To win a signed copy of Step Back from the Baggage Claim, follow the directions at the end of the post.
For Jason Barger, an airport is not only a place where people depart and arrive on airplanes in their quests to get from one location to another. Airports are a metaphor about life. In his book, Step Back from the Baggage Claim, a slim volume that is a perfect size for slipping into a carry-on, Barger does a tidy job of illustrating how we might make the world a nicer place by starting at the airport. Airplane behavior is included in the mix of what can make or break us as a society.
To test out his theory about the power of air travel and airports, Barger hatched out a plane to travel to seven cities in seven days with the goal of never leaving any of the airports. Along the way, he’d be the observer, testing out his ideas. He figured that in in the midst of airport activity he’d find people from different backgrounds, cultures and ages–all going to or coming from somewhere for a variety of reasons. In the process of their arrivals and departures, Barger theorized there would be behaviors that would illustrate each person’s version of the world.
The result was he logged 6,548 miles, 10,000 minutes, 26 hours and 45 minutes of sleep, and a whole lot of writing fodder to condense into palpable bites. Throughout the book–which I’ve read twice, Barger weaves in details about his life that prompted this undertaking.
Barger is is a guy who notices things. Like when the ding goes off on an airplane to signal that retrieving bags from the overhead bins is a-okay, who leaps up, who stays put and who helps others? It’s not just about what other people do, but what do we do?
At a baggage claim, who lets the older person struggle, and who offers a hand? In Barger’s world, wouldn’t it be a lot easier for everyone if we all just took a few steps back from the conveyor belt and worked together? He saw that system work with a group of adolescents he traveled with. Instead of each elbowing his or her way to the circling bags, those in the front, passed bags back making the task easier for everybody.
Even though the book is a missive in a way of doing better, but Barger also looks at the circumstances that creates a situation where we might not try harder. Frustration is a big one. (I have to put in a plug for stupidity.)
Seriously, haven’t you wanted to lob a shoe at someone while you’ve been stuck at an airport? I have. But, there is always the high road option of flowing more easily with a smile, no matter our circumstances. Barger saw the pinnacle of great decorum, for example, when one woman’s neatly packed carry-on was rummaged through by TSA as part of a random check and her belongs left in a pile for her to repack. Instead of fuming and fussing, she remained pleasant, repacked and dashed off to catch a flight–still buoyant.
Even if you want to remain a crab when you travel, Step Back from the Baggage Claim offers a glimpse of the various airports where Barger headed, and what it’s like to hang out in them for extended periods of time. After reading Barger’s book, I don’t think I’ll be throwing elbows anymore as I haul my own bag out of the mix of belongings that are circling by. (Actually, I don’t think I ever have thrown an elbow. Maybe growled, but nothing more.)
Oh, yeah. Where did Barger go? He started in Columbus to Boston to Miami to Chicago to Minneapolis to Seattle to San Diego and back to Columbus.
Here’s one of Barger’s thoughts to take with you when you travel. It might help you have a much better day.
“I’m going to embrace the quiet moments an airplane seat offers us. When the ding sends most into a frenzy, I am going to sit still.”
To read more about Barger and the book, here’s an article that was published in the business section of The New York Times.
To win a copy of the book Step Back from the Baggage Claim:
Leave a short comment about an act of kindness you witnessed while traveling. Maybe it was your act of kindness–or someone else’s. Even the smallest act counts. The winner will be randomly picked.