The “Bob the Southwest Airlines Gate Attendant” Personality Type Indicator

I had a nice long wait to catch a flight from Phoenix the other day, so I struck up a conversation with an incredibly friendly Southwest Airlines gate attendant named Bob.  I was interested in finding out if the change in boarding process (for years Southwest boarding was like a feeding frenzy — first come, first served, stand in line forever to get on the plane first.  Now it is an orderly board-by-sequential-number system) made things any better.  Bob told me that the new system was light-years better than the old system, though it still was far from perfect.  He paused, scratched his head, and reflected, “As long as people are involved, there isn’t going to be a perfect system.”

We talked awhile longer and Bob shared an “inside secret” with me — that I am now sharing with the world.  Bob said that he and his co-workers had divided all their customers into four groups that pretty much explained why the current system was less than perfect:  Doobies, Boobies, Poopies, and Whoopies.  I found these to be insightful descriptions of four basic personality types.

 Thumbs UpDoobies– these are the people who arrive on time, follow instructions, don’t make waves, don’t cause trouble, and seem to know what they’re doing.  They actually account for about 70% of all travelers, and they make the job a breeze.

 Crazy  Boobies — these are the people who are totally clueless – they don’t know where they should stand, they can’t read signs, they don’t know what they did with their boarding pass, they don’t listen to announcements, and they make you wonder how they even found the airport.  They account for about 10% of flyers.

 No No No  Poopies — these are the people who think the world revolves around them and that they shouldn’t be forced to follow the same rules as “ordinary” people.  They bring three carry-ons, cut in line, complain about everything, stand around shouting into their cell phones, ignore instructions, and generally make the job hell.  They account for about 10% of any given flight.

 Raise The RoofWhoopies– these are the people who are upbeat, funny, having a good time, but who can’t be bothered with following rules or listening to instructions.  They’re on vacation, and the good times don’t end until the plane lands, so they are generally oblivious that everyone around them would like to kill them.  They’re the remaining 10%.

I like the categories, and immediately applied them to my experience in the church.  About two-thirds of church people are great — they’re reasonable, rational, kind, decent, friendly people that you’re glad you know.  They have a strong commitment to Christ, they love their church, and they want to make a difference in the world.  They are good “doobies.” 

Then there are some who are clueless.  These “boobies” don’t mean any harm — they just don’t know any better.  They say silly things, can be inconsiderate, and sometimes slow things down by their ignorance.  All you can really do is love them. 

Of course there are the “poopies.”  These folks think the church is all about them, and heaven help us if we change a single thing that makes them unhappy.  If they feel pain, they make sure everyone else does as well.  It sometimes seems that their mission in life is to make everybody miserable.  Nothing ever seems to make them happy — nothing is ever good enough. 

And then come the “whoopies” — those fun-loving folk who take very little seriously and can be a joy at times and a problem at others.  They can be loud, pushy, and they think rules are made to be broken.  Great at social fellowship gatherings, less so at meetings and on projects where tasks and deadlines prevail.

And yet, the church would be a duller place without such diversity.  As long as people are involved, we’re never going to have a perfect church.  Regardless of whether at church or in the air, people are people and we are somehow better together than we are apart.  In Bob’s words, “My job might not always be fun, but it is definitely always interesting.”  May our congregations ever be “interesting” places where all might experience the love and grace of God.

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