It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that everyone else is an idiot, but sometimes if we have the courage to assume someone knows something we don’t, we’ll have a much easier time.

Or you can search on iTunes, Stitcher or Google Podcast for “igniting courage” (look for the flaming o!)

I had finished my last seminar of the year.  The travel department had done me a favor, and put in extra effort to get me a flight home that night.  I was overjoyed to have 2 weeks off, and couldn’t wait to get home.

I got to Chicago and texted my partner.  “Everything looks like it’s on time.  See you around 12:20”

We boarded and off we went.  In less than 2 hours I would be home, snuggled in my bed, ready for the holiday spirit.

The captain came on the overhead.  “Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m sorry to tell you, but we have an indicator light telling us that the cargo door is open.  We need to return to Chicago to get it fixed.”

As the plane banked to the left and headed back south, I pictured my adorable white hard side suitcase plummeting to a watery grave in Lake Michigan.

The passengers around me were pissed.  “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“We’re half way there.  Why don’t we just keep going.”

Understandably, we were all pretty frustrated.  It was 11:30pm and we all just wanted to be home.  Some were headed home from business trips, some to family for the holidays.  No one wanted to be on that plane.

We had a bumpy landing back at O’Hare and I started inventorying what was in my suitcase during the 10 minute taxi back to our gate.

When we arrived, they opened the cabin door, and moved the jet bridge over to the plane.  Why did they need to do that.  Just fix the door and let’s go.  More complaining.

Moments later, a maintenance guy got on the plane and we overhead him talking to the captain.  “Yeah, the door was closed.  The handle was just not flush with the door, so the sensor was tripped.”

In my mind, I thought of my cute white hard-side suitcase, safe in the cargo hold, and exhaled.

More complaining from my fellow passengers, and myself.

Then I thought about the 2 guys in charge of the plane.  They went through extensive training, probably hours of flying.  They’d know the best thing to do.  They didn’t take our lives lightly.  I started to think of the reasons maybe that they had to turn around instead of continuing on.

Then the captain came over the loud speaker and explained the situation.  “The indicator light came on, and we didn’t know whether the door was open or not.  An open door would effect pressurization, so we couldn’t climb any higher, and had to turn back.”

Pressurization.  Breathing.  I like breathing.  If that door was open, who cares about my suitcase, I want my oxygen!  I’m glad they turned around. 

More complaining.

As much as I wanted to put on my motivational speaker hat and be the pep talk “come on guys, let’s see the positive”, I didn’t.  Everyone was so frustrated, I knew I would be booed out of my lucky upgrade into first class.  (Us status stow-aways need to carefully guard our position, lest they find out we didn’t actually buy this nice kushy seat, which was pretty darned comfortable at that moment.

Our 10 minute stop turned into 50 minutes once we taxied, parked, shut the latch, refueled, finalized the paperwork and got back in O’Hare’s notoriously long take off line…again.  More complaining….and some comment about First world problems.

How often do we do that?  We don’t like how something is turning out, so we automatically assume the person in charge is an idiot! 

What would happen if we gave people the benefit of the doubt, and assume they know something we don’t.  We would have an easier time accepting when things don’t go our way, smoothing the way for life to unravel as it sometimes does.

In politics, at our children’s school, at work with our executives, on social media.  So often we automatically assume someone is just an idiot, rather than giving them the leeway we would like ourselves. 

It feels good to blame someone, and make them the villain in our drama, but ultimately the world will be a better place if we assume our fellow humans are using their best judgment, and aren’t actually out to simply mess with our lives.

So next time you’re frustrated, and you’re looking for someone to blame, the likely story is that they know something you don’t.  They might just save your life, but at the very least, it will improve your day.

Now sometimes, history proves that people are idiots, but until then, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.