I really enjoy flying. Actually, it’s probably more correct to say I find it intriguing. On one hand it’s absurd and on the other hand it’s amazing. Flying through the air in a pressurized tube, held up on only the promise of physics and aerodynamics is remarkable. At any given time, statistics tell us, that approximately 66,000 Americans are flying somewhere above the US. That statistic is a bit dated and I’m sure the number is far larger today
When I was a boy, I enjoyed air travel immensely. The idea of going somewhere requiring a plane was exotic. Back then, there was still an expectation that we’d dress up and fly in our nice clothes. We dressed up because we believed flying was a rare treat. On this trip I wore a tee-shirt and jeans with an old pair of tennis shoes. Not exactly dressing up in my Sunday best. I wasn’t alone, by the way, my fellow passengers were dressed in everything from yoga pants to what I am sure were pajamas.
Recently, I was on a plane trip out west. Filled with angst and frustration, it was kind of a pain getting through airport security and the ticket area. People were grumpy and agitated. I could feel their angst-ridden energy as I approached every stop toward my departure gate Even then people seemed grouchy and perpetually prepared to hear those words, “Flight Delayed” or some other snag in the process.
It got me to thinking about what has changed over the years. How is today any different than 30 years ago? And it hit me. It’s the people.
At the risk of sounding like a misanthrope, the people are the ones who make the entire process suck. Every person I met connected with the flight seemed prepared for confrontation with me. It was like I’d been wearing a sign around my neck that read, “I am the problem.” To make up for this I was super nice to everyone. I smiled politely when talking to people and asked how their day was. In response, I got smiles back and well wishes on my flight. It was nice to see their smiles, if only for an instant. Who knows, maybe I was the only person who said anything nice to them all day.
I think we choose to be happy or not. Now, I’m not discounting those who have legit depression. Some people have a hard time being happy no matter what the circumstances because of a medical or psychological imbalance. The rest of us are just being jerks. The person on the other end of our own vitriol may or may not deserve it, but there are times when we might just benefit humanity by smiling a little bit more and frowning whole lot less.
Sure, I have my own issues. I wish my books sold more copies, I wish I’d win the lottery, maybe I was thinner, and had more hair. To a certain extent, I can’t control those things. However, I can control how I think, act, and behave toward others.
Maybe my airline trip was a reminder for me that at the end of the day, I can only control myself. By the simple act of not being a big old jerk to others, I can help control how other people respond to me. Maybe in my own way, I can make the world a better place, one kind word at the time.
The flight was uneventful 3 ½ hours to the west and I was in Denver with no significant turbulence and the crew seemed friendly enough. That is the miracle of flying. What would take me about three days by car only took a little over three hours by plane. I silently wondered what the other approximately 66,000 people flying above the continental United States were feeling right that moment.
-Your Humbler Servant,