I've traveled an average of 86 miles an hour for the last 36 hours as I've flown from El Paso to Atlanta to Fayetteville, NC to Atlanta back to El Paso. It feels that I've been moving at that pace anyway.
I was able,though, to make some interesting observations along the way. The one that has got me thinking in particular as I count down the minutes until we land in El Paso tonight happened as I waited to board the flight upon which I am captive.
After arriving in Atlanta on the early flight from Fayetteville I met the one and only Chase Bean, who graciously agreed to pick me up and share a meal with me during my three and a half hour layover in the capitol of the South. We dined like kings at the Dwarf House, which if you are unaware, is the original home of the first chicken sandwich and the diner upon which Truett Cathy built the Chick-Fil-A empire. It's a real treat and I would encourage any avid fan of the chicken chain to plan a stop at the Dwarf House. The menu features a few things found only at the Dwarf House, and better yet they serve your standard Chick-Fil-A fare on real plates and all entrees come with a salad. There's nothing quite like enjoying a chicken sandwich merely feet from where the Cathy brothers invented the idea.
Anyway...I got back the gate an hour before the flight home was to depart and approached the gate agent with hopeful enthusiasm. I was hoping for an empty first class seat in which I could park myself for the three hour flight across the country. Any extra room is always appreciated and three hours is a long time for my knees to dig into the seat in front of me (28A in this case). She winced as she looked at the load and told me that all 14 passengers had checked in for the first class cabin but she could put me on the list in-case someone didn't make thier connection. I told her that would be great and was very appreciative. First class or not I would still be going home. She told me to wait nearby so she could let me know the situation.
The boarding process began with the standard pre-board call. Two women approached, one in a wheelchair and one carrying both of their bags (all five of them). The gate agent politely stated that they would need to wait a moment for another agent to assist the wheelchair passenger down the ramp. This didn't sit well with either of the ladies who seemed more concerned about having enough overhead space for their bags than having any sense of common courtesy for another human.
The ladies simultaneously launched a verbal attack on the gate agent. I stood nearby, my mouth most likely open in disbelief, and watched the gate agent patiently try to explain the situation three times to the ladies who kept on yapping the whole time. Finally the bag carrier noticed that the wheelchair's seat had been changed to the coach bulkhead row. This prompted another mini tyrade about why they weren't sitting together. The agent calmly explained that she had relocated both ladies from their original seats so that wheelchair didn't have to walk all the way to the rear of the plane but had only reprinted wheelchair's boarding pass...she had done this without them asking, mind you, in an effort to better accomodate wheelchair. All she got in return was anger and rudeness. Finally bag carrier said "c'mon just get up and walk, let's go" and wheelchair got up and off they went.
Not once in the whole exchange had the gate agent responded negatively or in the same tone of voice which had been hurled at her. It was quite commendable.
After everyone else had boarded the plane I stood alone at the gate counter. The agent told me that there was one open seat up front but it's ticket holder's connecting flight had just landed so we would have to wait until the cutoff time to see if they could make it to the flight. Without warning she launched into telling me how she was going through an ugly divorce and was dealing with a crappy ex. We chatted briefly about that and then chatted about what she was going to do with her companion flying privilages since said ex was no longer going to using them. I simply listened with genuine attention and didn't really offer any input. Maybe she just needed someone to listen for a brief minute, maybe she figured it didn't matter since she'd likely never see me again...who knows. I'm glad I could provide a listening ear.
I guess that just help illustrate the point that we never know what we'll encounter, and hopefully we can just be open and sensitive enough to simply stand alongside and be a listening ear when someone needs it.
Moreover though...sometimes I am astonished at peoples lack of etiquette. I don't honestly know what happens but it seems to me that a lot of people check their manners with their underwear when it comes to airport behavior. 90% of the time when a flight is delayed or disrupted it is the result of something completely out of the control of anyone earning a paycheck from the airline. It's amazing to me the number of people who will assault an airline employee when weather causes a deviation from their intended travel schedule. Worse is when people flip out because of an unexpected mechanical issue...personally I'd rather arrive thirty minutes later than plummet from seven miles above the planet.
All I'm saying is this...we all need to go back and brush up on our human etiquette. Jesus wasn't being helpful by suggesting we love our neighbors...he was laying out a fundamental principle in how to function as humans. If we all just took an extra breath when the stress meter peaks and thought rationally before we spoke we might all get along a little better.
In other notes... The flight wasn't too bad sitting in seat 1C.