One of my favorite pastimes is people watching. We are a very interesting species. I was able to enjoy this pastime at 31,000 feet on a recent transatlantic trip. I was sitting in the first row of economy on a 767-400ER (for my fellow aviation buffs). The seating configuration was two seats an aisle then three seats an aisle and two more seats.i was in on the right aisle of the middle section. This is not just trivia it is specific to my scope of vision.
So in front of me, was the bulkhead, with a restroom and galley area and First Class beyond that space. The aisle immediately in front of me had a curtain that was pulled during flight to separate the First Class cabin and the Economy cabin. It was not a solid curtain, but was made of a blue mesh material so you could really see through it. This was done so the flight attendants, when coming with their carts from the galley to the riff raff of economy, would not run over a poor soul standing in the aisle. However, an embroidered sign was sewn onto the curtain with the words in all caps “BUSINESS ELITE CUSTOMERS ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT THANK YOU”. The other detail that made this interesting was that because of the mesh fabric you could see the wonderland of First Class and the restroom literally just on the ther side of the curtain. It was the first thing you came to when passing throught the curtain.
Now the enjoyable part: The whole planeful of people could be broken into a couple of categories, happy rule followers, reluctant rule followers, angry rule followers, and of course the rule breakers. It was interesting to watch the rule breakers. They were really only two subcategories I noticed; reluctant or recalcitrant is probably a better word, and flagrant.
I looked for similarities in the subgroups, physical similarities, (come on! what else are you going to do for hours on end trapped in an aluminum tube?) but could not really pinpoint any physical similarities, but there were definite personality types.
The rule breakers were easy. Those of us who barely noticed the curtain and sign and went through because we needed to be in that tiny little room and good grief, it’s right there! And those who paused to read the sign and marched through after reading it. On reflection I’m not really sure which subgroup I am in, but I’m absolutely in the rule breaker category.
It was most amusing and confusing to me to see the angry rule followers. Was this worth the energy to be angry and if you were that bothered why not just push through? I suspect these folks spend much of their lives disappointed by unmet expectations.
The happy rule followers, all stopped, read the sign, made a comment like, “oh” and turned around and went to the mid-cabin restrooms. They expended little or no emotional energy on a situation in which they had no real vested interest. I guess I would like to be more like these folks. This was also the smallest group. I saw only one and one other that I could not decide if they were in the happy group or the next group, the reluctant rule followers.
The reluctant rule followers were the biggest group. These people were dissappointed that they had encountered a barrier but quickly turned and found the other facilities. The person I was not sure she was a happy rule follower or a reluctant rule follower had a quick flash of irritation cross her face but it was very fleeting. In general these folks did not spend emotional energy on an obstacle in their path, but just went around assuming there was another solution.
I wonder what would have happened if there was a large line at the other facilites? How many would have moved from the reluctant to the angry group or one of the rule breaker groups?
Anyway it was a fun, meaningless way to pass the time. What group are you in under normal circumstances? What group are you in under stressful circumstances? Are you always in the same group or does the situation dictate your group?
“Too much time in a tube”