Two Secrets to Survive and Thrive in an Upside Down World.

If the craziness in this “world gone wild” has you feeling helpless and confused this may be a post worth reading.

On a flight from Nashville to Charlotte NC I observed a first class example of corporate inefficiency.  Common sense was nowhere in sight. The world was upside down. Then I saw someone demonstrate the secret to surviving it all.

Our carry on luggage had been taken from us at the beginning of the flight and stored beneath the aircraft.  When we landed we were told to form a line on one side of the jet bridge and our luggage would be delivered to a door near the entrance to that airplane.

The line of people waiting for their carry on luggage stretched from the airplane door, all the way through the jet way and thirty feet into the terminal gate. Finally the baggage handlers began to deliver the luggage, “one piece at a time,” to the tiny little door where we exited the airplane. Chaos erupted.  People at the back of the line were so far away they couldn’t even see the airport let alone see if their bags were being unceremoniously dumped in a pile at the opposite end of the jet bridge.  The jet way was quickly jammed with people trying to spot their luggage, or trying to dig it out from beneath the pile.

Then, one person,

one person with a brain,

one person with the secret to surviving in an upside-down  world, yelled,

“Let’s do this! “

He grabbed a bag and began making his way into the terminal. “Is this yours?” he asked as he made his way.  A woman squeal with delight when she spotted her bag, thanked the man and headed for her connecting gate.  “Somebody grab another one.” the man barked.  A women grabbed a bag and made her way up the jet bridge until someone identified it and took it from her.

Wow! A system was in place. Each person at the front of the line took a bag and headed up the bridge.  A steady stream of bags was being claimed. Within three minutes everyone had their luggage and the jet way was clear.

Human ingenuity had trumped corporate ineptness.

My friend Kenn Kington tells of  getting on an escalator which suddenly stopped.  Hundreds of people just stood there waiting to be rescued until he yelled, “WALK!!!”

In this upside-down world you have only two options.  You can choose stand helplessly waiting for the Government or State or Anyone to rescue you OR you can….

1.  Analyze the Situation!
2.  Do Something!

Those are the steps to thriving in an upside-down world.

Unfortunately the airline seemed not to care. “Isn’t there a better way to do this?” I asked in the middle of the chaos.  “We need to get rid of carry on luggage,” was the agents answer!   I blurted out, “You need to get rid of passengers. Then your job would be easy.

I wish I could say that I was the person who established the system that turned our upside-down jet way right-side up. I was not part of the answer.  I was a smart alack part of the problem.  Funny, maybe.  Helpful, no.  Pointing out that something is upside down doesn’t solve the problem.  Action solves the problem.

What do you see in your world that is upside-down? What do you need to do to make it right?  I encourage you.  Don’t just stand there.  Don’t just moan and complain.   Walk!    Love to hear your comments.


  1. How many times in life do we face a situation we feel has no answer and it just stops us in our tracks. We don’t do anything but sit there, so to speak. Or we wait on someone else to fix it for us. And waiting on someone else to fix it–or worse yet, expecting someone else to fix it is becoming more and more prevalent these days.

    Great post and I am putting those two simple-but-overlooked points at my desk in plain view!


  2. Ken — You are blessed (in an odd way) to get a lot of great material from your love/hate relationship with the airlines. One of my favorite stories of yours is found on your old album, “For Motion Discomfort” about what is printed on the “barf bags” used by airlines.

    Another great post — thanks for the humor and the wisdom.

    1. Author

      Remember… para las náuseas? Close by folding toward you? für Luft-Krankheit? Wow. I almost forgot about this stuff. Thank you for bringing back good memories.

      1. I still collect barf bags on airplanes due to listening to that tape over and over in high school. .. the segment on skiing got me through my youth group ski trip…. “I’m doing the sit down turn around”… and I also think of you whenever I see a lone glove on the ground and the things you saw from the lift 🙂 I’d really like to see “For Motion Discomfort” re released on CD…

  3. Yeah, I’m not always the one to find the answer either but often those of us that can find the humor in the situation can help relieve the stress of the situation so that the thinkers can think of a solution. Everybody’s gift plays a part, even ours Ken 🙂

    1. Author

      I like that idea Steve. Maybe my mouth isn’t such a trouble maker after all. I love our spin on this.

  4. Ken, you’ve touched on something that extends to an even bigger realm. It’s like the idea of stepping into the box that you shared one time. Some people are born with an innate ability to see fixes to problems. Many businesses get started this way. The action this guy took is like stepping over the threshold into the box. Not just anyone had the fixit vision that day. This man found his calling (in that moment) and acted on it.

    Sadly, many a fixer will sit back and join in with the crowd that would rather pray (complain) to the unknown god of luggage, hoping for a miracle. I saw one just the other day in the mirror.

    Great post.

  5. Hello Ken,
    I had to reply to this story, I have to say on this one I am on the agents side,being a flight attendant for 3 years I know what she was saying,not that she doesn’t appreciate the passengers but that since the airlines started charging to check the bags everyone has figured out that they can just gate check them at no cost..I understand that the passenger does not want to pay the money but this is what happens because of it.. want a solution,fly SouthWest airlines where you do not have to pay for your luggage.I flew with United express and always laughed at how many bags people would try to bring on the plane,passengers would complain “why can’t I bring my stroller on board?”because it doesn’t fit,and are you needing it in flight?express planes as you know have very small bins,my flight suitcase was 20 inches and barely fit.The passenger who helped with the bags was smart and was helpful,people need to work together more this I believe.But ken I am a bit surprised at your comment to the agent,to me it was not funny,though you are a funny guy,that was no help.
    people need to understand that if your bag can not come on the aircraft then it has to go under the plane,and if theres a fiull flight then yes you are going to have alot of peeps waiting for there luggage,I for one use to hand the bags to our passengers while waiting to take over the flight,I also saw Captains do the same many this is the best way they have to do this at this time,what would you suggest,let all the passengers down on the ramp to grab there bag? well there would be a FAA infraction at best.
    so there you go thats my opinon,passengers check your bag at the ticket counter and pick it up at baggage claim. if your only carring a backpack then we welcome your bag on board.
    Just Sayin……

    1. I don’t think he meant for the comment to be funny and I say that only from my own experience. When I’m frustrated with something, I may come up with a smart remark out of frustration. Talk first, think later. oops! Also, if I had a small child with me (along with all the paraphenalia that I would need to cart around with me in order to care for and entertain that child), I would probably want to be able to use a stroller in the airport before I got on and after I got off the plane. Not that I should expect to be able to do this, but I can see where those people are coming from.

    2. Author

      Hi Karim, I wish all agents were like you. I cannot imagine you saying, “what we need is to get rid of carry on luggage.” As a passenger who travels over a hundred thousand miles a year I guarantee that I meet airline personal who dislike customers and would prefer not to have to deal with them. The lady I spoke of was not kind or helpful. The sad thing is that the agent gets blamed for everything. I also have seen people try to get a truckload so stuff onto the airline. I am not one of them. I just need to survive. On the day in question we had been traveling for two weeks and had faced. Two canceled flights, three flights delayed over two hours, and every other flight delayed more than thirty minutes. We missed connections, drove hundreds of miles, and ended up exhausted. The way the airlines handle luggage is crazy. My comment to the lady was, as I pointed out in the post, inappropriate. Not meant as funny, (ha ha) but funny (this is crazy) But the dismissive tone and content of her response was also inappropriate. The guy with the right response was the man who saw a way to fix the problem and got it done. That is what I would expect the airline to work on. Karim, I wish I could do business with only a back pack. I can’t. All I ever carry on board is a brief case and a roller bag. The same thing the flight attendants carry. I think that as a paying customer I should be welcome on board with those minimum requirements for me to do my job. It saddens me that I would not be welcome on your flight. The truth is there are nasty travelers, lots of them, and there are nasty airline personnel. Then there are people like me who can demonstrate both traits on occasion. Would love to have this conversation face to face sometime. Lot’s of nuance here that cant be covered in writing. Two views from opposite ends of a crazy world. None of that affects our friendship. Your comments are valuable because I know your heart. Hope the same holds true for you.

  6. 3 minutes?! Really? That’s amazing! What a simple and quick solution. I’m still having trouble trying to bring up a mental picture of what was going on and how it was resolved, but I guess that’s irrelavant. The important thing is that it got resolved and quickly. What I’m really having a problem understanding is why in the world your carry-on luggage was taken from you. Isn’t that the point – that you get to carry it on? I would have been incensed. If I had carry-on luggage, there would be things in there that I would need during the flight. Did they give a reason for this? (oh, after I typed that last sentence, I read the other posts. So, was it because there were too many carry-on bags because people didn’t want to pay to have their bags checked? Now I’m wondering how often this is a problem. hmmm) This is yet another reason why I hope I never have to fly for the rest of my life. I would drive somewhere before I would fly. On the other hand, in your situation I’m sure it saves you a lot of time by flying instead of driving. Do you think this is true or would you say that from the time you leave your house until you get to your destination, you could have driven there? I suppose it depends on how far you’re going. Love the story about the people stuck on the escalator. I always walk up escalators (if I’m able to get past people) and, of course, I walk down them (if I’m able). Thanks for sharing. Hopefully, it will help all of us come up with a plan B when we need it. 😉

    1. Hey! How can I change my avatar pic? It looks really angry! 😮

    2. Might have been five or six minutes. It seems like three in comparison to what we had endured on other flights. I made my next flight. That’s what was so exciting.

  7. I understand where you are coming from, I spent 8 years in the R.A.A.F. Believe me, the ‘cream’ does not always rise to the top. There are two things I will never be able to thank Our Lord enough for, the sense of humour he gave me to see the funny side in the absurd and the incompetence, (often my own), and believe me the military knows no bounds in this department. Secondly, faith that He has a handle on all things, and while I have to care, I do not have to worry,
    God bless you.

  8. Want more problem solvers? Support a robotics team in your area!

    Robotics programs, such as VEX and FIRST, teach kids problem solving skills. First, there is a job that needs to be done, and they design, build, and program a robot to do that job. This is problem solving in a way, but there is more. There are so many places something can go wrong – and it does. These kids are constantly having to troubleshoot and look for ways to improve their design to reach their goal. They are learning to ask questions, the right questions. They are testing their ideas. And they are finding out they can do it and gaining confidence in their abilities. They experience failure often, and this keeps them humble. They also are learning to work with others in a team. These are going to be the ones to see the solutions to the problems, and take the initiative.

    If scenes like the one described in the blog post bother you, sponsor a robotics team! Robotics produces can-do problem solvers!

    I’m a robotics coach, who really believes in the value of the program! Can you tell?? 🙂

    1. Carl, my kids are still young- 8 and 4- but I am interested in how old do they have to be to be in a robotics team. And how do I find out if we have one (and if not how do I get it going)?

  9. Ken, I probably wouldn’t be the one who comes up with the solution but I probably wouldn’t be complaining either. I love your challenge and I am posting those steps somewhere very visible in my house where my family can see it!

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