One of the things I like about travel is getting the chance to observe my fellow man in an environment that can be equal parts stressful and relaxing. You can learn a lot about human nature just by this type of observation alone and it has led me to some conclusions, advice and “rules” that should be followed.
First off, people’s reaction to stress and the unexpected tends to reveal their basic attitudes about life and their level of happiness. The lady who is smiling and polite as her bag is being selected for additional inspection is probably smiling and happy in general. Likewise the guy who set off the scanner and is loudly muttering about how this always happens to him, is probably going to find things go wrong for him a lot and probably isn’t happy even when things are going well. True, these are not absolutes, because anyone can be having a bad day, but as a general rule I have found it to hold true.
What is even more interesting to me is how the attitude of one person can shift a whole group. This morning I saw an older gentleman go through security and completely change the mood from anxious and tense to relaxed and patient. It wasn’t just one thing, but it was a series of things he did or said combined with a quiet, calm manner. I watched him smile at the TSA agent and wish them a blessed day, which caused the agent to smile back and thank him. I saw him help the family in front of him get their bags through the X-ray machine, and when his bag was flagged for having a bottle of hot sauce in it, I watched him chuckle, apologize for forgetting it was in his bag and heard him tell the TSA agent that he hated to throw it out, so if the agent was allowed to have it, he’d just give it to him as it was “pretty good heat with a lot of flavor.”
Now, I don’t know this person, but I would bet he tends to be happy, patient, and peaceful all the time, as opposed to a gentleman on my last trip, who not only was griping about having to share the TSA Pre check line with a number of randomly selected passengers without TSA Pre, but also caused a substantial fuss at the X-ray machine when he was told he couldn’t take his mouthwash with him because it was too big. Granted he could be having a bad day, but I am betting he’s generally more stressed and less happy in general.
So, that brings me to a couple of pieces of advice and a couple of travel rules. Starting with advice, give yourself enough time to minimize the stress. The more you rush, the more adrenaline kicks in leading to more stress. Second, smile, even if you don’t feel like it. It will make others smile and will lift the mood around you, ultimately lifting your mood. Third, remember that people are just trying to do their jobs and that they aren’t trying to make your day miserable. Assuming the best generally gets you the best.
Finally, two quick rules based on today’s time at the airport.
1. I know comfort is important when traveling, but please, unless you are an infant or young toddler, leave your shoes on in the terminal area. It isn’t your living room and no one wants to stand there waiting for you to finish tieing them back up before boarding.
2. If you do have a disagreement with TSA, be polite. They aren’t going to be more amenable to your argument if you start pointing out all of the flaws you have observed and, interestingly, don’t care to hear about your thoughts on their lineage.
Have a great day today!