CRUSHING IT: BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE SUCCESSIFY® WORKHOP AT UNITED AIRLINES
Greetings, Heroes of United Airlines! Thank You All For Attending This Continued Amazingness Workshop. You Guys Kick Total Ass.
[Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane” — dim, tinny, through shitty speakers. DOUGLAS sprints from back of UA headquarters auditorium up to screen. He is slightly winded when he picks up the remote for his soon-to-stun you PowerPoint. Taps his phone repeatedly, Scorpions fade out.]
Good morning. My name is Douglas Michaels. Which doesn’t mean you should confuse me with THIS guy HAHAHAHAHAHA:
Film actor Michael Douglas. Not, repeat, NOT, presenter Douglas Michaels.
[Hold for laughter. None is forthcoming. For reasons known only to himself, Mr. Michaels leaves this, his only slide, projected above him for the entirety of his presentation.]
Hey. I have a question. The airline industry: GREAT industry, or THE GREATEST industry?
[Hold for applause. None is forthcoming.]
I know, right? Trick question. Because we in the airline industry don’t have to answer your questions, YOU FILTHY LITTLE PEASANT!
Customer service. What does it even mean? Nobody knows. Tell you a little story. When I was a kid, we owned a pig farm outside of Ames, Iowa. I fucking hated it. Hated the pigs. Hated the smell. Hated my dad most of all. Now. As some of you may know, a large-scale pig farm generates tons of excrement — out back of the barn, there was a literal lake of shit. So. Naturally enough, I built a catapult. Told my old man it was a project for 4-H. I’d take a pig — not a big hog or sow, not a piglet. Like a yearling — some heft to it but not like disgusting fat. I’d load her into the catapult and I’d LAUNCH her out over the lake. That sound. When she landed? Priceless. Like a cricket bat striking John Goodman’s shirtless wet gut.
They skipped like stones, sometimes. The pigs. But the best part — the BEST part, you guys — was how she’d scream and struggle after she splashed down. I used to laugh my ASS off watching those dumb disgusting pigs drown in their own shit. Slayed me, you guys. Like mid-career Jim Carrey.
I remember thinking: There is so much that’s right with this. It’s a demeaning ordeal, for sure — for the pig, and for myself. And for anybody watching. And God, if there was such a thing.
[Douglas Michaels extends a middle finger toward the sky. He really means it. It really sets a new standard for vehemence.]
I can see some of you nodding. You’re right there with me. Bet you can guess my next thought, am I right? This guy down front. He gets it. You there — buddy, green shirt, Air Force haircut — what was my next thought?
[Green Shirt Down Front — inaudible.]
That’s right! That’s exactly right. What’s your name, friend?
Kevin! For you guys in the back, what my man Kevin said was “How can you make it BIGGER?”
[Hustles down off stage to where Kevin is seated, holding up “high five” hand. Kevin leaves him hanging. It is an agonizing moment. All momentum has died. Like a pig drowning in its own shit.]
OK. I’ll catch you later, Kev. So back on the farm, I had that Kevin Moment. Where I asked myself: Yes. Awesome. Shit-drowning pigs is fantastic. It’s hilarious and affirming and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But…
[Attempts in vain to impregnate pause.]
BUT, you guys — I was only drowning. One. Pig. At a time. THINK about that, guys. I mean, yes. E-VEN-tually I’ll have a respectable-sized pile of drowned pigs, smeared in shit and baking in the sun. Which is marvelous — as far as it goes. But I wanted MORE, you guys. I dared to DREAM. I could envision a device that would pack the pigs into, like misery clusters. And if I could confer status consciousness on which misery cluster they get wedged into.
And I could force them to pay me for the indignity I visited upon them. And made them wait in long, snaking lines for their turn at indignity. And if I could have some stranger wearing latex gloves palpate their teats and root around in their stuff. Oh — I would feed the pigs. While they milled around waiting to join their designated misery cluster. But I would make them pay fourteen dollars for a sandwich. And the sandwich would be made of styrofoam packing peanuts and unnamed longing. And the gatekeepers of the disease tubes with dismaying upholstery, the ones who stratify the lumbering hogs into their misery clusters, shall be unfailingly brusque and and dismissive, like aggrieved shepherds who just wanna slap the sheep till they’re dead then make fun of their corpses.
Where could a starry-eyed lad, who wanted only to spend his days lashing writhing masses of pigs together, and launching them to drown, squealing, in their own waste, find such a blessed way of life? Welp. If that starry-eyed pig-drowner gets lucky, he winds up cramming glistening human funnel cakes into steel tubes that are little better than a means of recirculating farts at 30,000 feet. Well I’m here to tell you, that starry-eyed kid just wants kick up his heels and drown as many shit pigs as he can with the greatest group of colleagues the world has ever assembled.
[Hold for applause. Which is thunderous and prolonged.]
But. BUT. I believe… and I know YOU believe — huh, Kev? You feel me? I believe that we… as an industry… can do better. I feel… and I hope you do, too — that we can do more. We can keep chasing perfection — “perfection,” so we’re clear, means maximizing and prolonging the suffering of our captive sky swine.
How can we do that? It’s the little things. If we overbook flights by just TWO percent more, that can translate into like fourteen kajillion more hours of delays every year, around the globe. Kev — you a numbers guy? I’m not a numbers guy. You take my point, though. If you can belittle each sow that has the GALL to step to your counter or ask a question, or God forbid, TOUCH the velvet herding ropes by the jetway just a LITTLE bit more, then their time on the Slaughterhouse of the Skies will be that much more hellish. If you can sing-song an insincere “Sorry” as you wield your drink carts to mash just ONE more set of those greasy little trotters they leave in the goddamn aisle, then that’s a lesson not only to THAT shit-pig, but to all the shit-pigs sitting nearby. If you can make just ONE more oinker beg for the full can of Schweppes, instead of just the shot-glass sized plastic cup brimming with ice, you can make ALL of them that much meeker. And when you relent, give them Tonic Water instead of the Ginger Ale you distinctly heard them request.
Last thing is this, and it might strike some of you as a radical proposal: when you’ve oversold seating on your Eventually Departing Sky Tube of Stranger Farts, and you have a crew United Heroes that needs to take off from Orlando in like six days, ask as you usually do for volunteers to accept a Voucher For a Tiny Fraction of Sky Travel to Anyplace Worthwhile, and if you get none — because you won’t, because shit-pigs — hold a lottery.
Not a sucker’s lottery like the Powerball. An awesome lottery, like the Shirley Jackson story. Pick a handful of deserving sky pigs, lift them bodily from their seats, and drag them down the aisle like a writhing, blubbery, screaming drink cart. If you can drop them on the tarmac, so much the better — give the rest of the pigs a taste of that cricket-bat-on-Goodman’s-belly sound. They hear that injured squeal, I can guarantee you the other pigs will know who’s in charge.
I thank you for your time. Stay awesome, Heroes of United. Let’s roll!
[Hits Scorpions. Trots up aisle, collecting high fives from the exuberant crowd.]