of passengers required - I believe they called it - "additional assistance" getting off the plane.

Clearly, the cops had been called for the people behind me. I watched out the window as an ATA shuttle bus unloaded passengers from another flight. I half-expected a SWAT team to roll up in a van, but perhaps reinforcements would be arriving from inside the terminal rather than the tarmac. My cohorts and I whispered to each other that this should be pretty interesting.

Sure enough, three cops along with several plainclothes security guards boarded the plane and began heading our way. To my great reassurance they were given accurate seat numbers and so the interrogation began with the correct group of people. None of the cops spoke much Spanish, but a flight attendant seemed to be helping them get various ID's as the cops began going through carry on luggage with all of the passengers still very much on the plane and in their seats. This went on for approximately fifteen minutes. I don't get any special pleasure from watching cops exercise their authority; it was too awkward to try straining my neck to watch the scene unfold behind me, so I mainly faced forward, savoring the expressions of absolute delight on the faces of every female flight attendant in the cabin. I overheard comments from the cops like "You speak English pretty good" and "You do know that disorderly conduct on an airplane is a Federal offense." The asshole posse, perhaps used to brushes with cops, seemed generally unphased. Still this was a great moment for the customer service industry and I stared ahead at the wide smiles and chit chat happening among the ATA staff - all clearly enjoying their moment of hard-earned revenge.

Finally the cops left the plane and everyone was allowed to exit. As we claimed our baggage, I noticed that the police weren't quite through with the asshole passengers, as the group was now waiting for their bags with accompanying security and police - all of the cops keeping a low profile to avoid creating unnecessary panic in these terroristic times. Undoubtedly another series of questions, meticulous bag searches, hold ups and general flight attendant revenge was about to take place in some shadowy series of cinder block isolation rooms at Midway airport.

- Marc Fischer