By TIM BARTO
On Good Friday, 1966, my Mom and three siblings and I boarded an airplane out of Chicago to fly to California, where Dad had gone to set us up for a new life on the WestCoast. I was three years old; Mom was 33, and it was the first airplane ride for all of us. My brother and I wore suits and ties. Mom and my two sisters wore pretty dresses and white gloves.
We weren’t all gussied up just because it was a holy day, but because we were going on an airline flight, a special and personally historical event. The stewardesses (a sexist and outdated term – so stipulated), seeing Mom traveling with four children between three and 10 years of age, directed us to a table – a table! – in the back of the airplane, so we could color, play games, and give Mom the ability to better corral us.
Flashforward to a couple years ago. I wore a suit and tie while flying from Anchorage to California, and while making her beverage run, the stewardess (there it is again) asked if I would like a free drink, as in one with alcohol. I reminded her I was sitting in coach where one has to pay for such indulgence, and I did not have the necessary but unbudgeted funds to cover a $6 bottle of beer.
“It’s on the house,” she said. “No one wears suits on airplanes any longer. Thank you.” She smiled, handed me the overpriced beer, and patted my arm.
My, how times have changed.
I never expected to hear myself utter the words, “Back in my day,” but . . . back in my day, church services required nice clothes; as did school picture day, my sister’s boring ballet recital, going out to dinner at a sit down restaurant, and the neighbors’ annual Christmas party.
Heck, I remember Mom and Dad dressing up to go to the movie theater on a far-too-infrequent date.
A few years ago, when the great ballplayer Stan Musial died, Sports Illustrated put his photo on the cover. The responses to that issue had more to do with the clothes the fans in the background were wearing than what Stan The Man was doing. The ladies (a sexist and outdated term – so stipulated) had on dresses and stylish hats, and the gentlemen wore suit jackets and fedoras.
As Alaskans, we are used to flying. I haven’t seen the statistics, but I am willing to bet a pair of cufflinks that we fly more miles and more often than those from the Lower 48. We are all too familiar with all that goes with traveling by air, and if you’re like me you find what used to be an enjoyable, sometimes exciting, experience to be a loathsome travail and a lesson in the bad habits and poor hygiene of North Americans.
Airports and airliners bring out awful human behavior, but then, so do many activities, such as grocery shopping, attending sporting events, and simply standing in line. Have you held a door open for someone lately? Go to a business office or store and time it so you have the opportunity to open the door for someone. More often than not, you will be greeted with nothing: No eye contact, no smile, and certainly no “thank you.” Sure, there’s the occasional person who will respond nicely, but that is the exception. Decency is not only uncommon, but also becoming increasingly rare.
What happened? Why have good manners disappeared? Is it because they’re not taught in the home and schools? Yes and yes. And I have a theory – completely untested and entirely void of scientific research – that many of the social ills we face today are due to a lack of manners. Manners teach children to be kind to other people and respect their opinions. They are based on basic kindness and treating people the way in which we would like to be treated.
Prior to our children beginning school, my wife and I kept meeting well-mannered children that stood out among their peers. They uttered phrased such as “please” and “thank you.” If they needed to speak with an adult who was already engaged in conversation, they politely said “excuse me” before conveying their thoughts. It was refreshing and encouraging, and we wanted our children to be like that. What we found was nearly all those well-mannered children were homeschooled. So, we decided to homeschool our kids.
The result? People continually asked us how we raised such polite children. “We teach them manners,” was our standard reply.
“Oh,” was the typical response, usually accompanied by a grimace or, occasionally, an enlightenment – a moment of Eureka. It was as if people had not thought about teaching their children manners . . . and I think that’s because people had not, well, thought about teaching their children manners.
The insufferable brats that block traffic for environmentalism, throw rocks at police officers, kneel during the National Anthem, shout down speeches given by the un-woke, and loot and burn in the name of social justice, do so with self-righteous indignation and the complete and utter disregard for the opinions or safety of others. They are convinced their actions are justified because they have been encouraged and empowered to feel they are in the right.
It may be a gross oversimplification, but in short, they are void of good manners.
Too much of a stretch? Well, there are college professors and other adherents to the Black Lives Matter movement, that actually argue that good manners are racist. Proper English grammar falls into that category as well.
But back to adventures in the less than friendly skies. I am willing to admit that the following behaviors during my travels last week are irritating to me because I’m getting old, but I honestly don’t remember people (adults, that is) cutting into the middle of a log line of would-be passengers waiting to board an aircraft, and talking very loudly on their ever-present cell phones while waiting to board, boarding, and even while seated on the airplane.
Speaking of boarding the airplane, there is, I hope, a special place in the underworld for those folks who make their way to the boarding area long before their boarding section is called. It kind of makes sense if they’re disabled, traveling with small children, or can afford First Class fares, but we encountered a family that approached the gate agent and when they were told their group was not yet boarding, they stood there. They didn’t argue or protest, but neither did they move out of the way. As no one was now entering the tunnel, other people started going around them. Being curious as to what they were doing, I asked them what they were doing. “We gotta’ wait,” was the answer.
“Could you move to the side, please, so the rest of us can board?” I asked. No answer this time. The two adults and two children continued to stand there and make everyone else go around them. Those kids are going to perpetuate their parents’ behavior and the rest of society is going to suffer for it.
And I didn’t even get to the drunks, seat recliners, and passengers from row 24 who stand up and try to exit the plane as soon as it comes to a stop.
Enjoy your holiday travels.
Tim Barto is vice president of Alaska Family Council and a regular contributor to Must Read Alaska.