Roland looked at his watch, then the clock on his instrument panel. They were identical to the second, but he always found himself checking both when they were running behind. Of course it happened— weather delays and safety checks were part of the business. At least on Roland’s crew, there were rarely preventable delays. Which was why, as take-off time ticked closer on this sunny day in his cleared-for-take-off aircraft, he felt himself getting antsy.
“Sharon,” he said into his headset. “Give me a read, what’s happening out there.”
The voice of his chief flight attendant came crackling back crisply, “Passengers not acting right.”
“Yikes,” said his co-pilot, hearing Sharon’s report, but Roland was already moving, ditching his headset and ducking out of the cockpit. He’d had to send people off of his plane before and he didn’t often give them more than one chance to straighten up before he did it. And the sooner, the better.
The disruption was happening in the rear of the craft, which he assumed was why Sharon hadn’t alerted him earlier. He paused as he got closer, observing the scene. It wasn’t what he expected.
Another member of his crew was blocking his path but not his view of the unruly passengers. They weren’t the self-important customers he was used to kicking off his aircraft. No, these two had likely never flown alone in their lives. A girl was on her knees, facing backward in her seat to face her companion. He caught her response to what must have been an ongoing and very repetitive conversation: “And I said we want to sit together so your job is to make that happen.”
Her friend, a young man about the same age, was not yet buckled and watching a video on his phone, no headphones in sight. Sharon was speaking firmly to him, but he seems to be ignoring her besides a very slight shrug of his shoulders. It took Roland about thirty more seconds to make a decision. He wasn’t going to wait for an air marshall to solve what he could deal with himself in a matter of minutes. He tapped the shoulder of the very patient attendant in front of him, and she jerked away but then looked relieved when she saw it was him. “Thank you, Maris,” he said genuinely. “I’ll take it from here.”
She nodded appreciatively and stepped back so he could get through. He knew every eye on the entirely full flight was on him except those of the two troublemakers— the boy’s remained glued to his screen, the girl still facing the rear of the plane defiantly. Sharon stood up from her crouch, looking thoroughly irritated. “I assume you have explained to our friends here why this is unacceptable?” Roland said, more to alert the TBs than any real due diligence.
“Of course,” Sharon said, taking a step back. She and Roland had worked together a long time, and she has some idea of what was about to happen.
“I just want to sit with my boyfriend, is that too much—“ the girl said loudly, but Roland didn’t let her finish. He placed one foot up on her chair seat and pulled her swiftly across his knee. She shrieked as his hand came down hard on her suddenly upturned bottom.
Roland was fast and thorough. He briefly noted the two other passengers in her row leaning back to avoid the girl’s flailing, but otherwise he paid attention to nothing except the task at hand. This wasn’t his usual course of action– most passengers he would have been content to have escorted promptly off the plane and added to the no-fly list. But these two were barely adults and he wasn’t quite ready to ruin whatever travel might lay ahead of them. It was with a calm authority that he proceeded, laying swat after swat on the young lady’s bottom as she squealed and kicked and eventually cried. He kept spanking. He didn’t stop until he was certain that she’d have a sore backside to accompany her the rest of her trip, and then he was depositing a newly tearful passenger back in her seat— correctly this time. She sobbed loudly and grabbed at her bottom, but Roland had already shifted his attention to her boyfriend.
“Wait man, no, no, you can’t—” he said, phone dropping to the ground as he stood in the small space, but there was nowhere to go.
Roland grabbed the boy’s forearm and yanked him forward, using his hip for leverage so he could apply the same treatment as he had to the girlfriend. The boy wore jeans, which Roland pulled taut with a finger through the loop, and then his palm crashed down again, the first swat solid enough that he heard a nearby passenger gasp. The boy struggled more than the girl but just as ineffectively. Roland was unbothered, concentrating on spanking the round curve of the young man’s bottom.
He put the strength of his well-muscled arm behind every swat, making up for any cushion the denim might provide and ensuring the same wiggly ride for the boy as he had for the girl. She might have been the more aggressive of the pair, but Roland didn’t find his passive discourtesy any more acceptable or unworthy of punishment. They each earned the spankings they were given in their own way.
There were tears again when he finished and a dramatic yelp when Roland plunked him back down. The captain stepped back, making pointed eye contact first with the girl, then the boy. “Buckle your seatbelts,” he said sternly, then waited as they complied, the clink of metal loud for a moment alongside their sniffling. “I do not expect to hear anything else about the two of you for the duration of the flight. Do you understand?”
Two shell-shocked pairs of watery eyes stayed on him as they nodded, and he nodded in return, satisfied, before looking back at Sharon. “Please prepare the cabin for take-off.”
“Yes sir,” she said pleasantly, but it was drowned out by the applause that erupted around them. Roland tipped his head politely at the passengers who managed to catch his attention, but otherwise he spared little time for the reaction. He glanced at his watch and wondered if they could make up some time in the air. He walked into the cockpit, sat down in the captain’s seat, and put on his headset.