Something is definitely in the air.
Can you smell it? Can you feel it? It's weird.
It's as if someone opened up a can of snakes and suddenly, everyone is freaking out on the plane and going for each other's throats on the way out.
What's with all of the recent confrontations and squabbles at the airport and on planes?
Of course, we could point fingers at numerous things. I hate to say, “point fingers,” because that's clearly what has gotten us into the situation in the first place, but please humor me for a moment. Not that there's any “humor” to be found in a fight on a plane, mind you.
Travel has gotten way more stressful. Let's just recount the scenario, shall we?
First off, whenever I travel, I usually get early morning flights. Of course, this means I'm up at an ungodly hour which means I'm crankier than usual.
Then I have to drive to the airport and cross all of the hurdles once I'm on airport property. I've got to find the cheapest parking lot which is still ridiculously expensive, grab my bags and either walk that half-mile to the main terminal or wait for the shuttle filled with other folks who are packed-in like sardines and needless to say, not in the best of moods.
After I'm hustled on and off the shuttle, I'm either freezing cold or a sweaty mess, depending on the season.
Then, I've got to retrieve my bags and walk yet another quarter-mile to the actual ticket counter. I usually print my boarding pass the evening before my flight so that I can bypass the ticket counter and go straight to the security checkpoint.
However, the last time I flew - which was a flight to Miami - my boarding pass wouldn't print at home and when I got to the ticket counter, it still wouldn't print at the self-serve kiosk, so I had to get help. The airline agent was nice enough and very helpful.
Finally, I get to the security checkout line where I always feel like live cattle being pushed through a meat grinder. I usually travel with only one carry-on bag and my laptop. I also try to dress light because I know I'm going to be felt up and looked at funny.
It's best to put your self-esteem on hold when you're going through an airport security checkpoint.
Off with the belt and the shoes and other things that have to go through the x-ray scanner. There's got to be a better way to do this, but whatever.
Despite the fact that I consider myself one of the most trustworthy people on the planet, I'm often singled out to walk through that big, body scanner thing. Fine. Actually, I like doing that. It makes me feel safe for some weird reason.
At this point, I have to hurry to retrieve my things before my pants fall down or before I slip on the floor due to the dress socks I'm wearing or because I don't want my big, plastic, tray-box to clog up the scanner.
I put my stuff back on and walk yet another quarter-mile to the actual gate where I immediately discover that my flight is delayed by an hour and the gate is going to change. No problem. This gives me the time to wait on a long line to buy a $6.00 finger sandwich and $5.00 cup of coffee.
I inhale my sandwich and coffee and walk the quarter-mile to the next gate which I discover has changed yet again.
I walk the quarter-mile to the newest gate which seems to be a sure thing. I sit down and immediately take out my iPad because I have to tell you about what I'm experiencing right now. No sooner than I start typing, a chatty Chad sits next to me, takes out his cell phone and starts talking rather loudly about why they need to take another look at those financial reports.
I decide I should escape to the men's room, so I grab all of my stuff and schlep down the hallway where I almost crash into a toddler who is running around under the clear gaze of her Homer Simpson-like dad who witnesses this, but wants everyone to see how cute his daughter is and congratulate him on being, "Father of the Year" even though he's literally putting her in danger of being hurt amid foot traffic.
Thank God that after “only” an hour, it's finally time to board the plane. I grab my stuff and get on line - yet again - to board.
Once in the plane, I arrived at my seat where someone is already perched.
“Seriously?” I think to myself.
Fortunately, this time, the lady looked at me and immediately knew what I was thinking.
“Oh, I'm sorry!” she said, “I belong over there!” as she pointed across the aisle.
“So why are you over here?” I wanted to ask her, but in the name of peace and relaxation, I did not.
“Thanks!” I said. I put my bag beneath the seat in front of me and took my seat.
By the way, have you noticed the amount of stuff that people haul onto planes these days? I often watch in bewilderment as people try to stuff what looks like their entire lives into those small, overhead bins. Where exactly are they going and do they really need all of that stuff? Are they never coming back?
Anyway ... mere seconds after I settle in, a big, fat guy shows up, sits next to me - of course, where else would he sit? - and practically squeezes me out of my own seat.
A somewhat unpleasant aroma emanates from this guy who takes out a foot-long, meatball sub and starts chowing down.
“Where on earth did this guy get a meatball sub at 7 am?" I ask myself. I wanted to dry heave as this guy literally sat there and ate the entire thing.
Whatever. Needless to say, it was not the most comfortable of flights.
Look ... I say all of this to say that actually getting to the airport, getting through security and getting on the plane are EXHAUSTING. By the time you get on the plane, you feel like you've been through a day's work.
I always feel like I'm inhumanely packed in like a sardine and suddenly, other people's bad habits and lack of social training become MY problem.
Is there any wonder why more people don't get into fights on the plane?
But apart from the inherent issues of air travel, something else is in the air. Something else has gone wrong. What is it?
First off, let me just say this.
I recall being a kid back in the days when air travel was still considered part of polite society. Everyone would dress up to get on the plane. I remember flying with my mom and she'd dress me in these - what we now call – “Little Lord Fauntleroy” suits. Dress a kid in one of those today and they'll get their ass beat. We'd always fly the now defunct Trans World Airlines. Remember TWA?
Even as a kid, I recall being charmed by the hot, flight attendants. They were called "Stewardesses" back then. They all looked like Charlie's Angels. We always got full meals, including dessert, on flights and the pilots would often act as tour guides, get on the overhead speaker and announce cool things to see as we flew over them.
Ahh ... Those were the days. No fights on planes back then. It was a more genteel time. Today, flying has become the equivalent of shopping at Walmart on Black Friday ... or any day, to tell the truth.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah ...
When people get into fights at the airport or on planes, this is symptomatic of deeper issues. Is it not? I mean, yes, air travel can be tough and literally a pain in the ass depending on where you sit, but when people are fighting on planes, this is usually the result of past pain rising to a head in a moment of heated frustration.
When people travel, they don't only pack their physical baggage, they bring along their psychological and emotional baggage. Believe me, if you're a jerk on the ground, you're probably also going to be a jerk in the air.
People tend to think that because they've paid for something, they're entitled to certain perks ... even if those perks infringe on someone else's comfort or sense of security.
Ellen DeGeneres has this joke where she says that in our everyday lives, you cannot give away a pack of peanuts, but on a plane, people are clamoring to get one.
Reclining your seat back so far that you're crushing the knees of the guy behind you? Really?
Getting up three times during a flight when you have the window seat? Really?
Asking for unreasonable things from flight attendants. Are you serious?
We're living during a time when people are really feeling pushed and pressed and squeezed out. Nothing seems certain anymore. Everything is fragile.
Jobs are not secure. Money is tight. Bills come due. Cars break down. Kids get sick. Deals fall through. Spouses have affairs. Friends turn on you. All of that comes on board the plane as the cost of air travel continues to soar.
And so, take all of that personal baggage and combine it with the frustration and complexity of air travel and you've got a pretty good recipe for disaster.
Our bad behavior today is also a function of how we've lost our ability to express ourselves in healthy, creative ways due in part to cuts in arts education funding in primary schools. As you well know, I trace many ills in our society back to that. If people don’t know how to properly express themselves, they’ll explode under stress.
The whole scenario actually has me marveling at how there aren't more fights on planes.
In a nutshell, this is all the stuff of life and it often spills out right there on the plane. One wrong word gets said at the right time, tempers flare and the next thing you know, an all out brawl ensues.
Perhaps all flights these days should come complete not only with a federal marshal, but also an etiquette expert and psychotherapist. Of course, this would only increase the cost of airfare, which in turn, would piss everyone off even more ... and lead to more fights on planes.
Something is definitely in the air. And it doesn't smell good.