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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Friday, April 11, 2014

That Other Shoe**

Airport picture from the FAA website. No attribution listed.

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Couey
Written content only

*Chicago Tribune
May 27, 2011
as "The view from the other side of the counter"

*Somerset, PA  Daily American
May 28, 2011
as "Check Yourself"

As summer time approaches, doubtless many are planning to hit the road, or the skies, enroute to destinations ranging from Grandma’s to the Grand Bahamas. Doubtless also is the almost dead certainty that our national air transportation system, already creaking at the seams, will rupture in ways certain to test the already-thin patience of travelers.

As fuel costs have soared, airlines have been forced into cutting services and staff.  Adding to that are the horror stories of passengers “imprisoned” for as long as 10 hours as their aircraft sits on the tarmac while food runs out and toilets overflow. And hovering over this whole mess are the counter-terrorism security measures which now include body scans and diaper searches.

And ever-present in the back of all our minds is the reminder that the horrors of September 11th could happen again.

Humans can take only so much, and people sometimes erupt, spewing their venom in every direction.  On the receiving end of that lava flow are the visible airline employees

Airline and security policy is set by Armani-clad executives, bureaucrats, and politicians hiding miles from the front lines. Airline employees who man the counters and face the public are charged with implementing those policies with very little leeway. As the next few months unwind, doubtless they too will be put to the test. And most of them will pass that test with flying colors.

I fly a lot and am constantly amazed at the sometimes childish and self-indulgent nature of the modern air traveler. There are those among us who demand royal deference, confusing customer service with customer servant. I have watched in sympathetic horror as these unstable people scream at gate agents, using language that would embarrass a longshoreman, over problems that the airline employees have absolutely no control. Two years ago at Dallas-Ft. Worth International, I watched in amazement as a passenger actually blamed the gate agent for the thunderstorm that was raging outside.  I’ve seen other cases where passengers blame everyone else for their own failure to be prepared to fly. The rules are readily available in a dozen different places about arriving early, staying sober, and using common sense about the size of a carry-on.

I recently shared a conversation with an airline employee that opened my eyes wide to life on the other side of the counter. Despite the many miles I’d flown, I’d never really thought about what it was like to be caught between policies and circumstances and the ire of affected passengers. That talk completely changed my attitude. And I dearly wish many of my fellow air travelers could have been privy to the stories she told.

Try to remember that the airline employee is, above all, a human being, same as you. These situations are beyond their ability to control or affect, and as a result, their frustration is at least equal to your own. After all, they didn’t cause the thunderstorm, or break the airplane, or over-sell the flight. Keep your voice calm and civil and your temper firmly under control. Put yourself in their position for once.  Would you want to be cursed at?  Be reasonable. Be kind and respectful and when it’s obvious that the employee has done all they can do, thank them and walk away. Being an adult means understanding that we’re not always going to have our way, so get over it and move on.  Employing these “kinder and gentler” methods yields a bounty of positive results for all concerned, not the least of which is a much less stressful travel experience.

Modern technology has provided us with a way to travel vast distances in time spans that would have left our ancestors dumbstruck. But it only works when we recognize travel as a cooperative venture and that each one of us has clear responsibilities towards the task of making things work.

But if you have a bad temper, an over-inflated sense of your own importance, are easily frustrated or upset, or are unable to stay sober or otherwise behave yourself, do the rest of us a favor and take the train, take the car, or just stay home. In the end, we’ll all be better off.
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