A few days ago I was boarding an airplane on a trip that would take me across the globe to India. I was prepared to face the frustrations of a long journey, like jetlag, airplane food, air turbulence, and just the general dirtiness of being cramped in multiple planes and airports with a whole lot of people. This flight was the first leg, a domestic trip in the United States. As I boarded the plane, I was walking down the aisle behind an older couple, who were both very petite and very frail. The man was trying to manage two small suitcases, and the woman was carrying a bag. It was not easy for them. When they got to their seats in the rear of the plane, it was clear that they were struggling to get the bags in the overhead bins.
Though I had my hands full, I offered to help them. Being about six inches taller, it would have been easier for me to lift all of their bags into the overhead bin. They refused my help, possibly because they did not speak much English and did not understand. This is a common situation I see on airplanes all of the time—older people traveling alone with no assistance. They may be able to walk, but they struggle with things like lifting bags high over their head. Often there is nobody to help them. It makes me curious. Why are these duties left to fellow passengers?
However, what struck me about the situation was the woman who was behind me. She was eager to claim her seat on the plane and to claim a spot for her luggage in always limited overhead bin. She literally had a cup of Starbucks coffee over my shoulder to push me ahead into this couple. Then she told me that I needed to move them (the people!) myself since they were blocking her way. This attitude was striking to me. I am not that old, but I was taught that it is important to help older people or people in need in these types of situations. I have given up train seats to older people or moms holding children. It is important. If they do not have a seat, they can fall.
Even though the couple refused my help with their bags, I did prevent the woman behind me from running them over with her luggage and Starbucks. I later saw the couple after they deplaned. They had managed to get their luggage down and get out of the plane. The older woman was being helped into a wheelchair.
Have you ever seen a similar sight while on an airplane?