The other day on my flight to New York, I saw an interesting juxtaposition between entitlement and service. It has stuck with me the last few days for being so clear a delineation.
At the beginning of the flight, a woman sat down next to me. She was very agitated, sighing heavily, pushing past me into her seat in the middle. Everything she was doing, she did with a sigh, and a head shake and an overall air of being upset. Finally, after bumping me for the 3rd time, she said, “I’m sorry. I’m just so upset. I was supposed to be in the aisle. They weren’t supposed to put me in the middle!” I sort of nodded at her, and then went back to my book, like you do. A few minutes later, after more sighing and shifting, she got up, stepped over me, and pushed past the line of people still trying to get to their seats to go talk to a flight attendant. She was very animated, pointing and gesturing and sighing–and holding up the line of people trying to get on the plane.
Her conversation worked, because as soon as there was an open aisle seat, the flight attendant moved her right away. Win-win, in my opinion–she got her aisle seat, and I didn’t have to sit next to someone who was going to fidget and sigh the whole flight.
Fast-forward to the end of the flight. We’ve landed, and taxied, and finally pulled into our gate. And the seatbealt sign goes off and the whole plane stands up (why do we do that? It just slows the process down) and…doesn’t move, like usual. But from the back, I see this little wave of people shifting and…sure enough, there’s Ms. Agitated, pushing her way up to my row, where her luggage was stowed.
When she was almost up to where I was seated, one of the flight attendants made an announcement:
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have 5 Marines coming home today from Afghanistan. We ask that you please let them deplane first. Thank you for your service!”
The rest of the plane broke out in applause, and moved to get out of the aisles/move aside for the Marines. It was a little chaotic (they really should have made the announcement before the seat belt sign went off if you ask me), but you could watch everyone relax from their “MUST GET OFF PLANE FIRST” mentality to let these men off the plane.
Except Ms. Agitated.
No, Ms. Agitated continued to push forward to get her bag. Then when someone stood in front of her and wouldn’t move so that she would stop, she threw her bag in my seat, and basically threw a temper tantrum. She sighed, she glared, she gesticulated, she shifted back and forth, she muttered “why should they get off the plane before me? I have places to be too!”
Everyone around her couldn’t help but give her the side eye. Because the reality is, even if some of those folks didn’t think those Marines should be given special treatment, she was the only person on that plane who vocalized that thought and not only acted like THEY were inconveniencing her, but that this entire plane full of people was in her way.
And the thing that was just such an interesting juxtaposition to me is that the Marines? EVERY SINGLE ONE was a little embarrassed to have been singled out. One of them (who was in a row by me), tried to get everyone to just go, and “don’t worry about it, I can wait my turn.” Three of them tried to just…not go, and wait it out. And then you have this woman who has been acting like a spoiled brat since she got on the plane. I wanted to say to her, “Honey, your privilege is showing.”
I know I can be impatient, and huffy, and eye-roll-y at times, particularly when it involves standing or waiting in line with hordes of other people, but watching this woman was a reminder to me to…uh, knock it off sometimes. Most of the time, there isn’t an earth shattering reason for me to be in such a rush or so pushy or to act like my schedule and reasons trump all the people around me. I just hope the next time I start acting like a spoiled brat, I remember this scene, and think which of these I’d rather act like.
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