The Rude Air Travelers, But I Repeat Myself

The two men from Houston whisked by me as I waited for the TSA agent to use her highlighter and give me entrance to the innards of the Atlanta airport.  They had the attitude of those who travel sockless in expensive loafers. Indeed, they had their expensive loafers on, sans socks. The TSA agent was struggling because I had a boarding card, an increasing rarity these days.  I lacked the ubiquitous one-sheet print-out from the home or hotel computer.  Our TSA agent did not know where to swipe her orange highlighter to indicate that I had a proper travel document. Somehow, in their minds, my sockless friends were fine trotting ahead because, well, TSA was too slow and it was my tough luck.  Their world would pass me by.  The crackerjack agent that holds her thumb in the dike of terrorism waved them through without so much as a look-see at the papers they flashed.  Note to self:  Carry a generic print-out of a boarding pass to whisk past not even mildly curious creatures of security habit. 


I parted ways with the two men from Houston when we divided for the scanning part of our security journey. I know they were from Houston because they both spoke loudly on their cell phones as we waited in line. Their origins, companies, golf scores, and places of dining are no longer a mystery to me or anyone else within a 100-foot radius.  As we parted, I ended up in a screening line that was much faster.  I got through quite quickly as my two Texas line-cutters waited and waited.  They had the slow TSA employee this time and there were five people ahead of them before their loafers would enter the tunnel where all things except shoe and underwear bombs and 5 ounces of Oil of Olay are turned back as national security issues. 


I could not resist speaking out against line-cutting, the scourge of our times.  The fabric of society – manners – is lost to people this boorish.  I turned back, caught their Texas eyes, smiled, and said, “I beat you anyway.”  For one brief shining moment, they looked sheepish.


Later I saw them get off at the C gates.  Instead of taking their place in line to get on the escalator up to the gates, the two men were pushing and shoving ahead of men, women, and children.  Their brief shining moment was just that, and only that. 


Those shortcuts we take to reaching goals, whether airplanes or quarterly results, do affect others.  There are only so many shortcuts you can take and so many times you can do it before the rules are changed (or rules are made) to curb your behavior, behavior that has put those of us who believe in the fabric of society at a disadvantage. We can only be stepped upon, passed by, or duped for so long before we demand compliance.  Voluntary action is so much easier, cheaper, and gracious.  Whether in business or in airport lines, getting ahead at the expense of others is and always has been an ethical issue.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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1 Response to The Rude Air Travelers, But I Repeat Myself

  1. David A Counts says:

    At any cost, at any price, as long as I don’t have to pay for my mistakes or behavior. It is sad that being a boorish doofus in public is celebrated. To me it just appears to be a surface symptom of a larger problem.

    Thank you for speaking out. I travel more than I like to and have met those two in various other disguises.

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