Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's All About Me . . .

I recently flew two different airlines for a business trip I was taking. As I travelled, I noticed how society seems to have become more self-centered and selfish. Let me explain:

When it was my turn to board the first airplane, I had to wait in the doorway as passengers searched for a place to store their carry-on luggage. The flight attendant standing next to me mumbled under her breath, "If these people would just check their bags, we wouldn't have to stand here." She then proceeded to make an announcement about how we were going to be delayed and that everyone should just find a seat. It was all about her and her inconvenience. She wanted to get out of the aisle and sit down. She wanted to leave so she could get home. She spent no extra effort to help the passengers find room -- it was all about her. Somehow she forgot the obvious: passengers were not checking their bags because of the airline's exorbitant fee to do so.

One reason these passengers had trouble finding a place for their carry-on luggage was because their luggage was not really carry-on size. By far the majority of bags brought on board for that flight fit into the overhead bin only with the firm assistance of many hands stuffing them in place. It was a sight to behold -- something akin to watching a size-42 man attempt size-38 jeans. You get the picture. (Sorry about that.) The point of this is that it was all about them. I saw men elbow out women so they could grab an empty space for their jumbo carry-on. I saw women shouldering purses the size of a small car. Then there was the gentleman who darted to the back of the plane to store his bag and then immediately cut back through the oncoming passengers to find his seat in the forward section. I think it's safe to say it was all about him.

Later I flew on an airline that doesn't charge to check bags. The flight attendant announced all the seats would be filled and that we should place our smaller items under the seat in front of us. This was to make room for larger bags in the overhead bin. As soon as the announcement was made I watched a businessman put his suit carrier in the overhead bin, followed by a laptop case, and then his jacket. I was amazed. I would have thought because there was no charge to check bags, there would be less carry-on luggage and, consequently, less competition for space. Boy, was I wrong. People choked the aisle with oversized luggage, computer bags larger than my biggest suitcase, and enough baggage for a 12-day safari. I watched as a wife wedged her husband's duffel bag beneath the seat in front of her, bringing her knees to her chin. Overhearing her comments, I'm pretty sure he enjoyed the couch that night. Again, it was all about him. No one was willing to go out of their way to help a neighbor. Each person pushed and shoved to get what they wanted without little regard as to how much it inconvenienced someone else.
It was ridiculous -- an ugly spectacle of rude selfishness. Young men jockeyed for seats to rest their weary bones, leaving elderly women to stand. Grown adults cut in line to be first to check out with their muffins and coffee, edging out younger people in the process. Oh, and let's not forget those oblivious wannabes on cell phones who couldn't care less if the volume of their blather disturbs others around them.

When did we change the Golden Rule from "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," to "Do unto others -- first"?

When did we become a nation of individuals who only care about . . . me?


The Layman said...

A few months ago my wife was going to take a plane ride to Florida. She and I arrived at the airport just as they were flicking off the ticket counter lights and walking out the door. The first conversation started out with,
"You might as well go home, you are to late, this is no time to be arriving." This comment came with about a twenty-five minute to departure timeline and by the Grace of God, attitudes did soften as the airline went into a service mode that they must have trained for. They hustled off her bags to security while still working the computers. We hurried down to the security gate just in time to hear a voice asking my wife to come back for her boarding pass. That return trip must have been good for four minutes. With a very short hen-peck and a hug I know she didn't have five minutes to spare. I then waited in the parking lot for the plane to leave still wondering if she was on the plane or looking for me. And then the cell phone ran and she said goodbye! .....God is good huhh?

Anonymous said...

I’m one of those “frequent travelers” who essentially always travels on business. I have to say, I don’t much like traveling. It’s just part of my job. Don’t get me wrong. I like my job. I just don’t like the travel part of it. I’m looking forward to the time when we can, like Star Trek, just beam to where we are going. I don’t mind being places. I don’t mind meeting with business people. I don’t even mind staying in hotel rooms. I just don’t like the hassle of the travel part. It used to be better before we had to go thru metal detectors, x-ray scans, empty everything out of our pockets, take off our shoes, sometimes get padded down by a guard, and be concerned that someone might want to kill you while you are in flight. Thanks a lot Muslim terrorists! It was better when flying time included a nice snack, and friendly service by a cute stewardess. And it was better when there was reasonable leg and seat room on the plane with pillows and a blanket. Ah, the good ole days.

Sorry. I’m digressing. About traveling. Since I have to do it often, and I’m usually just wanting to get there without any more confusion or effort than necessary, I get somewhat frustrated with travelers who seem self-centered. Yes, I have elite status on some airlines. So I sometimes get first class upgrades. And, yes, I often get preferred seating, and early boarding privileges. But not always. And I’m still offended by some travelers who don’t seem to play by the unwritten rules. For example. How about the person who has seats near the rear of the plane, but stores his bags in the overhead near the front of the plane? Then, when I get on the plane near the front, there are no spaces left to store my bags. Or, how about the guy who spreads his body over the armrest into your seat without even an “excuse me”? Or, what about the person who assumes that his loud music isn’t bothering everyone around him, just because he happens to be using a set of earphones? And it seems to me that if you are traveling with the “kitchen sink”, maybe you should consider checking it, instead of trying to squeeze it in that overhead rack. As much as I hate those little regional jets, (the seats are similar to sitting on a concrete block) the nice thing about them is that there is very little overhead storage room. So a bag of almost any size bigger than a brief case has to be at least gate checked.

Times have changed in other ways as well. It was only recent years that I’ve experienced huge delays and cancellations for “weather” when the sun was shining brightly, entire terminal evacuations for security breaches, flight attendants throwing up in the galley, landing gear wheels falling off on takeoff, and a myriad of other minor discomforts. Maybe I’m just getting old. But travel used to be more enjoyable – in the “good ole days”.