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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.