I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time in airports, but I travelled to see my sisters and go to the U.S. Open last weekend. An unexpected bonus I got out of the trip was the fascinating view of humanity when large numbers of people are put together with the only shared goal being to arrive at the same next destination. This goal, though shared, seems to not require any sense of cooperation with one another or even sensitivity toward anyone other than the microcosm each traveler is living in for that short time. It’s really kind of sad.
On the last leg home which was surprisingly an Atlanta to Indy flight, I was surrounded on the plane by a group of people returning from a Boy Scout retreat. Remember that part. This group of ten or twelve people were the rudest travelers I thought I had ever been around, ever. I was physically struck by their carry-ons three times, by two different people, both of them grown women (presumably mothers and chaperones). Not an “excuse me” was muttered. While waiting to “de-plane” (my new favorite made up word), the lead Mom stood over me, arguing with some stranger on the phone about whether or not we had actually arrived yet. Upon hanging up, she loudly reminisced with her group the highlights of the trip that wasn’t over yet while artfully continuing to invade my personal space as if I wasn’t actually there. Now that is modern leadership.
This unremarkable experience got me thinking about something that really bothers me. People are beginning to noticeably act like they are in some self created isolation when they are in public. The voluntary obliviousness to everyone and everything around us these days is making otherwise friendly people unbearably rude. It is a very Midwestern trait to say hello, good morning, or even the macho reverse head nod of acknowledgement when passing a stranger. How unfriendly are we when we can’t do any of these things because Pandora is playing the latest awful Ziggy Marley song in our new ear buds?
Arguably more important however, is the overt carelessness we are starting to display toward each other. The tinted windows on our cars, our obsessive tinkering with our smartphones, and the modern mini sound systems implanted in our ears seem to be creating an environment where it is ok to ignore everyone around us in almost every circumstance. Well, it is not.
I love crowds. I love people watching. So maybe I am the wrong person to call this out. But I am very concerned about our culture’s apparently growing comfort in ignoring one another. The upside of the tools and toys that are helping this is minuscule and the result is actually horrifying. I don’t want us to be so disconnected from one another that we don’t even know that we deserve a punch in the face for our obnoxious unawareness of others. The only thing worse than being an asshole, is being one and not knowing it.
In closing, the main thought here is that no matter how isolated you think you are, no matter what technology you have plugged into your person, and no matter how busy your day is, always remember that you are not alone. Ever.