Monday, February 3, 2014

Learn to Enjoy the Ride, Even When You’re Stuck

Recently while waiting at the Baltimore airport to come home from a productive business meeting, I became aware of something disturbing. It was happening at the gate, continued on the plane and affects me to this day.
              It centered on the anxiety level of passengers and makes me wonder about the nature of people when we’re gathered in groups. Specifically, what is it that can drive us to be near our worst during times when we could instead be experiencing life at its best?
              My business colleagues and I were standing with others in a loosely organized clump, waiting our turn to line up and board the plane. There, I noticed a level of anxiety among passengers. It was mostly quiet, with the usual conversations going on – the game, the kids, the job. The wait. Typical stuff you’d expect to overhear when the line hasn’t started moving.
              Yet there also was a growing feeling of unease in a situation where it shouldn’t have been the case. After all, we had all passed security, held tickets and had assigned seats. There was some kind of delay though; short but measurable. Toward the front of the line was a small cluster of travelers from another country. I judged them to be tourists from their cameras and attire. They seemed not to understand English because of the way the gate person spoke to them.
              I think the trouble centered on loading zones. You know the drill: passengers with zone-one tickets board, then zone-two, etc. No big deal. Except the tourists probably didn’t understand the announcements and only saw passenger movement toward the gate.
              When in Rome, right? They were probably trying to board ahead of their zone assignments and didn’t understand why they were literally being pushed to the side.
              If I was gate agent, I would have went ahead and let them board. You know, be the welcoming American. Show world travelers we know how to treat visitors here. But that’s just me.
              Anyway, I finally get my turn. Which is to say, I handed off my ticket and stood in line again, this time along the jet way. Then again on the plane as folks stowed their luggage and found their seats.
              It was on the plane where I really noticed the anxiety, even among seated passengers. There was no apparent drama going on that I heard or observed. The atmosphere was thick with something and it wasn’t good will. I wasn’t the only one who sensed it; most faces I peered into betrayed uneasiness. And I’m fairly certain it wasn’t the way I looked or smelled.
              Kidding aside, I continued to regard fellow passengers, wondering if it was related to the plane’s cramped quarters. Or the tension associated with worry that there might not be enough room for luggage. Whatever the case, when the door closed and the jet pushed back, the mood of the cabin lightened up.
              It happened again though on the other end. After we landed and slowly approached the gate, a similar tension arose. It peaked when the plane came to a stop at the gate. People shot to their feet, as if a racing judge’s pistol had gone off. Except the track to the finish line was jam packed with people. No one could move.
              Sure, some folks may have been anxious to make their connecting flights but most just seemed wound up because of their hurry to exit the plane. It all seemed mob-like and irrational. It also felt Inhumane. Just to get off a plane. Instead of fretting a situation you have no control over, sometimes it might be better to simply sit back and enjoy the ride.

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