Airport Courtesy: Not a contradiction in terms

Today’s struggling economy and constantly shifting world of work and social obligations has stress coming at us from every side. You’re bombarded by instant communication, accessible 24/7, and swamped with floods of information.

We know those around us appreciate kindness, but the impulse to be nice is often drowned out by the world’s insistent clamor for our attention. At the airport, stress reaches peak levels, and your ability to be kind may fade away.

After long lines, long waits, and long walks, you’re already mad. You have a chip on your shoulder. People you don’t know are treating you badly. And the people around you are sending out negative vibes, too.

Use these tips to keep you cool, calm, and collected under “severe airport conditions.”

The Great Wait

  • Be patient. Everyone has to wait.
  • Keep to the right on moving walkways, allowing people in a hurry to pass.
  • Be respectful of other people’s space when talking on the phone. Find an unpopulated spot, and speak with a normal tone of voice.
  • Take up no more than one-person’s worth of seats and floor space at your gate. If you must spread out, sit at a nearby empty gate.
  • To keep calm and collected, focus on something other than the aggravating environment of unexpected loud noises and public speakers, bad lighting, and the smell of food.
  • Try to keep a 2-foot cushion between you and the people around you. Much airport stress comes from having to stand and sit too close to strangers.
  • Find a quiet spot for some deep-breathing exercises.
  • Always bring distractions:
    • Books and magazines.
    • Sudoku, crossword, and word search puzzles.
    • A laptop or smart phone so you can catch up with friends.
    • A journal.
    • Music: headphones drown out a lot of unpleasant stimulation.
  • Keep track of your flight, yet avoid joining groups of folks complaining and harassing airline employees.

All Aboard

  • Watch where you are pushing, pulling, and swinging your bags.
  • If your flight is relatively short, try to use the bathroom before you board to avoid trips across the laps and feet of others.
  • Assist in getting bags in and out of overhead compartments, and be kind to a child or elderly person traveling alone. Such acts make you happy and are great at countering stress.
  • Make sure your light, air vent, and seatback are not infringing on others.
  • Respect your seatmates:
    • Avoid bringing aboard strong-smelling food.
    • Chat with folks who want to talk, not with the ones who’d rather have peace and quiet during the flight.
  • Let others trying to make connecting flights deplane first. It’s likely you’ll be in this situation yourself some day, and you’ll appreciate the gesture.

Even when using your best manners, staff can be rude and fellow travelers can be obnoxious. Do yourself a favor—remain calm, be kind, and arrive at your destination ready-to-go rather than frazzled.

Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, authors of “The Power of Nice,” write that “It is often the small kindnesses—smiles, gestures, compliments, favors—that make our day and can even change our lives. …”

For practical ways to offset stress, check out these websites:

“4 Ways to Deal with Stress,” the American Heart Association

“10 YOU Tips for Managing Stress,” by Dr. Michael F. Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz”

“Study: Doing Good Makes You Feel Good,” LiveScience

Need some puzzles? Here are some online sources:


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