Depths of humanity

As physicians we see humanity at its greatest and, I had thought until recently, at its lowest. However, after a holiday that included numerous airplane trips I’ve changed my mind. People are at their worst, without a doubt, while flying the friendly skies. I’m not sure who the “friendly” refers to.

First, carry-on does not refer to a dead animal carcass around one’s neck. Neither does it refer to a full-sized suitcase that occupies the entire overhead bin allotted to your row. I understand that having your luggage lost in transit is a nuisance, but that doesn’t mean you are more special than the rest and get to store your behemoth where some nice old lady’s purse is supposed to go.

Second, what part of board by row don’t people understand? If the airline is boarding above row 40 and you are in row 20, don’t get on before me and plug the aisle. Come to think of it you are probably making sure your oversized suitcase gets a prime location because God forbid you have to check it like the rest of us peons. 

Third, just because you get to your seat before I do, the armrest is not your property. I believe the passenger guide to etiquette states that this is a shared item. Furthermore, even if I can’t be bothered to fight you for the armrest this doesn’t give you a green light to expand your territory by steadily pushing me sideways. If you do this I will accidentally nudge you awake every time you drift off.

Fourth, when the plane stops at our shared destination there is no reason to jump up and stick your bum in my face. I mean, I hardly know you and frankly you have been sitting on it and sweating for quite some time now. Frantically opening the bin and re­moving your supersized case onto my head is not going to help you get off any faster. Again, if we are in row 40 and the cabin doors have just opened where do you think the passengers in rows 1 to 39 are going to go? 

Fifth, don’t push past me in the customs lineup. It’s not like the officer is going to close the country one place ahead of you. Also, if you do cut in line I am likely to tip someone off. “Hey, I think that guy in front me shoved something down his pants.” Even if you do clear customs ahead of me we are both going to be waiting at the baggage carousel together.

Last, if we are all waiting at the same luggage carousel we all have baggage to retrieve. If we stand back a little we can see the luggage as it arrives, gently move forward, and safely retrieve ours. Why must I push past you and risk my life by trying to snag my moving items in the midst of a shoving mass of humanity? No one is going to steal your luggage. No one wants your smelly clothes.

So next time you are dealing with a difficult patient remind him or her that it could be worse—they could be flying economy.

David R. Richardson, MD. Depths of humanity. BCMJ, Vol. 53, No. 6, July, August, 2011, Page(s) 256 - Editorials.

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