Monday, October 1, 2007
Could it have been me?
A few years ago I was flying Midwest Airlines from Madison to Milwaukee where I was to get a connecting flight to Phoenix. For some dumb reason, entirely my fault, I thought my flight time was a half hour later than it actually was. When I got to the airport there was a very long line at the ticket desk. Our airport was in the middle of being extensively remodeled so I was hoping to check in at the gate or find a ticket check-in kiosk but nothing was where it used to be. I had two choices: stand at the back of the line and wait for an hour to ask directions of the sole Midwest worker inside the terminal or go to the desk and politely wait to ask the sole Midwest worker where I might find a kiosk or how to get to the gate. When the Midwest worker was through with one customer and was about to help the next I said "excuse me, I really need to catch my flight.."
"Get to the back of the line" she shouted at me.
"Well, I was just wondering if you could tell me--"
"I cannot help you. Get to the back of the line and wait your turn"
"My flight to Milwaukee is about to leave. Is there somewhere else I can check in?"
"Your flight has been cancelled. All of these people were on that flight and I have to rebook them. Now GET TO THE BACK OF THE LINE" She was literally screaming at me. Nobody in line was irritated with my questions. Our flight had been cancelled they weren't going anywhere. They were rolling their eyes at her.
So, I went to the back of the line. I waited. And waited. More waiting. Meantime, since the Milwaukee airport is only about 1 hour and 15 minutes by car from the Madison airport, I thought that my best bet to make my connecting flight would be to drive to Milwaukee. However, if you miss the first leg of your flight, the second leg is usually cancelled. Watching my precious time slipping away while standing in line behind people who were going to wait out the next flight I decided to try to ask if I could cancel the Madison leg of the trip and pick it up in Milwaukee.
Back to the front of the line. "Ma'am, I just have a quick question I need to ask...."
"GET TO THE BACK OF THE LINE!!!!" veins were popping on her temples.
So I went to the back of the line. I was steamed. But I decided to just accept that my flight was gone. Any hope of making my connecting in Milwaukee was shot in the ass thanks to the hour I spent in line waiting to ask a question. I had non-cell phone people in Phoenix waiting for me at the airport, and I was beginning to see that my flight would get me to town well after the wedding rehearsal dinner I was supposed to attend would be over. Oh well.
So when I approached the desk and handed her my flight information I was silent. Better to say nothing, than to let her have it, I thought. Suddenly she started: "I don't even have to let you get on this flight. You got here less than twenty minutes before the flight was to have left, so I have every right to cancel your flight."
"You heard me. You got here late. I will reschedule your flight but I just want you to know that I don't have to."
"Go right ahead and cancel my flight," I said. "But I expect a full refund".
"No refund. You were late."
"Lady, I'll keep my flight, then. But I'd just like you to know that I think you'd do better working in a morgue or a funeral home, because you really suck at working with living people".
She stapled my ticket, threw it at me and marched over to the security gate. I saw her talking to a security guard and pointing at me. When I approached security I was asked to step away from the regular area for the thorough "I'll just run my hands up down and around your boobies-oh, nice undies" search.
What a surprise.
This last weekend a woman missed her flight at Phoenix' Skyway Airport. We don't know what was said at the check-in desk, but Carole Ann Gotbaum ran off. Security grabbed her, threw her to the ground and handcuffed her. She was screaming "I'm not a terrorist. I'm a sick mom! Help me!" She was led away in handcuffs and locked in a secure room, alone. When security checked on her she was dead. It is believed she strangled herself trying to bring her hands, cuffed in the back, to the front.
When little, tiny-minded, mean people are given extraordinary amounts of power over their fellow citizens, bad things are going to happen. We saw that in the tasering of a university student whose crime was that his question was a little long winded. A woman ran through an airport (*gasp!* Isn't that what OJ was primarily famous for-prior to killing his ex?). Who hasn't run through an airport? Now that woman is dead. A few years ago a man was thought to have uttered something about a bomb, was chased off a jet and shot dead on the tarmac at Miami. He had no bomb. He had no weapon.
I feel afraid for us.