Sunday, September 22, 2013

Haste and Waste

Yesterday I was standing in line at JFK en route to the Canary Islands.  I was excited by the trip and had lett myself plenty of time but still the lines were long and slow...and annoying.  So I did what most people were doing.  Fanned myself with my boarding pass, checked my phone, sighed heavily.

Then I noticed a girl behind me.  She's 20 something.  Maybe 30.  In a yellow sundress and flipflops, blond hair and she's definitely impatient.  I can't tell if that's just the way she is or if she might miss her flight to Paris but she keeps jockeying for position and making very exasperated sighs.

At last I reach the security line.  The couple ahead of me is slow in taking off their belts and shoes and then they push on.  As I reach for two plastic bins, she grabs two others and jumps in front of me.  Now I don't mind if someone says excuse me but I'm going to miss my plane or just sorry, in a hurry.  But nothing.  She just plunked herself in front of me.

I read about a study recently that said that most people would prefer to wait in a slower line than in a line that moves faster but someone cuts in front of them.  In other words we prefer a wait to rudeness and that sense of entitlement.  Well I'm on the side of the line waiters. But I decided to shake it off.  Her problem; not mine.

As I was preparing to go through the machine, she was huffing and puffing on the other end.,  She had rushed through security without pushing her things on to the belt which I was left to do for her.,
I saw her grab her things and rush off as I gathered up my mine.

The couple ahead of me were still dealing with their belts and shoes and I had a slight wait, but when I went to take my belongings I saw that a blue backpack was left on the belt.  I asked the couple if it was theirs and they just shook their heads.  "Must've belonged to the girl who was in such a hurry," they replied as she had pushed past them as well.

Now I'm not going to lie.  Did I gloat a little?  Did I have a small satisfied feeling rush through me.  I did.  You see, "excuse me" and "thank you" are very high on my list of human exchanges.  But I also thought about what a bad day or flight or year that girl was going to have.  I recalled the time I'd left a bag with my journal, address book, and grandma's earrings in the back of a Chicago cab.  Or my husband Larry's story of being robbed of his backpack and all of his film the day he returned to Canada after a year of travel. Let's face it.  As travelers these are moments we never forget.

Those moments.  When we lose something.  We forget something.  The fact is had she been nicer, had she not shoved ahead, we might have caught up with her.  We might have called out and she wouldn't have forgotten her backpack. 

I don't know the end of this story.  I don't know what was in her bag, but I'm sure it contained things that mattered to her. I don't know if she remembered and went running back.  If she missed her flight.  If she got on the plane and in a moment like the one in Home Alone when the mother suddenly remembers the child they forgot to bring.  I don't know.  I'll never know. 

Travel can be disorienting.  Sometimes we are in a hurry.  But excuse me can go a long way. 

It might mean the difference between someone helping you out or just watching as you rush off to wherever it was that you had to get to.  I feel sorry for her.  I think about her.  I wonder what was in that backpack and if she lost it or got it back.

But maybe this will make her pause the next time.  Maybe she'll even say excuse me as she rushes ahead on the line.


  1. Hello from The Scribe and The Scout at TravelnWrite. I came to your blog on a circuitous route today, boomer bloggers web page where I'd read a blog about your travel journals. I decided you and I (me, minus the artwork) must be kindred souls as I also can spend hours recording my memories by pen and paper (not always on a blog post). So I will be back and hope to have you as a regular at our site as well!

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