How to not be an asshole when traveling #3: don't demand they put you in danger

You know how when there’s a car wreck you can’t help but look, even though you really sympathize?  That’s how it was at the airport on Friday with the gate right next to mine.  They had to swap out a plane to Atlanta because of mechanical problems which meant a huge delay, which means everybody was going to miss their connecting flights, which meant the poor woman at the desk was having to re-book everybody.  It was a shitty situation all around.

Well, there was one lady who was understandably displeased and, for some reason I cannot fathom, was laying into the woman hurrying to re-book her flight.  It did not matter to the screeching woman that there was a big line behind her or that the poor airline employee was obviously rushing to try and mitigate the inconvenience to the extent she was able.  Nope!  She just stood there berating the woman trying to help.

I just wondered what this woman wanted.  Did she think the gate worker has the power to fix the plane?  Does shit never break in her life?  Did she want them to put her on a plane that was fucking broken?  I almost wished they would!  Maybe it was just that, for some people, nothing helps a sour mood like sharing it with others.

It got to the point where I couldn’t stand it.  I hate watching people abuse service workers by exploiting the fact that those workers are bound to smile and nod no matter how poorly they’re treated.  People who are mean to service workers are the most prominent bullies in the adult population.  So I put down my laptop and trotted over, since nobody in the line behind her (y’know, the ones likely annoyed at having to wait longer while she was on her tirade) looked willing to defend the poor worker.

“Excuse me ma’am, I think I may be able to help you.”

That got her attention.  I continued…

“You seem to think yelling at the woman behind the counter will make things better.  It won’t.  This woman didn’t break the plane, and she’s doing her best to make things better as fast as she can, which is what you want.  And, frankly, it’s what all the people behind you want.  Now, I’m not Delta’s biggest fan, but they’re doing you a favor by not putting you on a plane that’s broken.  So maybe be grateful you’re just going to get where you’re going late instead of not at all, stop making this innocent woman’s job more difficult, and use this as an opportunity to gain some perspective on life.”

I turned to walk away so I wouldn’t get into an argument, thus slowing down the works even more.  Behind me, in a calmer voice, she was starting to tell my backside how she needed to get to where she was going for x, y, and z reasons.  I lost most of it beneath mild applause from some of the other people in the line.  After I sat, the woman continually shot me her best glare and occasionally mumbled a gripe about me to the person behind her, but she laid off the gate worker.  I was hoping that after she got her new flights she’d come over and tussle with me when the people behind her would no longer be penalized, but she didn’t.  She just went and plopped down and waited.

I just don’t get it.  Why are people so afraid of confrontation?  Why did none of the people who applauded me speak up themselves?  Why did none of the people who sympathized with the service worker go to her defense?

I wonder if it’s the same quality that keeps people from saying “Hey, your beliefs are silly and dangerous.”

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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