Air Travel and Speaking Up When It Counts

Speaking UpSometimes you have to do a double take at what people consider acceptable behavior. When traveling, speaking up when it counts, on behalf of oneself or especially others, is something of a rarity.  For example, I was recently on a flight when a man got up from his seat and started complaining. The strange thing is that he never started out grumbling first and then moving into loud complaining. No, he moved right into obnoxious complaining that everyone on the plane could hear. Why? Apparently the flight attendant requested that his bag not go in the overhead bin, but get checked at the gate. This was enough for him to lose his mind. His anger was directed at the woman who put her bag in the overhead bin where his bag was initially going to go, the flight attendant, the airline, and I guess all of the rest of the passengers on the plane who were subjected to his ridiculous tirade.

Speaking UpHe continued to snarl and toss his nasty comments in the air at whatever subject he felt at the time was appropriate. As a result, boarding took far longer than necessary and people were getting fidgety waiting to board. The initial angry client’s bad behavior now started to rub off on other passengers who were starting to lose their patience. One man fired off a fowl expletive as he walked past me, but it was directed toward the airline so I guess that makes it better. I can’t imagine getting so angry that I can’t contain myself around other people, especially children who really don’t deserve to hear or see this kind of behavior.

Speaking Up
photo credit: A pilot? How about eight!? via photopin (license)

I thought for sure that the flight attendants would boot the initial angry man that started the commotion right off the plane, but when they started detailing the safety information, I was a little surprised. For a few minutes it was quiet, but when it started up again I did see the flight attendants congregate near the front of the plane. One opened the lavatory door so we couldn’t see exactly what was going on, but once again I felt certain that this meant they were hauling Mr. Bad Behavior off the plane. We sat on the runway for about 15 minutes without any information from the captain or the flight attendants. When we started to move, to my surprise we were headed for the main runway and not back to the terminal. We took off and although late, we were soon in the air with the sound of the airplane’s engines drowning out anymore of the man’s obsession about nothing.

Speaking Up
photo credit: I’ve got you’re back by Steve Snodgrass (license)

What really concerned me the most was that no one seemed as concerned about this situation as I felt. People went back to chatting and it was just another day on a flight with a raucous passenger I guess. What if this man started swinging or throwing things? Would anyone have stood up against him? Perhaps no one felt that he was truly that much of a threat, but if his behavior is like that on the ground, what might happen at 30,000 feet in the air? I trust that the flight attendants have received more than adequate training to handle anything that comes their way, but what about us as passengers?

I guess the question is one that is bigger than airline safety and is more about patience, common sense, and some good old “I’ve got your back” camaraderie. I want to be able to look at the person next to me, even if I don’t know them, and know that I can count on them. Don’t you? Let’s face it – 9/11 changed everything and since then I haven’t been able to get on a plane without sizing the people up near me and wonder if they will have my back if push comes to shove. I’m not talking about profiling people as a threat, but looking around to see if there are people willing to stand up when it counts.

Speaking UpMaybe we should create special signs or codes or get a tattoo that shows we are of a certain kind. Or maybe, just maybe, we could stop worrying about what others might think when we don’t follow along like lemmings and stand up to the bullies that dominate conversations and our personal space, like on airplanes. Anyone want to stand up with me? In our society where we no longer look at one another and have our heads buried in our smartphones, iPads, etc., I wonder if the bullies win because the rest of us are too absorbed in our own lives to worry about our community, our society — our world. I’m not looking for a revolution where everyone takes on the bullies of the world, but I am just wondering…am I the only one that doesn’t mind speaking up?