The Long View: Kudos to air travelers who keep things grounded

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Passing recently through three of the nation’s busiest airports, I could not help but notice the egalitarian nature of the experience.  That is to say, air travel showers difficulty and inconvenience on everyone involved.

The rich, the not-quite-poor, and everyone in between must endure shuffling through crowds, standing in line, listening to repeated announcements about unattended bags over the public address system, and finally being stuffed into the metal tubes that whisk us to our destinations.

Passing recently through three of the nation’s busiest airports, I could not help but notice the egalitarian nature of the experience.  That is to say, air travel showers difficulty and inconvenience on everyone involved.

The rich, the not-quite-poor, and everyone in between must endure shuffling through crowds, standing in line, listening to repeated announcements about unattended bags over the public address system, and finally being stuffed into the metal tubes that whisk us to our destinations.

It's true, the wealthy can discreetly hide in exclusive lounges until flight time, drinking champagne and eating truffles.  The well-to-do may also board the aircraft first to take their extra wide, extra comfy seats.  But let's not forget, these affluent flyers must then endure the gaze of the less-well-off as we bump and shamble our way through the first-class section with oversized carry-ons.

But other than that, the many nuisances of flying are everyone's to share, from arriving at the airport too early, participating in Transportation Safety Administration theater, waiting interminably for boarding and take off, or hanging around Carousel D wondering where the heck your bags are.

Frankly, the entire ordeal is exhausting and exasperating.  For that reason, we pause to acknowledge those who regularly wade into the flying fray.

Businesspeople, we salute you.  Repeatedly you pry yourself from home and hearth, or board some chain hotel shuttle bus to be on time for the next leg of your professional journey.  Bearing both laptop and your corporate masters’ fondest expectations, you rush to the gate.  After an already endless day of connecting flights, car rental, and driving through unfamiliar territory, you are commonly expected to be at your best, meeting clients in formal and informal settings.  Then you go home and prepare to do it all again.  I hope you like your jobs, because the travel aspect sure seems like a lot of work.

Airline industry employees, we nod in respect.  Each of you is undoubtedly required to do more than one person should.  You labor under unrealistic, impractical regulations and procedures dictated by people who don’t understand your jobs.  And you regularly deal with with travelers who think they should be the universe’s center, when all you want is to do your job to the best of your ability and get home.  You deserve more esteem than you receive (yes, even you TSA workers).

Fellow travelers, we admire you.  Despite the uncomfortable, undignified conditions we suffer when flying, you largely keep your cool.  When one of us is hopelessly ignorant or out of line, you generally maintain a forgiving attitude.  When another one frantically deplanes in desperate hope of making a connection, you do your best to let them by.  And when I am crammed between two of you in my too-narrow seat, you share the armrests.

While we all try to get somewhere, the baggage of modern air travel can be all-too-heavy.   Hooray for those who retain their humanity despite the turbulence of getting to and fro. 

Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at pgwriter@inbox.com

The Long View:   Kudos to air travelers who keep things grounded