With my mouth slightly open, head flopping left, then jerking right. Accompanied by a small puddle of drool forming on my hot pink sweatshirt that read “Cancun Mexico.” I flight napped. An older man and his wife, both with a jubilant post-vacation aura shared the row with me. This adorable pair had front row seats to the unattractive flight nap show starring ME.
Upon abruptly waking up, I nervously scoured the flight. I looked at my row mates apologetically, seeking approval, and looking for remnants of the fun I was sure they made of me. To my surprise, there was no evidence of pointing and laughing. Neither of them found my unattractive flight nap to be a deal breaker. Intriguingly, the tan girls trip trio across the aisle seemingly held no judgement towards my unattractive flight nap either. Actually, when I looked around the plane to survey who all witnessed my sleepy fall from grace, there were zero eyes that met mine with stares of disgust or judgment.
Could it be, that the one place that forces us into the most awkward, and vulnerable corner; is the one place most accepting of the weirdness and peculiarity that inherently comes with humanity?
I would argue that flights challenge us to uncover the “love thy neighbor” attitude, our elementary school teachers forced us to exhibit once upon a time. Sadly, this oldie but goodie golden rule is tucked away and hidden most days, because…adulting. I think the intimacy and vulnerability of sharing space within the confines of a 17.2 inch wide box, supports us in departing from our day-to-day way of being. My hypothesis is, flight’s challenge us to act as our higher selves – if even it is for a fleeting moment.
In no way am I arguing that Asshole Syndrome misses frequent flyers, quite the contrary. Confinement in a 17.2 inch wide box exacerbates the sad souls battling Asshole Syndrome. On the bright side, those of us who abide by the “love thy neighbor” rule, display a phenomenal assertion of bravery and strength in standing in opposition to Asshole Syndrome sufferers. Golden rule empowered passengers often publicly condemn bad behavior, and approach the victim with kindness, care, and empathy.
We employ cognizance and self-awareness in fight that we don’t employ anywhere else. Our spatial awareness is enhanced, making us more aware of how much space we take up, and encroach upon. When noticing that we’re impacting our neighbor’s comfort, we use dated niceties like “excuse me,” “I’m so sorry about that,” “are you OK?”
If a fellow passenger encounters a medical emergency, our natural bystander tendency is lessened. We all want to jump into action, even if it’s merely providing a silent prayer. We’re even more tolerant of mother’s, children, and parents on flights. Offering to hold a baby while a mother uses the restroom, or adjusts personal items, etc. We marvel at the awesomeness of moms and parents, complimenting their well behaved children. Sometimes we even buy them a cocktail when we observe they’re having a challenging child management moment while in flight.
Flights are a lab for courageous allyship, I’ve noticed men offering to assist a woman or elderly person with luggage in the overhead. Asking how they might be of assistance to a disabled passenger, or holding space for a woman to go ahead of them. Allyship shows up in a big way in flight, those that can hold space do so by exchanging exit row legroom, for the responsibility of saving others lives if duty calls.
I don’t know if flights bring out the best in us because there’s a level of subconscious vulnerability in placing our lives in the assumedly capable hands of a stranger (the pilot). If it’s the 17.2 inches we’re sharing with others for 2 – 4 hours. Or if by the nature of flying we’re all forced to let our guard down, and just be. But it would be damn incredible if we approached one another day-to-day, as we approach one another on flights.
My commitment to the world is to treat everyone as an unattractive flight napper. Honoring our vulnerability, fragility, humanity, desire to be seen, chosen, and respected. I will help you when I can, pray for you when I sense you’re in need of love and light, encourage you, perhaps buy you a drink. I will always let the best part of my humanity shine through.