I’ve basically created the rule that beyond the good morning or evening, I don’t talk to or make eye contact with a flight attendant if I’m in coach, ESPECIALLY if they look to be in a bad mood. Last night’s flight home pounded that story home.
I knew things were going to be bad, when I went to put my one bag away. Being first on the plane with a full flight and in the bulkhead, I went to put my bag in the overhead over my seat. The flight attendant blurted, “Why don’t you put your bag over there. I don’t want your bag touching mine.” Thank goodness for gate to gate device access, I just continued to listen to my music. (Yes, I could have moved it but the other bulkhead seats, would and did need the space.) The remainder of the boarding process could be heard even over the music. “Keep moving.” “Get to your seats.” We’re 10 minutes from the gate departure. She yells to one man, “Just take that first seat,” referring to the empty two seats behind mine. He thought nothing of it and went to his assigned seats. She’s yelling at the baggage handlers, “Get those bags in the plane so we can go.” The lady with the seat behind mine arrives, “Get on the plane now or we’re going to leave you.”. Granted this isn’t word for word but the sternness of tone comes across. Somewhere between the man being told to grab the empty row behind me and the woman who had one of the seats, a 20 something made the first move that almost changed his life for the next few years. He moved to the empty row.
Now fortunately for me, I’m watching some TV. But at one point she move my bag. I saw it but I wasn’t getting goaded in by her. My mouth was silent. I diligently waited for her eye contact as the drink cart appeared, quick to respond, “no thank you.” And then “the event” happened.
A slight bump in the air and the guy’s drink spills. Ice and drink in his lap, he hits the call button. I don’t hear the start of the conversation but I hit pause on my show as I hear voices escalate. From the guy, “You need to calm down. Since we boarded you’ve had a scowl on your face. This is not the way to do customer service.” All well and true and several of us were already, I found later, going to contact the airline. She responded saying he was drunk, which I don’t think was the case when I later saw him. But he again brought on the customer service comment. At this point the woman beside the young man is trying to calm him down. The front half of the plane is giving knowing looks. If it matter at this point or not, I can not tell, but the guy made one last commentary on her service.
Next thing you know, she comes back and says to him, “are you so and so?” He’s calmed down and still politely trying to say something but he did not know how late he was. She said those magic words that seven words that no traveler wants to hear especially if it’s targeted at them, “you are interfering with a flight crew.” With that she picked up the phone. It didn’t sink in until the lady sitting next to him said what she thought was about to happen. He tried to apologize but it was too late. He understood when she responded, “I’m done with you. The police will be waiting for you when we land.” He was the first to deplane, five minutes before the rest of us.
Now several things were in his favor. First we were landing at a small regional airport in with four commercial flights each day. Had it been been LA or New York, I wouldn’t be surprised if the FBI or a SWAT team would have boarded the plane. Next, the police took him no further than ten feet away right outside the gate. Note, none of the four officer’s even looked as if they wanted to “question any other witnesses.” Third thing in his favor was two women. One was his seatmate, a complete stranger, sought him out and stayed with him. Another was woman in the front row that stopped and rallied those of us in the first three rows to stay. A tough task at 11:45 am. Of the nine, four of us stayed. As she put it, “this is a Federal crime and his life could be ruined forever.”
When the police moved the young man off away from everyone. Our “coach” approach the senior officer, stating what she saw and how the flight had been. Now as others were deplaning, they began asking us about the police presence. Our group grew, with more irate passengers staying. The first sign of any life back in the young man came when the senior officer said, “It no longer your word against her’s. I got twenty people backing you up.”
So simply put, I’m sticking with my belief that I completely ignore flight crews and keep my mouth shut once those plane doors close. Even just twenty feet to the right of the gate, out of site of deplaning passengers he would have been on his own. His fellow passengers, championed by two, were his ONLY witnesses. We might not have been able to give our side. Instead of having breakfast with his friends this morning, he might have been waiting to talk to a federal judge.