As the date and time of this post shows, I didn’t manage to get to work this morning, the weekend’s heavy snow and the consequent collapse of large parts of the public transport system having foiled my attempts this morning to catch a train to the town I work in. I suppose that must put me in the same category of “victims of the weather”, albeit at a lesser level of discomfort, than all the folks stuck at Heathrow Airport for the same reason, especially since unless I can manage to get a different train from the same station in a couple of days time my Christmas plans are going to be as dislocated as theirs.
I haven’t felt like calling up the BBC news and complaining about it all yet, though, which some of those affected clearly have. To be fair, I haven’t had to sleep in an airport terminal, although I can’t believe all of them had to do that either. Is it so difficult to just admit defeat, switch to Plan B and go home? Of course, some of the people involved may be actually unable to return home due to the disruption to transport links, but this can’t apply to all of them. Admitting to yourself that you won’t actually be spending Christmas with your family is a major disappointment, especially if you’re a foreigner with few connections in the UK, but worse things do happen. And if your aim in getting to the airport was to fly away to some tropical holiday resort for an exotic Christmas break, there’s even less excuse for making a fuss – frankly, it borders on the tantrum of a spoilt child who hasn’t got the present they were expecting.
As many others have observed in all sorts of contexts, people nowadays seem more demanding, more willing to assert their perceived rights and less prepared to cope with any experience that is less than perfect. Stoicism seems to be viewed as the trait of an insufficiently assertive loser. You could argue that this is partly due to the service sector having spent the last few decades pushing the idea that the customer is always right (and it’s ironic that part of that sector, the transport industry, is now getting it in the neck from those customers), but it’s too easy to blame those wicked cigar-puffing capitalists and their consumerism for leading us all astray.
There’s something deep in all of us that has to be successful in everything, right about everything, just can’t admit defeat and will do what it takes to get our own way in everything. It’s probably great from the point of view of the survival of the human race, but when a bunch of fairly pampered Britons face some adversity and this side of our nature starts showing, the results can be unedifying. Proportion is usually the first thing to fly out of the window. At least one person has been reported as complaining of “Third World conditions” at Heathrow. Unless they have child soldiers roaming Terminal Five carrying out random shootings, lots of people are dying of starvation and thirst down there and there is a cholera epidemic, I really do doubt that.