If you have not flown on one of the major airlines lately, then you have missed out on what "getting on someone's last nerve" really means. With the all the security precautions in place, patience has become even more than a virtue. It has become a necessity.
Long lines, knowing what you can and cannot bring on board, luggage checks and even flight delays can really try one's patience in today's airports. But, give me security any day over a bit of inconvenience if it means keeping our skies safe in this country.
I enjoy watching people at airports when I'm waiting for a flight. I guess that comes from all the years I spent as a child sitting in our car on the public square in my county seat watching the people shopping on Saturdays. That was the day we went to town to "shop" as well, which come to think of it, is really just a figure of speech we used back then. Real shopping often involves spending money and because there was not a whole lot of money in our household to buy anything, we usually just looked.
People watching in airports seems to be more challenging to me than public square watching back in the old days. I used to wonder who certain people were back on the square, but now I have reached the suspicious thought level of what they have been up to or what they are planning to do. I also still like to guess their occupations and where they are from, but security concerns have even affected those thought levels.
I also get a kick out of how people try to be the first person on board or find ways to move forward in waiting lines. I often fly on the airlines that do not have assigned seating, so lines become very important in configuration to where they start and stop. Everyone wants to be in the A line, but often the B or C lines are what is left after you have had to park your car in another state due to arriving not hardly on time at the airport as you had planned.
Airline gate people have to have nerves of steel. I have seen some in action, and if I had been spoken to the way they were, I would be in jail today for doing some type of bodily harm.
I recently got caught in an airport in the mid-west due to weather canceling flights. It was a zoo the way people behaved. They were running, shoving and just plain acting ugly with airline folks. I found out real quick that a smile, and a kind word worked wonders in getting my flights changed.
I heard a gate agent one time confronted by a passenger who probably deserved to fly as cargo, but demanded first class treatment. The single agent was rebooking a long line of inconvenienced travelers. An angry passenger pushed his way to the desk. He slapped his ticket down on the counter and said, "I HAVE to be on this flight and it has to be FIRST CLASS."
The agent with a smile replied, "I'm sorry sir. I'll be happy to try to help you, but I've got to help these folks first, and I'm sure we'll be able to work something out."
He continued to be loud, so that the passengers behind him could hear, "Do you have any idea who I am?"
When I heard that, it reminded me of a story that now U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander once told to a group. The story originated back when the Senator was running for governor of our state in upper East Tennessee.
He had been on the campaign trail all day and had skipped lunch. That evening he was at a chicken barbecue and was going through the dinner line with everyone else.
When he came to the chicken, a lady placed one piece on his plate. Being very hungry from the day's hard work, he asked the lady for an extra piece of chicken.
The lady replied that there was only one piece per person.
Still hungry, the Senator asked the lady, "Do you not know who I am?"
She answered, "No."
He said, "I may be the next governor of the state of Tennessee, Lamar Alexander."
Not overly impressed she said, "Do you know who I am?"
The Senator answered, "No."
She smiled and said," I'm the lady in charge of the chicken and I say you get just one piece like everyone else."
I have always remembered Senator Alexander's story and totally understand that if you are not the one in charge of the "chicken" then it doesn't matter who, what or how loud you can fuss, you still get just what you deserve.
- Pettus L. Read is editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News and Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org