Are you still forgetting to pack your manners when you travel? If you are, then please meet Grace, a flight attendant who recently turned to me for some career advice.
She's had it up to here with her job, and she wants to know what to do next.
"I'm very aware that I'm in a service position," she told me. "I am polite, not surly or rude."
But passengers rarely return the favor.
"I got injured yesterday three times on the same flight," she added. "I had my hand slammed in the lav door opening it for someone who I suppose had an emergency bathroom issue and could not wait for me to move. Someone rolled over my foot with a rollaboard. And my shoulder is on fire from helping with bags and such during boarding."
Of course, I can't reveal Grace's full name and airline because she's sure the company will fire her for talking to me. But I feel her pain.
She and her colleagues are suffering from low morale, and at no time will it be lower than during the summer, when inexperienced leisure travelers board her flights and treat her and her co-workers like a sky waitress.
"Nice isn't working"
Grace says she's confused. She can't help but notice that colleagues who "bark orders" get results from their passengers. What's more, airline management pats these grouchy crewmembers on the back for being so strict with regulations.
"Nice isn't working," she says. "I'm so confused. What should I do?"
At the beginning of the new year, I urged you to mind your manners on the road. Those of you who already do weren't offended. But those of you who think the Graces of the world are sub-humans who are only there to serve you, were outraged.
Today, with the summer travel season just getting started, I want to talk to those of you who still don't understand. You think your hotel bellman, flight attendant and restaurant server is some kind of indentured servant who is required to smile while you step all over that person like a doormat.
I'm sorry, but you're wrong.
Don't like travel? Get a mirror
When I hear from folks like Grace, it sheds a new light on other complaints I receive from travelers as a consumer advocate. Like the elderly couple flying from Palm Beach, Fla., to Newark recently -- no need to give names, because I don't want to embarrass them -- who were kicked off their JetBlue Airways flight.
The reason? They allege a flight attendant "ordered" them to move a jacket into the overhead bin during boarding, and when they balked, they were shown the door. Refusing to comply with a flight attendant's instructions is a violation of federal law, after all.
Now, I know there are flight attendants out there who let this whole "we're-the-law" thing go to their head. They were in the news last week again. But when I hear from employees like Grace, I wonder how many of them are pushed to it by passengers like us.
Are travelers to blame for the demise of politeness? It pains me to write this, but I think the answer is yes, at least partially.
Too many travelers have no concept of good manners. They don't give a rip about civility. I know, because after my previous story about bad manners, they went on the offensive, vandalizing the comments in my blog with angry, ad-hominem attacks.
What's your response to my simple, common-sense suggestion that a positive travel experience starts with you? If it's self-righteous indignation -- if you say to yourself, "I paid good money for that ticket, I'm entitled to some respect -- then maybe you're part of the problem.
Maybe you're ruining travel for everyone else.
Politeness is a two-way street. When you give, you get. You should try it before you travel.
To all the flight attendants out there like Grace who are considering a career change, or worse, are thinking of turning mean, I honestly hope you don't.
Stay right there, Grace. Please. And don't change a thing.
We need you.