Whether it be at a restaurant, mall, or airport, one of my favorite hobbies has always been people watching. As I sit here at Gate B26 at Chicago's Midway Airport, I observe people both young and old scurrying like mice to get from one end of their terminal to the other, and can't help but laugh at the same unique combination of bewilderment and anticipation present in everyone's eyes (and some definite frustration in others!)
With unceasing advancements in technology, airlines are able to make their flights cheaper because more efficient planes equal lower fuel costs which equal lower travel fares. Due to this, more and more people can afford to fly both long and short distances by plane, an act once considered a luxury and a privilege, which is great because it provides access to once economically marginalized communities, but with this increase in travel comes a loss of the significance of travel. Call me old fashioned, but traveling (especially by plane) was once a special event that men and women planned for, anticipated, and dressed to impress for…so where did that go?
Of course, times have changed, I'm not blind to that. American fashion has become much more relaxed and casual, and I'm certainly not here to be anyone's fashion critic, but there is a certain level of common (courtesy?) sense that comes with looking like you've at least showered and are prepared to make a multi-hour journey with hundreds of other strangers who, like you, are just trying to get to their final destinations as fast as possible, too. I'm not suggesting that everyone wear their finest clothes or dress like they're going to dinner or a business meeting to the airport, but showing up in nothing but a sweatshirt four sizes too big, your plaid pajama pants, and bunny slippers—or worse, flip flops—is simply unacceptable to me.
Like I said, I'm not here to play the role of Stacy Dash on What Not to Wear or condemn others for their fashion choices, but when your obvious lack of effort (or in some cases hygiene) impedes on my already stressful travel experience, that's when your not caring about yourself reveals that you don't care about anyone else either. Trust me, people, you can, in fact, be both comfortable and presentable.
Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco emphasizes this in his comedy special Aren't You Embarrassed? and reflects on an experience in which a man went through security in front of him barefoot with toenails as long as the toes themselves. Sadly, I've experienced something similar with two gentlemen sitting next to me on one flight, so obviously, this is not an anomaly. If a single mother of three can dress all of her children and herself in at least jeans and coordinating shoes and make it to (and through!) the airport on time, you as a solo-traveling twenty-something can clip your damn toenails and brush your hair. Please and thank you.