Fasten Seat Belt While Seated
I’m a photojournalist by nature. My words are photographs. Today, I feel the need to mix it up. I want to see if I can use words instead of imagery and filters to “show” you the reader what I am seeing.
My daytime job requires that I travel quite a bit. A healthy mixture of driving and flying keeps it interesting. I’m a closeted introvert forced into an extroverted customer service role.
I have had one of those challenging travel days where every step feels like I am dragging concrete blocks through wet sand. The inner voice ready to burst into full force screaming. I have reached deep within to find a calming place to placate that roar from escaping into the audible space that surrounds me.
Broken planes, delayed or canceled flights have been my recent scourge. My flight to Louisiana had a broken lavatory causing delays. Two days of hot and humid Louisiana summer can rub nerves raw. Only to arrive in Houston with no relief from neither the heat nor humidity.
I don’t know the reason, but Houston Intercontinental Airport TSA always has to cause excessive grief. Any other airport scans my backpack and I move on. Not In Houston. It’s always the same. They strip search my poor backpack. Spilling the entire contents all over their secure space. Then ask me if I want to repack my bag.
They have same nerve to ask if I want to repack it after they have thrown my contents into a chaotic heap. Sorry, my rule to violating my personal space with such impersonal direct intent is “you made the mess, you clean it up”. I repack my bag at the gate with some personal vindication to quiet the inner scream.
The flight from Houston to Dallas met with delay. They had to “reboot” the power to the plane because a generator was misbehaving. That gives me a 75% level of confidence that we will arrive safely.
The gentleman sitting next to me wrecking of sesame oil. Strong and pungent odor burns the inside of my olfactory for the hour and a half that we are companioned.
Eager to get to my next flight I briskly walk to the gate. Of course, the connecting is delayed due to mechanical issues. No surprise at this point. Delayed flight from this airline seems to be a common trend.
When the late flight arrives, I hold my breath In anticipation of another cancellation. The crew boards. A few moments later, a crew member with shoulder boards comes to the desk to converse with the gate agents. I strain to catch a word of their conversation to see if there was going to be a red light on my path to Chicago.
The apprehension fades as he returns to the plane after checking his smartphone. Boarding is a go.
Throughout the day there are people that I refer to as blockers. They are people that cannot function in an environment. Their dysfunctional behavior creates a ripple that affects everyone surrounding them. For example, the car rental facility has a bus that picks you up and takes you to the appropriate terminal based upon your airline.
Everyone got on the bus without issue except this mid thirty something woman in scrubs. Holding up the bus with her oversize purple luggage with her printed travel itinerary in hand, she cannot figure out which airline she is on. Seriously? If she is a nurse or doctor, I wouldn’t want her providing care to me.
Returning to boarding the Chicago flight which I digressed from. Boarding went with its typical fanfare of blockers. The wheelchair and cane gang. The people who have no clue what group they are in. The millennials with their boarding pass on their iPhone that never scans or their phone fell asleep. Blockers.
Blockers that try sneaking their roller bag on when they say the overhead is full. The salmon is a special blocker. They have a seat near the front of the plane and they walk to the rear of the cabin to put their roller in the overhead. Instead of waiting by the rear lavatory until everyone else boards, the salmon swims upstream of the people flow.
Typically the salmon confuses the wheelchair and cane blockers. They become disoriented and stall out until a flight attendant reestablishes a flow.
What inspired this writing was some oddities from the norm that I observed.
First thing was a young man no more than twenty years old getting situated in his seat directly across the aisle from myself. He took his window seat. The older man on the aisle reseated himself once the young man was getting his seat belt securely fastened.
Nothing unusual. Right?
Then the young man turned to the older stranger and started a conversation. Asking the older man how long he had lived in Chicago. If he had any recommendation on things to see. The gentleman in his mid sixties followed up with talk about sports teams.
This never happens. I was completely taken a back. I'm sure it was unexpected for the man on the aisle as well. I never see millennials talk to anyone outside of their pack. They are usually too involved with texting or social media to notice there are actually other people around them.
The conversation and laughter continued until the flight attendants did their safety dance with the picture of the plane located in the seat back pocket. That's when the second strange thing struck me.
A woman one row forward and across the aisle was doing something super bizarre. She was writing on a notepad. With a pen. It was one of those pens with four different color inks. I had no idea those were still in existence. Let alone that anyone would know how to use one.
The flight attendant would walk to the back with another prop for the safety dance, the woman would stop writing and pay attention to the presentation. The seat belt. She stopped writing and watched. The mask over the nose and mouth. She stopped writing and redirected her focus.
For takeoff, she put her pass in the seat back and put her fancy four ink pen in her bag under the seat in front of her. At cruising altitude, she opened a book. She read it. No headphones or any sensory distractions from her reading that book. It look like it had more than 200 pages without pictures.
The last bit of amazement was a very old woman who was having problems walking from mid cabin to rear to use the restroom. Slow and measured pace. She held on to each seat back as she took a step.
The think that astonished me was on the return to her seat. She had the same tortuous speed with death grip on the back of each row. Behind her, was a conga line of people. They were patient. Not pushing. Not showing any signs of frustration or anger. They were completely respectful of the woman's stature.
Even though this day started off on a bad side of grumpy, this flight home definitely hit me with some humanity that has been lacking in our society for some time. It's nice to see that the world hasn't utterly decayed into digital chaos. This makes me happy for this moment, at least. Things could always change when I get to baggage claim.
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