Selfishness

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By David M. Bresnahan

My recent trip to visit family during the Christmas season brought with it an opportunity to observe fellow travelers while waiting in lines, and what I saw disturbs me. I would be interested in your thoughts, if you care to share them. Here is what I observed…

It took three flights to get where I was going, and the same number to return. That placed me in several gate areas where I could watch people as they waited in line to board their flight. What took place caught me by surprise – widespread butting in line.

I have not experienced such a thing since I was in a grade school lunch line. Boarding a plane has always been a place where people have been tolerant, patient, and kind to their fellow travelers. What has happened to us? I thought my first flight was an aberration, but I encountered the same thing while boarding all six flights.

The instant it was announced that it was time to board the flight I saw people of all ages get up from their seats and butt into the side of the line. The crowd was so large that the line virtually disappeared as a mob of people just pushed their way from all directions towards the boarding area. There was no violence, but I could tell there was a great deal of tension in the air.

Yike! What have we turned into? No one got to their destination any faster by pushing into a line, and no one got turned away because their seat was taken by someone who beat them to it. Personally, I prefer to wait for everyone else to get on board and then I make the journey to my seat. If I have to sit and wait for a flight to leave I might as well be more comfortable in the terminal rather than in an airline seat where I am about to be stuck for hours.

I watched the people as they were engaged in this free-for-all and could see stress and anxiety in their faces. It was not just because of the sudden push to cut in line. It appears that people in general are more stressed and worried than in the past, and perhaps that has led to selfishness and a desire to cut ahead of someone else.

On the bright side, I observed that those who were imposed upon by a line cutter were tolerant of the act and did not vocally express dismay, although a good number showed it in their facial expressions. Some were totally expressionless and became the target of multiple line cutters who were quick to observe an easy mark.

I was able to observe several other flights in the process of boarding and found that the practice was common to most, although there were fewer line cutters at some flights than at others.

What does it mean? Are we less thoughtful, or just more selfish than in the past? Is it a result of a difficult financial year that has put us under more stress? It is not very clear to me what is causing this behavior, but it is sad to see.

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