May I have your attention please
We would now like to begin boarding flight 7901 at gate C-42. We'll start with first-class passengers and Royal Fliers members. Rows 1-8 only, please. Please have your boarding cards out.
Okay. I know. I hate this job too. You're all going to get up right now and form a mob here at the gate, and I'll slowly call row numbers so either by the time I call your row you'll trudge on board to find all of the overhead bins are full, or you'll be able to get on early only to find yourself so far back on the plane the captain will ask you to adjust the fuel manifolds.
I know. It's an endless string of delays and changes, of check-ins and metal detectors, of snippy complaints and crying babies.
The airline experience in the USA has become the bane of a traveler's existence.
Sir! Stay back. I'm talking. Thank you.
Weary, bleary-eyed, we trudge through the concourses, hoping our baggage has made the flight change with us.
I say "we," because really, I am one of you. I may stand behind this podium, the boarding procedures Nazi, but I fly these planes just like you. No, I don't pay the same exorbitant fares as you do, but I do face the claustrophobia and mechanical problems.
And I'll tell you a secret none of it is going to change anytime soon. Flying is going to be a chore for the foreseeable future.
But I have something else I'll share with you and it isn't a method for getting around the two-item carry-on limit or the fasten seatbelts sign. Perhaps just as valuable, though.
Hold on, ma'am. I'll process your card in a second. This is important. Just wait.
You see, I discovered something when I made my own trek across the airports of the United States over Thanksgiving. You can affect how enjoyable your trip is.
No, it's not mind-over-matter to stop turbulence, but with a little change of perspective, the experience as a whole can actually be fun. Really.
Try this when you get to the next city. Stop for a few minutes, take a deep breath, force a smile and then watch. And listen. Be a passive observer. There are so many stories around you.
When I was passing through Salt Lake City over Thanksgiving, I did just that and you'd be amazed at what I heard and saw.
There was the boy who was probably all of three years old, bouncing through a shop sporting three sets of plastic airline wings on his jean jacket.
There was the guy who was dressed for mountain-climbing, complete with the hiking backpack and walking stick.
The girl in the pink dress who was literally skipping down the concourse singing, with not a parent in sight.
The old man going the other direction on the moving sidewalk with a single white rose in a tiny vase and a smile of joyful expectation.
The smell of pizza and the sound of a woman on a cell phone telling the other party that "everything that can go wrong has gone wrong."
There was the young man of 20 or so years who was speaking to his love on a public phone, saying goodbye to her as if he were being torn away to go to war and never return.
The blind man tapping his way through the terminal; the woman calling home to check on her dogs.
There was the father relating to his daughter that he had been on the moving walkway a month ago in the same spot when his mother went by going the opposite way neither knew the other would be there. He had jumped the rail and met with his mother, waiting with her for her flight.
And, my favorite: the woman driving the golf-cart shuttle bus, beeping and yelling "Coming through!" to clear away pedestrians, who, as she passed was talking with her passengers:Rider: "Do you like this job?"
Driver: dry laugh. "No."
Really. It's all true. There are millions of dramas, hundreds of touching stories, thousands of frustrations to sympathize with, dozens of fascinating insights to be had.
If you force yourself to relax a bit and look for them, they'll all pop out and make even that two-hour wait on the tarmac survivable.
Try it this season with all of your flights.
Now, of course, on my return trip, I faced mechanical problems, delays and "equipment changes," and it was a lot harder to enjoy things through my gritted teeth, but the complimentary upgrade to first class did help a bit.
Hold on a minute, sir. We will all board soon! I was just finishing.
Anyway my point. We're all in this plane together. Take some time to look around and listen.
Strike up a friendly conversation with the guy reading the Seattle paper in Atlanta. Say, "How are you doing?" to the gate attendant with the exhausted look.
So, I want to add a piece of advice when I wish you Happy Holidays.
No matter how hard it is, keep in mind that we are all real people in this system whether we're flying the plane or watching the movie with $3 stethoscope headsets and we're all doing our best to get millions of people and tens of millions of bags across the world in a matter of only few hours.
Now, if you please. Rows 4046 only please. Rows 4046.