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Mom with a View


Is cutting in line really that bad?


I was traveling cross-country recently with a family member who shall remain nameless. When we reached our stopover in Denver, the stewardess announced that there were a few passengers who had only a few minutes to make their connecting flight. "Could the rest of you please wait patiently and let them off first?"

A great psychological study in human nature ensued (I may have a potential PhD thesis here) as some travelers waited calmly and others pushed into the aisles. When questioned if they were rushing to make another flight, some admitted, without a trace of embarrassment, that they were not.

Witnessing this cavalier attitude, many others -- my fellow traveler included -- began crowding the aisles to leave, heedless of whether they might be leaving those other passengers stranded.

Although I did not, as the aforementioned family member said, "wait on the plane until it was just her and the passengers requiring wheelchairs," I did wait until the stewardess announced that those travelers in a hurry had indeed left.

Why did I wait? Mostly because I'm a rules-bound kinda gal and it causes me more psychic pain to break rules than to obey them. Partly because my mother raised me to be polite. And thirdly because I'm afraid.

I'm afraid of becoming indifferent to the needs of others.

I'm afraid that if I allow myself to let my guard down and put my self-interest first, I will become indifferent to the needs of others. Our veneer of civilization is not that deep. Many people, especially in times of danger, revert to the most basic of instincts "each man for himself" and the results are not pretty. Nowadays, even without real danger, that instinct frequently prevails. I don't want to take a chance.

But aren't there crimes worse than indifference? Maybe so, yet when the Almighty destroyed the world with the famous flood at the time of Noah, it wasn't because of all the sexual immorality (although that didn't help) but rather, the Torah teaches, because of the crime of robbery.

At first glance, this seems surprising. Murder was also rampant. What is unique about robbery is the complete indifference shown to others. Murder may be a crime of passion; robbery is totally dispassionate. The actual owner of the property is irrelevant. All that counts are my desires. It is as if other people don't really exist.

I'm afraid of becoming like that. It's not such a crazy fear. I see people behaving like that all the time -- the people who cut lines or break into traffic.

Every morning when I drive my kids to school I watch one mother block traffic in four directions so she can let her children off on the corner and avoid the carpool line. Not only is she violating the oft-repeated school rules (you understand why they need to be oft repeated!) but she is totally ignoring the needs of all the drivers around her. And her kids are also learning a lesson...

Everyone can think of their own examples. Indifference is a serious mistake. We are taught that acts of kindness are one of the essential pillars of our existence. It's too easy to be caught napping, to focus on ourselves and our families and be oblivious to the needs of others. They aren't quite real to us.

It doesn't take much to push us into "me first" mode and behave with indifference. So I'll stay on that plane a little longer. I pointed out to my accompanying relative that since they had to wait for me anyway, they accomplished nothing by their hasty deplaning. (They didn't quite smile in response.) And I kept my fear of indifference at bay for one more day...


August 9, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 19

(19) Joey, September 10, 2009 10:51 PM

"The opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference." Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel's words, on why so many non-Nazi Germans allowed the Holocaust to occur. Thank you and God bless!

(18) Verred, August 22, 2009 6:25 PM

Indifference is especially on display in airplanes

Something really should be done about the men davening in the back of planes. I have never witnessed such prolonged indifference to fellow human beings by so many different people! It's like this on every flight to Israel: Flight attendants with trays in hand, not able to pass, lines backing up from the bathroom, daveners standing in the aisle right between people in active conversation, and constantly getting up and getting their coats out of the overhead rack, in order to wear them to daven. And it's not as if the daveners were trying to be rude. They truly didn't "see" the hordes of people they were annoying. It was true indifference. I hope Aish can do something about this. It's annoying - and embarrassing!

(17) SusanE, August 14, 2009 7:29 PM

It's not true Indifference. It's Entitlement and Rude Behavior.

Ithink your relative got off the plane because she was rude. Maybe that is similar to indifference. She didn't gain anything and won no prizes for being first. She actually made herself look small and nasty. Emuna those people think yes I might be waiting here and didn't get very far, but I got here ahead of you. I know some of them and how they think, and that is the truth. It happens in traffic, in parking lots and in lines at grocery stores every day. And don't we all see it? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I am not sure about the comments about disabled people. The people who needed to get off the plane weren't disabled were they? If one can stand in line and walk on and off a plane, then one is not disabled in those areas. They don't need special favors or special consideration. If one has a bad heart, lung disease, cancer, or any other physically limiting disability that isn't readily seen and cannot walk well, then they should be in a wheelchair in those public applications and their needs would be taken care of.

(16) , August 13, 2009 7:19 AM

spot on

Yes I agree with this article - people in this time in history are very much indifferent - it's really sad. I too like the examples given. Examples should be personal and real world - otherwise one's reflections become hollow and theoretical... Myself I have been suffering with tremendous indifference for seven years. On June 05, 2002 my rights were violated and as of yet the state and the parties responsible have maintained an intransigent indifference toward the matter. While I'm obviously dismayed that such a thing could happen to someone as has happened to me - I'm disgusted that so many individuals have remained indifferent to my plight. I have a online protest for four years now and still...indifference! I get strength from having faith that Our Creator - Hashem - will see my rights restored - that the indifference will dissolve. I must say that AISH has become a refuge of light for me!!!

(15) Joanne, August 13, 2009 3:46 AM

Civility Is Not What It Used to Be, If Ever it Was

I hear that in Britain, people "queue up" and patiently wait their turn. However, when I'm trying to get onto a bridge, for example, and dozens of drivers are horning into the front of the exit line, after about 20 have jumped the line ahead of me, I feel I can no longer be a "frier" (sucker, in Hebrew) and I do the same. Because if I continued to wait in line, another 20, 30, 40, 80 would cut in ahead of me. It's not fair. And it makes me angry.

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