Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

Air Defenses

The task for all of us is to keep our manners in an age when travel has become filled with hassles and more stressful than ever. “Our world is so different now,” says Post. “The challenge is to somehow make it as civil as possible.”

— Peggy Post, quoted in this USA Today article on rude travelers.

Many thanks to the alert reader who sent it my way!

5 thoughts on “Air Defenses

  1. Sometimes I wonder if things really are more stressful now. Maybe it seems so if we are comparing our current personal experience to a Hollywood depiction of travel in the 30’s and 40’s…but I don’t think that is a fair comparison. We have to remember that travel – particularly air travel – isn’t the domain of the elite that it once was. It’s available to a much wider demographic of cultures and income. Yes, the stressors have changed, but that’s different stress…not necessarily more stress. We have a lot of things that make travel a breeze today. For example:

    • Online check-in and seat selection. Does anyone remember the old paper, carbon copy tickets and the gate agents putting little stickers on the seat map to track occupancy?
    • Universally climate controlled terminals
    • Hotel rooms that invariably have Internet, television, alarm clock / radios, ironing boards, and hair dryers.
    • The ability to reach out to friends, family, and travel agents by cell phone if anything goes wrong. I can remember making a long distance, collect call from a pay phone when a flight was delayed…and trying to keep the call as short as possible because long distance was expensive!

    I’m not sure that I would blame “travel” for an increase in stress. If travel is more stressful now than it was before, I would guess that it is because travel forces you to interact with a lot more people than normal and that maybe people in general have become less pleasant and polite. But then of course, the root problem is people, not travelling…and that’s not a very pleasant thought.

  2. I’m actually not sure people aren’t politer than they were before. Whenever I’ve been in a situation in which there is some kind of delay or other difficult circumstance, there’s been a kind of pervasive “we’re all in this together” kind of attitude, reminiscent, to a certain extent, of the way seasoned commuters behave on public transportation when jammed unavoidably together at rush hour. There, you can’t help invading someone else’s space, so you are as apologetic as possible. On very crowded flights in coach you feel compelled to try to make one another’s trip as tolerable as possible. (Or at least that’s been my experience–perhaps I’ve only been lucky.)

    Ironically, the kinds of travel during which I have witnessed rudeness are those in which there is a good deal more space, as in train travel and…yes…first class air travel. Some people who find themselves unexpectedly in such circumstances tend to spread out and to behave as if they are in private vehicles or compartments–the fellow behind me conversing loudly with every member of his extended family just to let them know that he is FLYING FIRST CLASS thanks to some unexpected upgrade, or the people who watch a DVD on the long train trip with the sound turned all the way up, or the woman who has all her children’s things spread out in the middle of the train car and is letting them run up and down the aisle, grudgingly reining them in when a car attendant walks by but resuming the general mayhem and chaos as soon as he’s gone.

  3. I prefer a nice road trip–quiet, fresh air, plenty of leg room, good music or no music, a well-appointed picnic hamper and cooler, knowing no one but me looks in my suitcase, and a controlled departure and arrival time . . . add the kids and even the dog, and it is the perfect way to travel–especially if my husband is driving and I can look out the window! 🙂

    On those occasions when we must fly, the biggest irritation and stress for me is knowing my day and life is in the hands of a bunch of people whose actions and words don’t give me much confidence. All it takes is one scary episode, and it is hard to feel good on a plane again. On a flight back from a college visit to UVA, the oxygen masks dropped down from the ‘overhead compartment.’ After a few dazed seconds of disbelief, I found myself instructing my daughter to put it on, placing my own on, and patting her leg and trying to look at her with some reassurance. Then the damn things came disconnected from their source altogether–not just mine, but SEVERAL all up and down the aisles. They are made like c—, and the little secret is that they only offer up to 15 minutes of oxygen anyway! Then our half-witted stewardess came chugging down the aisle with a tank on her back the size of a scuba diver’s. She had no clue what to do about the broken masks. A wonderful volunteer fire-fighter who sat across the aisle from me, assisted me with another one. I am forever indebted to this man. The pilot after a full five minutes, which seemed like an eternity, announced we were making an emergency landing in Dayton Ohio and gave us no other information. I don’t think he knew what the hell was wrong himself! The cabin was very hot before we even took off, but they just took off any way! Yes, we sure had the ‘we’re all in this together’ spirit, but I would just as soon as not have been there at all. Ignorance really is bliss, and unfortunately I now have too much information about how things work (and don’t work) on the airplanes! And have you eve thought about who is under the plane doing repairs and maintenance, and do they speak or read English well? Can they do math at a ninth grade level?

  4. All I can think of is the recent visit of the Queen and how she endured the heat of NY City last week, proper education, proper lady. I think the message is that everyone could benefit from proper etiquette at home and on the road or in the air!

  5. Upon a re-read, I must apologize for my use of a few curse words. Near death experiences don’t bring out my best vocabulary–the memory of that episode still stings! Our summer vacation is by car this year–to the wonderful American West! No puny ‘smart’ car for us. Packin’ up the Volvo XC wagon and heading to the beautiful Rocky Mountains– kids, dog, sneaks, and cooler! Add Sirius radio to the mix, and we are all set!

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