Get thee behind me!

Without my realizing it, I have been developing a condescending attitude.  It began when I began to remark on the crabbiness of people.

I first noticed it in New York as a friend and I were waiting to be admitted to television shows.  We thought this was great fun.  We were the next best to celebrities…appearing on TV and watching how a show is put together.  There were a lot of eye-openers in the process, but the greatest was the carping and complaining as we waited in line.

“Why don’t they have seats for us?”  We could be in there, instead of out here.”  “I’m hot!”  “I’m tired.”  “I’m thirsty, couldn’t they have something for us while we’re waiting?”  One woman went so far as to get into an abusive argument with one of the guards who took himself and his job seriously.

I couldn’t believe it!  We all had FREE tickets, the show was NOT being recorded for our convenience, and it was such a fun OPPORTUNITY.  Oh, of course, it wasn’t fun standing in line, but we had been warned.  They hadn’t said to arrive two hours early for entry, not for a pre-recording party with cloth napkins, snacks and fresh ground coffee.

I almost wrote about it at the time.  I was fascinated and dismayed by the sense of entitlement, the negative attitude and the overall bad humor of many people in the crowd. Tsk, Tsk.

Well, I hadn’t seen anything: it was nothing compared to travel from out of the country  (St, Maarten) after the holidays, after the airplane scare, etc.

Return travel always sucks.  The party is over, the “home” worries have invaded, deadlines are looming and every moment of waiting seems longer than it did when we came.  My fervent wish that the airports could be equipped with true lounge chairs where we could lie down with our bags under our heads and transport ourselves to the life we have just left.

The opposite is true, of course.  Airport waiting areas are noisy, every seat is taken, luggage blocks the aisles, children run screaming away from their parents and the only happy people are at the bar at the edge of the waiting area which is overcrowded and SRO.

Yesterday brought the added imposition of a safety response to the new terrorist scare.  Each passenger underwent a full search.  Every bag was opened, every item examined and every person subjected to an electronic wand before boarding.

Yikes!  When our flight was called there was no line; just an impenetrable group crowding toward a table manned by one female and three male security guards.  Okay…so it wasn’t efficient.  Priority passengers wanted priority.  Gate agents wanted order.  All passengers wanted to be finished.  It was chaos of pressing bodies and rolling bags.  In an attempt to protect women from being searched by the male guard, they separated the lines into men and women.  You can imagine!  Who has the most in carry-on luggage?  Who wears the most accessories?  Which gender constitutes the majority of travelers?  The women’s line was bogged down before it began.

The wild animals came out to play: “Do they realize I have a connection?” “What is the matter with this airline?”  I’ve been waiting for…”  “Do I look like a terrorist?” “I’ve been through security, let me be.”

My theory is that once we reach 40+ our faces tell the world our view of life.  A case in point was a woman whose lips literally turned down at the corners.  She held stubbornly to her husband’s arm as they assaulted the lines from all sides.  Finally ending in the men’s line, she refused to move to the women’s line.  Rejected, she stomped to the front of the women’s line, gave everyone within hearing a piece of her bitter mind and when ignored, stomped to the back.  Naturally, though, it didn’t take long for her to edge and crowd herself to the front again.

I stood in line and observed. So what if I was last on the plane.  We each had a seat.  We all had to go through the process.  Watching the snarling crowd, I felt detached and a bit superior.  I didn’t actually sneer, but…

We all have our breaking point, don’t we?  Mine came next.

It took an hour to clear immigration in Miami.  In baggage claim we found about 30 people watching our appointed carousel going round and round with nothing on it.  My first thought was, “How could the luggage have taken longer than our sojourn through immigration?”  My second was “Bummer!”  We soon learned that the majority of the people on the flight had retrieved their luggage and were long gone.  Only the select 20 or 30 of us remained.

I’m skipping all of the repetitive drama in the bowels MIA.  Suffice it to say that when a junior representative of the airline finally informed us that we must file for lost luggage, my husband and I quickly left, knowing that the angry crowd would soon be following.  At the “Lost Luggage” we joined another line of harried, tired and disgusted passengers. It was a reincarnation of the other masses of pushing and grumbling humanity encountered throughout the day.

I was still calm.  After all, it is what it is, right?  Then I noticed that an older man who had been behind me was edging up next to me.  I assumed he was trying to listen.  Wrong!  When my turn came he darted quickly in front of me to talk with the agent.

BREAKING POINT!  I was in an immediate rage.  I tapped him on the shoulder, “Why did you cut in front of me?”  He looked at me and shrugged.  His wife, from behind me said, “He was in line”.  “Yes, he was, BEHIND me,” My voice was still even.  “Whatever makes you happy”, I said through clenched teeth and flounced away.

The result was excellent.  I came to my senses, realized we could handle it online from our hotel, and walked away to catch a cab.  Our luggage still isn’t with us but the results would have been the same either way.

The point of this diatribe is to work out with myself who I am and who I want to be.  Obviously, although I would like to be good-natured and detached, I’m not.  I think I am above it all, and I’m not.  My irritation is just waiting for the proper trigger in order become full-fledged rage.  And it is once more true that whatever behavior I criticize in others, I quickly find myself repeating or imitating.

I spent a lot of travel time thinking about my own way of moving through life.  Is cutting lines in airports different that darting in and out of traffic to advance toward a destination?  Is being judgmental better than being crabby?  Is being pushy akin to being a leader?  Is detachment peace or distance?  Will I ever be like the couple in St. Maarten who didn’t stand in line at all, but sat in chairs waiting for the line to be finished before they proceeded to the security checkpoint?  Probably not.

But I can work on my own attitude.  I can sympathize with those whose lives are so miserable that nothing seems fun and little is tolerable.  I can breathe deeply for all of those stressed individuals who are sure their life will fall apart if they are late and pity the ones whose lives will do so. I can recognize that feeling powerless emphasizes our need to control and commiserate when I see it in others and myself.

And most of all, I can cop to my own attitude.  I can recognize that I am sometimes worried about my share of the pie.  I can remember never to feel as if my personal importance is affected by my place in line.   I can try to calm myself in situations rather than becoming more rigid in my resistance to people around me.  I can allow others to be who they are without passing judgment. As my daughter would say, “Sometimes, all we can learn from this is how not to be.”

And maybe if I see the “crowding” man approaching I can elbow him in the ribs, quickly and surreptitiously.  Or maybe I can hold onto his waistband and move past him.  Or straight arm him like a football player.  Mmmm…thinking…thinking…


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