Quiet Desperation

Who you calling belligerent and quick to take offense?


My friend, Mark, and his girlfriend, Deborah, have tickets for a vacation in Hawaii. Sounds great.

But the timing isn’t.

The tickets were a gift, he told me, and arrangements began before all of the traveling restrictions were put into place.

They’ve both been vaccinated ... but they have had to be COVID-19 tested.

“Then we have to download a PDF of the results to a site, fill out another health and safety form, and make photocopies of the documents.”

Their carrier, Southwest, is having some problems.

I remember the good old days when I’d hang around the railyards with my guitar and wait for an open freight car to come along. I’d jump on board and sing Woody Guthrie songs from here to Chi-town.

Well, maybe not.

But I do remember when I could drive to Stapleton, buy a ticket, and board a plane without being scanned, groped, sniffed, scrutinized or disrobed.

Air travel isn’t what it used to be and isn’t what it used to be two years ago.

Now there’s a good chance a passenger will decide he or she wants to beat up a flight attendant.

Theories abound.

These aerial skirmishes are a direct consequence of a period in American history when individuals, long thought to be willing to cooperate and act like adults, are now shedding that illusion and reverting to primordial behavior on flights, at NBA games and in fast food restaurants.

A recent incident at an Ohio McDonald’s devolved into an argument when a customer became irate and went berserk because an employee would not mix flavors of a slushy drink together.

The customer now faces assault charges.

Is it safe to leave your home?

Probably not, but what other choice do we have?

In the case of air travel: none. Unless you have your own jet or access to one.

What has become of us?

Something I began noticing in the mid-1990s led to an earlier retirement than I planned.

Disrespect in the classroom.

Students were more adversarial than ever, confrontational, and disputatious.

I was threatened and stalked. There were no physical altercations, just verbal disputes that were out in the open.

Many led to grievances and hearings. The students who didn’t drop out were asked to leave.

Over what? Not always but most often: grades.

Grades replaced learning as the primary focus of many college students.

There was a time when grade disputes were addressed during office hours. Then they wicked into the classroom.

Now it seems disagreements with authority, rules and regulations — reasonable ones too — have popped up in places where there didn’t exist before.

The Ohio woman went behind the counter, struck and injured two female McDonald’s employees.

At least the other customers could leave if they wanted to.

If the nutcake on Southwest 409 loses his grip, he’s performing to a captive audience.

“How was your flight, dear?”

“Oh, nothing out of ordinary. We were diverted to Albuquerque because of an unruly passenger. Everyone had to deplane. The man was taken into custody. We reboarded two hours later. No big deal. Business as usual.”

“That’s nice, honey.”

Mark is a noted local wit. Hawaii has something to look forward to. I told him to take along a big supply of Hawaiian punch lines. Get it? Hawaiian punch.

Do they still make that stuff?

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.

Craig Marshall Smith, Who you calling belligerent and quick to take offense?, Highlands Ranch, columnist


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