I was flying out to an event in San Jose the other day and had the fortune to be sitting in the First Class cabin (I highly recommend it if you have the opportunity) when I struck up a conversation with the flight attendant. For those of you who know me, you know that is actually a routine occurrence. I strike up conversations with basically anyone willing to converse.
What stood out for me this particular flight was that my flight attendant was a 33 year veteran of our air transportation system. It is rare to see someone in the flight cabin with that much experience so we starting talking about how things have changed. I am not referring to the changes in fees, baggage handling, food service or even the hub system. What we talked about was the changes in courtesies seen from both sides of the aisle.
My flight attendant started out in the industry when women wore hats and gloves, men wore suits and NO ONE carried a suitcase onto the plane. I still remember my mom putting me into a dress, patent leather shoes and white gloves whenever we flew as a family. Once on board the plane we were handed pens, paper, a deck of cards and our choice of magazines.
At some point during the flight, the captain took us into the cockpit for a tour and gave us wings and a little “passport” stamped with our flight. you could carry it from flight to flight and get it stamped by the pilots. Mine is gone now but I still remember it like it happened yesterday.
It all seemed so stress-free. Unlike today’s flights where everyone is in a hurry, sneaking on an extra oversized carry-on is almost expected and passengers in the back of the plane try to stow their carry-on bags in the front overhead bins to save themselves from having to lug it back to their seats thereby making the passengers in the front have to lug their bags to the back to stow them. Forget the mess this causes after the plane lands. And my favorite is the nose invader. You know who I mean, the person who carries on board the smelliest food they can find or who overloads on the perfume or aftershave. Or better yet, the seatmate who doesn’t bathe before flying.
I find it interesting that she didn’t bring up the reduction in basic courtesies. I did. Once I did it was like someone had opened the floodgates on the Hoover Dam. The few examples I listed above are just a small sampling of what has changed since she started flying the now not-so-friendly-skies.
Post-911 she commented, passengers reverted back to the courtesies of old; being patient, following safety rules, smiling at each other, respecting each other’s space and overall being kinder. It only lasted about six months she said before people forgot the lessons learned from 9/11, it can all change in an instant so be kind to those around you because they are human, just like you with feelings and worries.
My flight attendant is not planning on retiring any time soon but she misses the days when people smiled and respected people more and used the common courtesies of saying please and thank you when someone took care of them even if it was their job.
So I ask on this eve of 9/11, are you being kind to those around you or living your life like you are the only one who matters? Thank the people around you who serve you. I like to smile at random strangers and I try to always thank the person cleaning the bathrooms in the airport or hotel because most times people just walk right past them like they don’t exist. Who are you walking past? Are the basic courtesies gone? Let me know where you have found them and who you thanked today. Post your comments here so we can all share!
P.S. Thank you to all the 9/11 first responders. You went in when everyone else was running out. Words can never express my gratitude for all you did for people you did not know that day. I am honored to know some of you and call you friend.