As a culture, it’s disappointing how intolerant and impatient we’ve all become. Especially when it comes to respecting fellow human beings. The sobering truth is people are not perfect. As a consequence, sometimes we goof up, stumble or just have brain farts.
There are also circumstances are beyond our control. Events happen and if we’re in (or not in) a certain frame of mind they can send us into a tailspin of anger. Take kids on an airplane.
Recently there was a news story about a parent who took her infant on a flight and before takeoff issued “apology” gift bags filled with goodies (candy, ear plugs, etc.) to those seated around her. She even included a note, penned in the voice of the baby. The purpose? Massage those who might be disturbed by the possible fussing her baby might engage in during the flight. In essence it was to apologize in advance for the baby being a baby.
As if the infant is doing something unexpected and out of character. As if a parent as responsible as this one is accountable for her baby acting like, well, a baby. As if it’s inexcusable for a six-month-old to be upset in a public place.
The same can happen when an elder is moving too slow getting on or off a flight. So many passengers outwardly display impatience, disgust and intolerance toward those with differing abilities.
Planes and trains aren’t the only place such inhumane reactions occur. Ever been at a fast food joint when it wasn’t fast? Five minutes to get served instead of two?
The horror. Not over the extra time it takes, but the foul treatment the cashier receives. The cashier is not the one working the fries machine or building the burgers. Nevertheless, she’s the one who get the evil eye. Or worse.
It’s the same in any service industry. For instance waiting in line at the grocery store. Oh, the gasps of exasperation and disgust from disgruntled shoppers. As if it’s the end of the world that the shopper ahead of them has coupons. Or an item that needs a price check.
Elders driving? Newbies behind the wheel for the first time? Somebody lost or looking for an address? It’s awful the treatment they can receive by impatient passing drivers. Sometimes dangerously impatient drivers.
Not that I’m innocent of any of this. Quite the contrary. Ever been cut off in traffic? Who hasn’t? A more relevant question: ever cut someone else off in traffic? We all have, knowingly or unknowingly.
We’ve all been there; interrupted someone else’s flow, I mean. All except for the perfect people in society. The ones who steadfastly refuse to believe their armpits don’t stink after a workout.
I’m not suggesting we give everybody passes on things that disrupt our lives – especially if that disruption can be helped. But there’s a difference between intentional and unintentional incidents. There’s a difference between a baby flying off the handle with no parental guidance and one who’s just plain inconsolable – no matter what the caretaker does to soothe the child.
What to do? Who can say? A start might be to incorporate a bit of compassion for those different from you. Or take into account the fact that random acts of chaos can happen when it’s least convenient or expected.
I, for one try hard to remember the Golden Rule. Without a doubt, “doing unto others” can be difficult to remember during times of stress and frustration. Yet a wink and a nod can often be a saving grace, particularly when seated in 17-B next to a first-time mother toting a six-month-old suffering from colic.
Follow J.R. on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.