Today SuzyQ is navigating the friendly skies on her own for the first time. She’s 17, so according to the airlines, she is not considered an unaccompanied minor–even though she is a minor flying unaccompanied. She is not an inexperienced traveller by any means. As a family, we have logged tens of thousands of miles across times zones and the International Date Line. Airport security, running to get to your gate on time, and the perils of baggage claim are nothing new to her.
So why are we–and she– nervous? Her biggest fear is that she won’t be able to get her carry-on bag into and out of the overhead bin and will hold everyone else up while she wrestles with it. “Not to worry,” I told her, “Certainly someone will help you.” Inwardly, I certainly hoped someone would help her. In truth, you can’t count on help anymore. You can’t be sure you won’t get trampled in the mad dash to be first in line for boarding. You can’t guarantee some guy won’t elbow you attempting to get his massive “carry on” into the bin first, leaving no space for anything else. And you can’t be sure that people in the rows behind you won’t refuse to let you exit in their attempt to be first off the plane.
It’s an ugly world out there. Just read the accounts of that Italian cruise ship disaster if you don’t believe me. Could the Captain have been any more of a scoundrel? I’m not sure where he will have to go to get a fair trial, based on the international outrage at his cowardice. Equally as disturbing, I think, are accounts of the behavior of some of the passengers, able-bodied and male, who clearly held self-preservation as their highest priority. Long gone are the days of “The Captain always goes down with the ship,” and “Women and children first.”
Of course, not everyone is cut out to be a hero. But everyone is cut out for decency. You know: pitching in to help those around you instead of knocking them over to make your own way to safety. The problem, though, is that common decency is not a habit in everyday life for many people. It won’t necessarily emerge in times of crisis then. If a person is not in the habit of holding the elevator, holding open a door, picking up a stranger’s fallen item for them, or even saying “excuse me,” there is little hope that the same individual on a sinking ship will give up his life vest or spot on a lifeboat.
According to her text, SuzyQ made it safely to her destination and was indeed offered some help retrieving her bag. This time.
Teach your children well. Or start watching more survival television shows.