What is it about air travel that converts normal people into somewhat belligerent beasts? My first guess is the anxiety that some articulate but many more experience, simply because they are traveling at 30-something thousand feet. Few will survive a plane crash and most of us imagine it happening each time we fly.

The other phenomenon I observe is that everyone in an airport is in a hurry. Having run from one concourse to another in order to make a connection, I understand that version of rushing. But many of the people in and around airports have no reason to scurry and swear at others they know and don’t know.

This is one of my favorite examples. Plane pulls into gate and pilot defeats the seat belt light. Ninety-nine percent of the passengers stand, in spite of the fact that the front of the plane passengers will require five or ten minutes to reach the jetway. Most of the people on the plane can’t go anywhere anytime soon.

At this point, people turn into demons. Several days ago, I went to retrieve my bag that a fellow passenger had placed in the overhead compartment two row behind me. Struggling to access the bag, a tall blonde woman equipped with a snarly face watched me, offering no help. When I finally extricated the bag and placed it on the floor, she unemotionally uttered, “That’s my foot.” She managed to add a dirty look.

From my standpoint, travel is stressful enough without unhelpful, attitudinous fellow travelers. My preference is to surrender a seat or offer assistance. The reality as I see it is that we all have somewhere to be, either on a rush basis or some time in the future. While it doesn’t necessitate considerable effort to accommodate other travelers, it does improve the attitudes and state of mind of everyone involved.

This is clearly a model for the rest of life. Traveling through a grocery store, medical clinic, hair salon or airport, some distinct effort is required to emanate nastiness. With less effort and more positive consequences, the decision to improve our world is a good one. Shalom.

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