My husband and I were returning from an out-of-state trip. Our flight home was late Sunday night, after a long and busy day. As we approached our gate at the airport, we found just one seat open in a row of seven seats. Gentleman that he is, my husband motioned for me to sit down. I did, and as I looked around, I could feel my temperature rising. It wasn’t from the weather, but the fact that three of the seven seats were occupied not by people, but by briefcases or camera cases belonging to the people sitting next to them. Not one of the three people even looked up, let alone moved their items – or offered to – so someone else could sit down.

It didn’t bother my husband, who said he’d spend enough time sitting down on the plane, and didn’t need to now. But it bothered me that the people around us were so inconsiderate and self-absorbed that they wouldn’t extend a simple courtesy to someone standing nearby. I found myself wondering if they’d have been the same way with an elderly or infirm person, or a pregnant woman, or someone with several young children in tow. I like to think they’d have acted differently then, but I’m not so sure – even though it wasn’t even a matter of getting up and giving someone their own seat, but simply moving their briefcase from the seat next to them to the floor space in front of them.

Since my mind was already going in this direction, I started wondering how these people would react if there were an emergency on board the plane – a fire or crash or something in which people had to evacuate quickly. I’ve read about situations such as this in which people stopped to retrieve their luggage from the overhead bins, taking up precious time and blocking the aisle for the people behind them. And I found myself hoping that if – God forbid – something like that actually happened on our flight, these people would have been seated in a row far back in the plane. Or at least farther back than my row.

I usually don’t think this way, so I’ll blame it on the fact that it was late and I was tired, and that’s why my patience, tolerance, and give-them-the-benefit-of-the-doubt were a little on the low side. Now that I’m rested and restored after a good night’s sleep, I find myself more sad than angry about people who act this way. There are many, unfortunately, but it’s reassuring to realize there are many people who are just the opposite. Not only do they use common sense and common courtesy with the people around them, but they go out of their way to help others who are in need – including total strangers.

The next time I’m at the airport, I’ll make a point of looking for opportunities to make other people’s trips a little more pleasant, whether it’s through a small courtesy on my part, or just a nod or smile to a tired or harried traveler.

Come to think of it, that’s what I should be doing anyway, no matter where I am.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on July 28, 2016.
©Betty Liedtke, 2016

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