Monday, March 3, 2014

Waiting in Line at the Ariport: The Pissed Off Generation and the Decay of Social Virtue

I was supposed to be at my father-in-law's funeral last Saturday morning. Through a comedy of errors, that didn't happen. Or perhaps it was the very cosmic universe out to get me. Either way, the flight that was supposed to take me from Phoenix to Denver was delayed, which meant that I would not make the connecting flight to arrive at the funeral in time.

That was fairly disappointing. Yet, even more disappointing was watching the reactions of the other passengers as their flights were rearranged to find options to get them to their destinations. I spent about three hours in the airport while a brilliant United Airlines ticket agent tried her best to get me to my destination by the next morning, in time for the funeral. That gave me ample time to watch a lot of people get angry, only to vent their anger on the ticket agents.

Yes, the situation was frustrating, but too many passenger immediately turned their frustration into anger, yelling and cursing because the airline had dared to interrupt their lives. I watched grown men curse as they slammed out the door, their flights postponed a few hours or a day. I watched impatient people as they sighed and cursed and paced and tried to skip ahead in the line. I watched people who thought they were more important than everyone else become living volcanoes of rage.

Me? I figured the best way for me to get good "customer service" was to be a good customer. I smiled and joked with the ticket agent who was, after all, trying her best to solve the problem that the delayed flight had caused. And what do you know, it worked. Her face changed from a strained look to becoming visibly relaxed. Her smile was quite attractive, a fact which most, if not all, those who were in line before me probably missed.

She spent a long time on the phone and on the computer, trying to get me to my destination. She seemed determined to find a solution when, in fact, none really existed. She tried other airlines. She tried flights to other airports close to my destination.

In the end, I had to cancel my flight and miss the funeral. Yes, that was disappointing and interfered with my plans. Yet the airline agent had a better time and worked extraordinarily hard, merely because I was a better customer, rather than a pain in the butt.

We should bemoan the loss of civility and decency in our society that used to be common. Our American way of life depends on a decent society. Ben Franklin understood that the survival of the republic depended on moral virtues, that without them, the people would not have the ability to govern themselves.

Standing in line at the airport demonstrated the stark selfishness and lack of moral virtue that now permeates society.

By the way, I understand that my father-in-law's funeral turned out well. He was buried with full military honors. I'm sorry to have missed it.