Sunday, November 13, 2011

Disrespectful Thoughts on Flying Respectfully

I still remember one of the teachings in one of my first yoga classes, from this instructor that I absolutely loved, back in Greensboro. Because he was so amazing, he used to pack a crowd in his classes, and there was never a comfortable space between two students’ mats. We were crammed in there, like sardines, mat near mat, or sometimes mat on top of mat.

When we stretched, or when we were doing the reclining big toe pose, we would accidentally touch our neighbor, with our hands or, oh, joy, our feet! And you would hear people shriek and cringe. He always reminded us that that is OK! It’s just our bodies.

He reminded us how enclosed within ourselves we have become to repudiate everything that’s not our own bodies and to consider it strange and even gross, when, in fact, we should welcome closeness, as an ultimate sign of humanity, and be respectful of one another, mind, soul and body, as we are all sacred entities.

I always think of this closeness and try really hard to make peace with it and not cringe when I am on a plane. Never, in our daily journeys, are we ever so close to another strange human (and so helplessly so) than when we are forced to spend hours strapped next to a couple of people on a plane. And as wonderful as the teachings of my yoga teacher sound, even today, after many years of trying to come to terms with my neighbor human being, I still wince and notice, in pain, all the unpleasantness that we are capable of! All the inconsiderate things we do! All the self-entitled-ness and complete ignorance for our own physical and emotional space and how that affects others.

So, on my last flying trip, I came up with a list of things that absolutely drive me up a wall (or out on a wing!) when I notice them in the 100 square feet of space I am forced to share with the human specimen while flying between Minneapolis and Salt Lake City, let’s say.

I gladly (and unasked) share, in no particular order:

1.0 I figured that babies are not the worst travelers on the plane! The worst travelers, I think, are impatient, really old people! Apart from the distinct odor of “depends”, they are restless, they chew constantly, and crackle numerous wrappers of their candies, they spit their ice back in the cups, out of sheer boredom, they move, they sigh, they snore, when they do sleep, they talk too loud on the phone, when they are allowed, and they don’t seem to give a rip, because they have lived long enough to earn their right to be oblivious!

2.0 Does the flight attendant really have to say “cookies, pretzels or peanuts?!” for every single passenger on the flight? Seriously? By row 20, have you not gotten a GOOD picture of what the options are?! Everyone kind of waits their turn, and they they wait for the options, and then they act surprise, as "wow! didn't know about these three options! How generous!"; and then they take a couple of seconds to "decide". What is there to decide?! Does it make them feel more special that these are their own, specific choices they are being offered, or what?! Just get with it, people! Don’t wait for the menu. It's not going to be steak! Not now, not ever!

3.0 If they say on the little speaker that the phones “must be turned off” or “must be in the off position”, it means that no, you cannot read the book you downloaded on your Iphone, idiot! The phone “off” means the screen is black and you can only look and admire its sexy Apple design - and that's about all you can do with it! No data is being presented on the screen! There is no such thing as “a little off” or “somewhat off”. Off is OFF!

4.0 A bag that won’t fit through the aisle, most likely won’t fit in the overhead bin, nor under the seat in front of you. Figure that out before you reach your assigned seat, at the very back of the plane!

5.0 When they are “ready for boarding”, they mean pick up your 3 carryons and move it, pal! Line up, and be a sheep! Follow the line! They don’t mean, pull up your phone and dial your spouse to tell them that oopsy-doopsy-doop, you’re getting ready to jump in the biggest adventure of your boring life, and you’re boarding your plane! Don’t stop in the tracks to text your boyfriend, telling him the same thing. Boarding means there is a line, people are waiting behind you, it’s not a phone booth. Put that sucker away, and move along! No phone checking, texting, answering in the aisle, on the breezeways, anywhere where people are waiting for just your feet to move!

6.0 And speaking of “respect”: everyone in the airline business seems to be disrespecting the simplest notion of everyone's time. I figured out a while back that schedules are just suggestions, far from strict timetables anyone is sticking to: when you’re there, there is no regard, from anyone in the business, to your personal time, to when you actually need to make it to the destination and how long they can trap you in there for: when the pilot says “we’ll leave the gate in 2 minutes, as we still have a final check of luggage (or equipment) to perform”, read ’20 minutes’ at least in this spiel. It will save you a lot of heartache! Just let it go! You won’t be able to control it!

7.0 I heard on the radio the other month that Delta is “bringing back the red jackets” as part of their reinventing themselves as the “best and most admired airline in the world”. I somewhat like the formality of the staff’s clothes on a plane – makes it all official and like I can really listen to them, and entrust my life in their hands, of sorts. The last flight with Delta had the stewardesses dressed up in jeans, long sleeve white undershirts with pink t-shirts over them, in support of breast cancer awareness month. I felt like getting food from a soccer mom. I guess a discreet pink pin in the shape of a ribbon would have been “too” formal for Delta and not enough to support the cause?! I sure as heck am not “admiring” the white undershirts!

8.0 This is not flight related, but it did happen in an airport: when the car rental agent tells me I am getting the best deal, and the one car on the lot with “all the bells and whistles” and then she offers to “sell” me the rental of a GPS on top of my rental price … it makes me wonder what other bells and whistles I will be missing. Makes me doubt her truthfulness, just a tad!

9.0 and 10.0 – add your own here. I am sure you have some of your own…

Does this make us bad humans? Super sensitive? Spoiled? Self-absorbed? Or just super observant? I am not sure. But I am sure that I, for one, am more mindful about my own space and bearings when I am around that many strangers, that close. And that all comes from simply respecting my own self.

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