Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Above the Law

On my long haul flight back from Tel Aviv to Newark, New Jersey a few days ago, I sat next to a very, let's say, interesting fellow.

I actually was near him in the airport and found myself feeling a little annoyed by his loud cell phone voice, as he talked on and on about his 'very important business.' He wanted to make sure that everyone around him could hear his conversation.

Much to my dismay, when I boarded the plane, I realized that he was my seat mate. He continued his phone calls until the moment we were instructed to turn off our electronic devices. He did not, however, turn off his phone when that time came. He continued to text and surf the web through taxi and takeoff. Each time the flight attendants would walk by, he would hide the phone he was using. Unbelievable. What could possibly be that important?

He also did not properly stow his bags as instructed. Since he was on the aisle and I was at the window, his bags posed mostly a danger to me - in case of emergency. He had a large backpack that would not fit in the space under the seat in front of him. The flight attendants seemed tired (like the rest of us) as a result of the delay, and weren't paying a lot of attention to this sort of thing. Not good.

It got worse. Throughout the flight, my buddy would throw his trash on the floor by his feet. Empty water bottles, the napkin and table cloth from our dinner, the wrapper for his blanket, dirty kleenexes... you name it. To make matters worse, he kept using his feet to push his trash over in front of me. I'd wake up and reach down to get something out of my small bag, and all his... junk was in front of me. I continually pushed these things, very obviously, back in front of him.

I feel a bit frustrated with myself that I didn't say something to him early on. All I can say in my own defense is that I knew he and I had 13 hours together, and I didn't want to start an uncomfortable feud that would last throughout the long flight.

What I wanted to say to him was, "So... did you really not understand the rules? Or do you simply believe that they don't apply to you?"

The arrogance and disregard for others was astounding. He obiously didn't care about my boundaries/space... let alone my safety. It was all about him, in his grandiose sense of self!

That sort of arrogance is at the root of so many of our problems in this world. Disregard for other's well being in order to indulge one's own desires is a cause of great injustice and suffering.

This one fellow was like a giant reminder to me of one of the 'illnesses' that grips our world these days. Selfishness, self absorbtion and oblivion to the needs or rights of others are dangerous conditions. All of us should guard against these negative qualities with ernest vigor.

I probably should have said something to this fellow... as politely and compassionatley as possible. Next time, maybe I will.

More importantly, however, I want to make sure that I never treat others with even a shred of the arrogant disregard with which he treated me. That is the best way I can contribute to the minimization (or better yet eradication) of these qualities in the human race.

We are not alone. We do not live in a bubble. What we do, each and every moment, affects others. Being aware of our impact on others is one of the greatest gifts we can give to life. We all leave a trail behind us based on how we live and how we treat other people. May we each endeavor to leave a positive and pleasant wake behind us as we travel through life.

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