Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Let Me Help You with That

The new Northwest Airlines building at Detroit Metro-politan Airport is impressive. Visitors to Detroit arrive in a clean, shiny and vibrant terminal. Also a long one. It is a real hike from one end to the other and pretty daunting from the middle, where you enter and exit, to either end. There is a train thingy, but I have only used it once. You need to go up a level to the station, hauling whatever carry-on baggage you have, and even then—unless your gate happens to be right where the train stops—you still have a walk. I find it quicker and easier to jump on the moving walkway and hoof the rest.

Back in June when I picked up Ernie’s sister at the airport, I wondered how she would cope after her recent knee surgery. I kept an anxious eye on the escalator from arrivals to the baggage area. At one point I glanced toward the baggage carousel, and there she was. . . in a wheelchair, pushed by a friendly employee.

So although I have been mulling over the problems I may shortly face as an aging traveler, I wasn’t fully prepared for the grim picture painted in Ronni Bennett’s recent post.

This entry is a study of callousness. There is institutional callousness on the part of the TSA and the airlines (not to mention the airport architects). Just read some of the comments made by other fellow sufferers. I was about to endorse the suggestion made by one of the commenters,”I ask that you send your post to the highest levels of airport authorities, airlines, appropriate elected officials, consumer groups, and others. This might bring at a minimum some relief to the predictably hardest hit victims.”, but that plan of attack won’t have immediate results. It does, however, seem to me that we can all do our bit to prevent the other type of callousness exemplified here, individual disregard and apathy.

My blog entry, when I returned from England last year, contained these words: What surprised me the most? The courtesy of the people we came across and the fact that I never once got on a crowded tube without someone offering me a seat.

So here’s the challenge for today. We can all of us examine our attitude to the elderly person in the grocery store who can’t reach the beans on the top shelf, or the pedestrian who holds up traffic. It may involve actively helping, or merely showing patience and human decency. And those of you with small children—use these situations as teaching moments. Those people who gave up their seats to me on the tube were for the most part young: it would be wonderful to have a whole generation for whom the phrase “Let me help you with that” comes more readily to the lips than, “Have a great day.”

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