Tim Barto: Where have all the travel manners gone?

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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 The stewardesses (a sexist and outdated term – so stipulated), seeing Mom traveling with four children between three and 10 years of age, directed us to a table – a table!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 The ladies (a sexist and outdated term – so stipulated) had on dresses and stylish hats, and the gentlemen wore suit jackets and fedoras.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.

59 COMMENTS

  1. I think poor manners are just another, small but significant, sign of the general degradation of society and civilization that we are living through. Where it all ends, I shudder to guess.

    But speaking of manners, I wonder if Alexander Dolitsky, should he be reading this story, would chime in on the uniformly poor manners of Russians, including Russians living in the USA? I have noticed this for many years, both here in Alaska and elsewhere. Many Europeans in general seem more blunt and lacking in manners (even) compared to Americans, but Russians really seem to take the cake in that regard.

    • Rioting at the US Capitol and beating Capitol Police is also considered bad manners, wonder why he didn’t mention that. Oh that’s right, liberals and Trumptards are one and the
      Same, useless rude citizens

    • Odd. I’ve never had that particular experience. Extremely straightforward, but not rude. Bulgarians, very much so.

      Is there a particular location you’ve had your experiences?

      • TMA, I have encountered Russians in both Michigan and Alaska, as well as during my college years (refugees from the Soviet Union). And some of them were friends of mine! But to a person they have been very lacking in basic manners. Also, I say this based on the experiences of close family friends who traveled several times to the USSR to visit relatives there, and who frequently commented on the bluntness and rudeness of the Russians with whom they interacted there and then.

        I have to wonder if the social corruption of communism under the USSR was to blame, or if this lack of manners is inherent in Russian society.

    • I have flown to and from Russia and have to agree with Jefferson. They are quite rude, cut in line, and the men tend to smell bad. Which is also problematic when flying.

  2. Same place all other manners did. Along with basic civility. Down the toilet with the rest of western civilization.

  3. As I get older and have a new hip and knee I find that I cannot stand for long periods of time–as in waiting in overcrowded airports and traveling on the Seattle airport shuttle. It’s aggravating that kids all just sit there and don’t offer their seats up either to me or other elderly people!

  4. Alaska Airlines was selling BLM merchandise in their on line store . Flight Attendants we’re wearing BLM masks during C-19 . The airline was embracing thugs . Just like the NFL was . Crazy marketing and wonder if the marketing directors were replaced? Now I am wondering what kind of pilots AkAir is hiring ? Worrisome in my mind

  5. “Jesus Christ described Himself as a servant, when He said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” Mark 10:45
    Since the garden of Eden when we ate the fruit humanity has a problem thinking the human is the god. What’s good for me should be good for everyone else. It’s not my fault it’s your fault. I’m special and you must make accommodations. Just like a god would behave.
    Jesus was the only one who deserved to be served. One day he’ll be the only one served and worshipped. When societies civilizations moved away from God it serves itself people only care about themselves. It’s the natural way.

  6. Tim, I so appreciate your article. I was born in 1955, so I fondly remember those beautiful days when flying was an adventure. Everything you wrote was spot on! I want to share something that happened to me a couple of months ago. I had just retired after a 23 year career working for a school bus company in Eagle River. I can tell you that I have seen some stuff! The behaviors I experienced with the kids were certainly challenging to say the least, BUT… the behaviors from the parents were at times much worse. All that being said, I had the shock of my life on a day when I went to the Harry McDonald arena. I walk the track every now and then. I parked my truck and started walking up to the building and noticed several Middle School aged boys hanging out near the front door. As I walked towards the sidewalk a young man took notice that I was approaching. He strolled over to the door and waited for me to get close. He smiled at me, reaching for the door and opened it. I stopped and smiled back. I told him quietly that he had just made my day as I patted him on the shoulder. I must say, I teared up a bit. For him to do this in front of his buddies was extraordinary. I have to believe that there is a glimmer of hope for some of our young people. Again, thanks for the memories 😉

  7. I have two answers to your question. I likely have additional answers but Ms. Downing very likely doesn’t want any one commenter taking up pages of space.

    The first answer is the TSA. People respond to how they are treated. Treat them like criminals and at the very least they will act like teen-aged miscreants. I know I do. The most recent time I caused a big scene was when TSA didn’t have any of the pre-check numbers for some reason. When I said that if I had to take off my shoes I didn’t need to fly all that much, and I headed toward the door. TSA first said I could not leave. I raised my hands and shouted that if I was under arrest (would have been the very first time arrested in my 70 years) I wanted an attorney. They said police were on their way but I was not under arrest. I said great, continuing to shout. I waited., After a few minutes they decided police were not on the way, and TSA said I could leave. As I headed out the door they chased me down to say they had decided I could board after all.

    But what surprised me was that when I came back, and upon entering the boarding area all the waiting passengers applauded. Then one of those passengers, a man about 30 years of age, appeared with a tall, fancy coffee for me. He said he wished he was able to protest the TSA but could not due to his job. I told him that at our gun club one of our members went to work for the TSA and we gave him his dues back, telling him we did not want to shoot with the TSA. So I am certain that forcing the TSA on to airline passengers was bound to bring negative responses. Each person will respond in one way or another. Do it to people who are otherwise model citizens, treating them like subjects instead of citizens, and you will achieve a loss of those model citizens; common sense and human nature. People standing in line quietly to go into a gas chamber 80 years ago was an anomaly, I hope. If the TSA makes you feel safer then you slept through any history class you may have taken.

    The other reason I will cite is what has become of Alaska Airlines over the past 50 years, and of course it’s not unrelated to the reason above. I won’t go into detail but the company has taken advantage of the federal “security” requirements, perhaps seeing that if the customers will abide being treated like sheep then why not implement cost savings. Passengers have transitioned from having the airline make them feel special to having the customers become a commodity, like sheep perhaps. Sheep don’t like being dunked in sheep dip but they’re afraid of the sheep dogs.

    • You are spot on regarding the TSA; it seem most pax are 90% of the way to blowing a fuse before they even get to the gate.

  8. The people are only acting out humanity. They don’t know any better or they refuse to do any better. Those who know better do what we know is right. Be an example and be willing to teach those around us who are willing to be teachable. Leave it to the Lord sort it all out later we don’t need to judge cause we don’t know their experiences and life situation. I do see the changes how the Word of God changes his people into a royalty and a royal priesthood over time while they been walking with their God. They not only act like princes and princesses they look it!

  9. Read this sitting on my overbooked plane, being constantly jostled, bumped and hit by bellies, behinds, backpacks, babies and water bottles. With the usual wearing of sweats, tee’s, and aromas including food, sweat and heavy cologne and perfume. Ain’t America great!

  10. Have you witnessed what the Maggots did on Jan. 6th. The manners left while the king maggot was seeking to be enthroned .

    • Yes, I did witness what the maggots did on Jan. 6th (presumably 2021): demonize and hyperventilate, with the greatest hypocrisy and Orwellian pro-establishment propaganda, a group of American rightly and peacefully protesting the corruption and subversion of a national election.

      To paraphrase Pogo: You have met the maggot, and he is you.

      Now, be a good unquestioning conformist, and go lick your masters’ boots, again.

    • Thank you, Tim (and Rino) making Mr. Barto’s point.

      Calling others names is rude, infantile and misplaced. Making incendiary comments of a questionable nature says a great deal about you and your obvious lack of respect for anyone not bowing at the altar of your approved “truth”. It generally also indicates that you do not have the capability to make a decent factual argument.

      Wishing you and Rino a Merry Christmas and enlightenment in 2024!

    • timinwasilla – Are you talking about the hundreds of government undercover assets breaking windows & barricades and urging the mostly peaceful protesters to go into the Capitol? Yeah, I guess one could call them maggots!

    • Have you witnessed what blm/antifa did over the summer of “peaceful protest”..? Only 2 billion dollars in losses from looting and arson. Thank you “tim” for showing your true self, you can move back to Portland now.

  11. Tim, AKA Rip Van Winkle…we did this to ourselves via the me, me, me and I, I, I society. Glad you finally have awakened on not such a sunny morning,

  12. The “Golden Rule” used to be on the wall of every classroom. For anyone who has no idea what that was it was a simple paraphrase of the words of Jesus Christ – the second half of the greatest commandment found in the book of Matthew 22:36-40. …’love your neighbor as yourself’. The Golden Rule being ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. Treat others as you would like to be treated. I remember a poster on the wall of all the classrooms of my elementary years in the late 60’s. This tenant used to be upheld in our schools and most homes. Seems now, as our culture continues its faced paced deterioration, narcissism is the common attribute of too many.

    Witt that said – a visit to the Palmer post office and their unique foyer door configuration gives one regular opportunity to hold the door for their neighbors and you might be heartened to find that the majority of kindness recipients give a cheerful ‘thank you’, and then often hold the door themselves for someone else.

    • You are so right about the kindness at our little post office here in Palmer. I am there frequently and have held the door for many, as also done for me. And standing in line is so common but everyone is patient and kind.

  13. I enoyed reading this. Felt very nostalgic ……in a good way. I used to dress up to fly, but after moving to Alaska 16 years ago and every flight was a red eye I decided comfy pants and a hoody was the way to go !
    I think the cell phone has replaced peoples brains and what used to be private (conversations) is now broadcast to whomever is near. I am embarassed for people most of the time.
    Merry Christmas everyone !

  14. I can certainly empathize with much of this article, having recently travelled out of Alaska on a frequent (and not voluntary) basis. Yes, people have become increasingly rude, but some of that is because we’re now treated more like cattle than people, and airlines are more concerned with profit than the comfort of their passengers. Also, rude behavior has always been around. I remember flying from Fairbanks to Dallas in the early 90s back when they still allowed smoking on planes. I was stuck in a middle seat between two smokers who lit up the entire flight with zero concern for my lungs. I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything less when being seated between two addicts, but my point is that rude people have always been in our society. It isn’t a new phenomenon.

  15. A solution to the people blocking the boarding line is to mark a boundary area, like they do for baggage claim. People respect lines painted on the ground.

    • Have you been to baggage claim? Nobody pays attention to those lines.

      The other reason air travel sucks is because the airlines let people drag on huge carryons and never say a word because their competitors allow it, too. No one wants to say no.

      I flew back from Seattle last night and I watched a couple put 6 pieces through the X-ray, 2 each big backpacks and 4 pretty big roller bags. All of those had to get hoisted into the overhead so someone had to wait for them to the get the bags up and then the last ones on the plane were out of overhead space.

  16. Mr. Barto, wonderful article. I remember my mother changing into a nice blouse and a skirt to take the trashcan to the curb. It just would not do, to be seen by the neighbors in slightly less nice house slacks and sweater.
    It actually seems that bad manners have a great deal to do with the lack or freedom and respect for the individual.
    I had the opportunity many years ago to observe people from the DDR. They behaved, while more exaggerated similarly rude, self-centered and cagey. Most were always on the look-out for an advantage for themselves and jealously guarded all they had. They had no trust in their fellow comrades, as one never knew, who was an informer for the state. Theirs was a miserable existence, reduced to the base human instincts. There was very little laughter.
    I sometimes wonder if all this Identity politics is pushing us towards a similar state. More and more we no longer see the individual human and their contributions and opinions, but their perceived membership (voluntary or simply by default of physical characteristics) in a group of some sort or other. Conformity is trying to replace individualism and we jealously guard our individual traits, by assuming all others are out to get us and of course wrong in their opinions and actions.

  17. “………’It’s on the house,” she said. “No one wears suits on airplanes any longer. Thank you.’…….”
    And thank YOU, Mr. Barto. That is just the kind of personal story society needs if it is to recover from the grips of evil.
    Reminds me of a couple of stewardesses (there’s that word yet again) that made my day many years ago with their simple kindness.

  18. You surprised by the conduct in aviation when the past 3 years trucks have “F Biden” flags on them? Thats a pretty good clue that decorum is long gone. We didn’t see that behavior when the former guy was in office. Probably Trump was equally despised but the left doesn’t feel the need to make public displays of their disappointment. Remember all the jokes about Paul Pelosi when he was attacked? How many on the left made fun of Mitch McConnell’s health problems? Very few! Just read the comments on this blog over time and you’ll see vitriol just about daily. Both the far left and far right are to be blamed for this pathetic behavior.

    • Sebastian, jokes about Paul Pelosi? All I recall is that many thought it was odd that Pelosi would have a sexual relationship with someone as unstable as Hammer Man.
      But I’m sure in your world that kind of thing is par for the course!

  19. Wonder what the authors thoughts are on his self described peers wearing F Joe Biden, F your Feelings, If you voted for Biden F you shirts?? Yeah it goes both ways and those are the definition of bad manners

  20. Where I live opening doors for others is common place, but I don’t live in a big city.

    The people who stand in line at the gate are apparently called “gate lice”, I just read an article about it the other day ‘https://www.washingtonpost.com/travel/2023/12/13/gate-lice-plane-boarding-line/’ basically people are sheep and following the actions of other in a herd is a part of humanity.

  21. I’ll summarize the usual children’s response here.

    Waaaaaaaah!

    Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump!

  22. A lot of today’s ugliness was exacerbated during the COVID inflight masking wars, where the flight crews were empowered to be just as ugly as they wanted to be. Some of them enjoyed the power and glory of crapping on the PAX. Cheers –

  23. The lack of manners today can be traced back to the hippies of the late 1960s, who had children but did not know and did not want to learn anything about parenting. Those children grew up and had children of their own but did not know and did not want to learn anything about parenting, either. Those are the people you see on airline flights, in restaurants (in their trucker hats) and at Costco.

  24. I remember flying alone at 6 years old from Juneau to Sitka then Sitka back to Juneau during Christmas, spring, and summer breaks. That’s how accommodating Alaska Airlines and Flight Attendants used to be. They’d hold my hand, they gave me little wings, I’d meet the pilots, I’d get extra snacks and juice, and I even had a whole row to myself!

  25. On a flight to Germany a few years ago I noticed a 20 something year old man dressed in the costume of the young iconoclast; clothes suitable for a painting project, a general need for a shower and he clearly felt animosity toward combs. An hour or so into a roughly 11 hour flight he coughed a couple times in a way that would’ve made you glad you weren’t seated close to him.

    A few minutes later he grabbed one of the complimentary pillows and let out a roaring sneeze directly into it. More of a violent snotting, really. It was revolting to watch and oddly, he stared directly at me as he moved the now abused pillow from his head to the seat beside.

    That was 15 years ago and I recall the slob as if it were yesterday. No doubt he’s still making his parents proud. I imagine they may have paid his way in order to enjoy his absence. He’s no doubt rutted since; perhaps you’ve met his progeny on another flight? That would be the slovenly little b*stard in the seat behind, incessantly kicking yours for the three hour jaunt to Seattle. If it’s an Alaska Airlines flight you could always ring the bell for the animated beardyman in a colorful dress to come come over and slap the living dog dirt out of the young cretin.

    Or not.

  26. My youngest daughter visited me last week. She thanked me unexpectedly because she was required to go to a formal dinner and knew how to act, and how to use the utensils properly. Growing up, her Mother insisted that fingers were invented before utensils so I am glad I persisted during my visitation, even though it won me no points at the time. Even today, when you dress nice you always have a better day. A natural way to brighten your day as well as other’s . If they ask you why you are dressed up, tell them that it is for them.. Thanks for your reminder.

  27. I too fondly remember the time when I looked forward to flying. Now I just dread the experience. Now it is definitely all about the destination and not the getting there.

  28. This is a great piece of work. But I don’t know how “The ladies..” became sexist. I too recall flying in the 60’s. Almost always on a 707. In the day my movie star Mom looked stunning while flying as I see how she dressed on the family 8mm home movies.

    A word of caution though… the lack of civility is not a worldwide problem. Spend time in other nations- notably Japan, and the differences between Japan and the USA is stark. In Japan the ladies all work hard to look good. None of them are fat. They dress beautifully. The streets are all clean- no litter anywhere. You don’t see graffiti. There is pride in the public spaces, art is on display, along with incredible architecture. The airports are gleaming places of perfection. You can walk around the cities with no concern about being robbed. Public transport is well kept and punctual. Sigh.. But get back to the USA- usually through LAX and you notice all the Americans are fat, the drivers are honking their horns, litter and filth are everywhere… The USA is declining quickly, and the open borders, pro- crime, pro drug policies of the demented left are destroying this country. Don’t believe me? Walk though any major US city at night with money and nice clothes. I dare you.

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