Friday, July 17, 2009

a call for civil warriors

I flew home from Seattle, Washington last night.

Luckily, I was able to catch an earlier flight standby, or else I wouldn't have been home until midnight. But because I was flying standby, I was the last to board. And because I brought my suitcase on to the flight, I soon discovered that there was no overhead space for my luggage. Awkwardly, I walked up and down the aisle on a full plane, doing my best to keep my suitcase and briefcase from ricocheting off the passenger's heads and knees which bobbed in to the 20-inch center aisle.

There was very little airflow in the plane as I opened each and every compartment and scrutinized whether or not there was space for my small suitcase. As I walked from the back of the plane to the front, desperately hoping that my deodorant was working and that I didn't smell as sweaty as I felt, I discovered that two rows behind my seat, if I rearranged a few bags, I could squeeze in my small black Samsonite. Once my luggage was securely placed and I easily closed the compartment door, I unsuccessfully tried to suppress my pride as I said aloud, "It fits like a glove!" and then shot my fellow passengers a victorious grin.

Especially the two men who I had seen shaking their heads and mumbling, "Good luck, honey. You'll never find space for that bag."

I took my middle seat, towards the front of the plane, between a woman who slept for the three hour flight, and a man who shared with me the story of his life and family.

It was a very nice trip.

Until we landed.

And everyone started to deplane. And I knew that I'd have to wait to go back the rows to get my suitcase. So during a break in the traffic, I bade farewell to the man that had been sitting next to me on the aisle, and then I stepped out in the aisle to let the woman who had been sitting next to me at the window, exit. And then I stepped back in to my row while passengers filed past. During another break in traffic, while an elderly woman was trying to get out of her seat and was blocking the aisle, I asked if the men who were standing directly below the luggage compartment that housed my Samsonite, could hand me my suitcase.

"Sure!" they said, "No problem, Ma'm!"

The men quickly passed my small suitcase to me while I smiled and offered them my sincere thanks. And right about then, as the elderly woman was trying to get steady on her feet as she stood in the aisle, and reach for her cane, a young man standing three people behind her in the aisle started to loudly yell, "COME ON!! ANY DAY NOW! JESUS, ARE WE ON THE GROUND OR WHAT?!"

Then he grabbed his head in his hands and started to pull at his hair. "FOR GODSAKE! WHAT'S TAKING SO LONG?!" He tried to push his way around the people that were standing in front of him. He actually tried to squeeze his body, and his backpack, around the people that were standing in the 20-inch aisle in front of him.

The people who were standing around this man didn't let him pass.

But they didn't say anything to him, either.

Meanwhile, the elderly woman was being rocked by the ruckus that was happening behind her.

I could tell she felt badly that she was holding up the exit, so she tried to move faster and stumbled. I gently put my hand on her arm and said, "It's OK. Take your time." Then I turned to the obnoxious ass a few rows back and said, "Hey buddy. Grab one of those oxygen masks and take a breath. Everyone is getting off the plane. RELAX."

Several people smiled and I heard one man whisper, "Hear, Hear."

As I was walking out of the plane to catch my shuttle to the parking lot, I was furious. What the heck is wrong with people? What has happened to common decency and why is it that more people don't speak up?

How is is that people who allow their pit bulls to run around off leash and jump on small children - and then scream vulgarity at the defensive mother - aren't locked up in jail?

How is that men who swat at young children - and then challenge the defensive mother to a fight - aren't put in a bag with rocks and thrown to the bottom of the ocean?

How is it that teenage girls on a roller coaster ride with small children at a local park - think it's acceptable to scream out that they have to go pee and sh*t - while there is a delay in getting off the ride?

How is it that a man on a plane - isn't pummeled on the spot by his fellow passengers - when he starts yelling at an elderly woman with a cane?

I think that a civil society depends, in large part, upon people NOT turning the other cheek, but instead, speaking up when they see bad behavior. Yet very rarely do I see people say anything. And I believe it is for that very reason, more and more, the general population is horrifying to me. Or maybe it's just the people in Southern California.

They act as though they have a sense of entitlement.

They can do whatever they want.

Whenever they want.

However they want.

And there's an excellent chance they'll get away with it.

Which perpetuates more bad behavior.

Although my mother tells me that sometimes it's best to hold your tongue, I have numerous memories of mom speaking up about various wrongdoings when I was a child. Her willingness to get involved, always made me proud. Once I got over the embarrassment.

Recently, I heard that several young adults invaded my mother's community swimming pool and were drinking beer out of bottles when my mother happened upon them. Although all the other residents were looking the other way and minding their own business, my mother spoke up.

"What are you doing with glass in our pool?" she asked. They acknowledged her and they said that they'd get out, but they didn't. After waiting a few minutes, my mother bellowed at them, "GET OUT OF THIS POOL, IMMEDIATELY!"

And then I'm fairly certain she said, "Don't think for a minute I won't kick your punk ass to Kingdom Come with my new knee!"

They scrambled out as fast as they could, apologizing profusely in the process.

I adore my mother.

She is my hero.

I want to be just like her. Moreover, I want to be the kind of example to my children, that my mother has been - and continues to be - for me.

She is a gentle, loving soul who truly makes the world a better place.

But don't cross her.

Don't ever cross her.


  1. Hear hear.

  2. Hear hear! Next time I see something wrong and think "hmm...someone should really say something..." I hope I think of you and this post and be the one to actually SAY something! Oh, and I'm glad Elizabeth was wrong. 'Cause I'd miss your humor if you'd died.

  3. Getting older is marvellous for allowing yourself to say what you think, you care less about what people think and seem less able to shut your damn mouth! My sister last week saw 2 teenaged kids throw their drinks bottle on the ground, she said she found herself running down the road after them yelling " HEY!!! Put this in the bin!! COME BACK and you THROW THIS AWAY WHERE IT BELONGS!" she explained that while she was doing it, her head was saying " Shut your mouth you mad old bat! They will turn around and punch you any moment!" but she was so incensed, they yelled that it wasn't theirs and she replied " YES!! Yes it IS I saw you, you'd better get back and throw it away.They did and she then realised she had an audience who applauded her. Like you she thought WTH? Why didn't anyone else say anything if they care so much?
    I miss the days of good manners and respect for those that deserve it.

  4. The problem with people like that is they were never taught to be polite. They have a bad foundation and when a foundation crumbles, the house goes with it.
    ps- I love your mom!

  5. Yes, thank you for this.
    I think the 10th grader who had a premonition needs a talking to too. I guess it's water under the bridge. Glad you are safe.

    Tracy B

  6. So, I readily agree with much of what you say, but have learned that sometimes people are honestly just oblivious and occasionally need gentle reminders, before being hit with a hammer on the head. Everyone has busy lives and preoccupations and by and large, we are a self absorbed society. The angry man might have had a very, very long day or was looking forward to an unhappy homecoming and just snapped. Not excusable, but understandable since I'm pretty sure we've all been there at one point. I prefer to approach those situations with a firm, but polite approach with some room for face saving on the part of the offender before biting back (biting back immediately only adds to the heat of the moment which is when things really get out of control).

    We had a large group of teens sitting in front of us at 4th of July fireworks a few weeks ago and my son is 8. One teenager was on his cellphone, clearly trying to be "cool" and impress his young lady friend by swearing up a storm to whomever was on the other end of the line. I asked his friends nicely to remind him that he's around families, and told them that my son only just turned 8, and asked if they could tell him to stop swearing (not wanting to interrupt his phone call). I got several nods of agreement from other families around me too. The teens looked a little sketchy, but turned out to be quite nice and were embarrassed for their friends behavior and promptly told him to knock it off. The same swearing teen apologized and ended up having a nice chat with my son and I about video games. I'm not saying that every interaction with an inappropriate mis-behaver will work out so well, but a little kindness with room to save face sometimes goes a long way. No one likes to be called out on the carpet for their bad behavior so give them the benefit of the doubt first.

    By the way, I'm a Seattlite - hope you enjoyed our unusually warm weather! :)

  7. What a sweet post. Your right, people are so strange. Thinking they can act like that and it's ok. Its really embarrassing for them, hopefully someday they will look back and realize they need to chill the F out..everything will be ok. :)
    Your lucky to have your Momma, she sounds like a great woman!

  8. To the great embarrassment of my children, I also speak up when I feel that someone is being rude (or doing something illegal). I hope that as they get older they'll learn to speak up, too.

    My proud moment last week was when my younger son had a couple of buddies over for dinner. Afterwards my older son remarked (to me) that their table manners were atrocious, so I guess my years of nagging are starting to pay off....

  9. Here, here, lady. I hope you keep standing up for yourself and others. It's like the old country song, "You've got to stand for something, or you'll fall for anything."

  10. Good for you Jen standing up for the underdog! I swear, it is genetics and you too will become your mother. {Lucky for you that is a very good thing.} It happens quickly, believe me!

    Be careful of the crazies, though! I think the reason that more people do not get involved is that they fear that there may be a negative reaction from these idiots.

    Peg O

    PS, Kudos for flying alone and taking an earlier flight!

  11. Nice post Jen......and you're right...your mother has always made the world a better place.


  12. I hate to say it's not just So Ca - widespread rudeness and zero concern for anyone but themselves, runs rampant here is New England. It makes me more homesick for the South, but I'm sure it is taking over in those parts too. Sadly, it's a sign of the times

    I'm glad you spoke up - good for you.

  13. What a jerk. You should tripped him on his way out. You go girl!

  14. Hear hear! I agree. I am thankful everyday for the good manners and common courtesy my Mom taught me growing up. Even though I am 26, she will still occasionally end conversations with "Good bye! Have a nice day and remember to mind your manners". I love her for that!
    I have to say that I was really excited to see you were in Seattle this week, I hope you enjoyed your stay in our city. Even if it was so insanely HOT.

  15. Good going!!!!!! Sic'em Jen.

  16. I enjoy your blog, and this is my first comment: Yes! Thank you for what you said to that cretin! Everything you said is true, and all we can do is keep trying to do the right thing, and model that behavior for young people.

  17. Yes, that is troubling. Well put.

  18. I always say something - and my 10 year old gets very nervous that I am going to be arrested. I have even gone to the point of getting out of the passenger side of the car and standing in the shoulder of the road to stop cars from overtaking us and pushing in front of us when there have been road works. It is amazing how the drivers trying to push pass will honk once - then look the other way when you stand facing them and not moving.

    When someone does something wrong - they need to be told. I like to think that if they knew they were doing something wrong then they would try not to do it again (as if).

    Good for you for sticking up for her - another old lady would have waited until everyone was out so as not to cause people to wait - but why should she?

  19. Thanks for the nice thoughts about Your Mom. I think we have to be careful because, we never know, where people are coming from in their plight. As I have got older, I am much more mellow. Except for today, when a guest brought a crossword puzzle to the table to do, while we were eating. I removed the paper and said, "Let enjoy the meal and have conversation about it---or something." I am proud of you for telling the guy to take a few deep breaths.

  20. I don't think having a bad day is ever an excuse to be cruel to others. If it were, that man had just made it okay for the poor elderly woman to go forward and be cruel to the next person in her path because he had certainly ruined her day.
    That man was a bully and sometimes a bully doesn't realize he (or she) needs to stop until somebody stands up to him.
    Good job. Hopefully your actions made it so others are willing to speak a few firm words to those who try to intimidate others.

  21. This is a discussion about a NYT article about a guy who spoke up when a mother was hitting her child on a crowded train.

  22. I am VERY proud of you for standing up for the elderly lady. And no it is not just people in California thatact as though they have a sense of entitlement. It is everywhere. Just look at teens today, their work ethic is almost non-existant. Their manners are horrible. I have never seen or remember for that matter a generation of kids that act as though they have a sense of entitlement to this extreme. Is it our fault as parents, did we miss something in rearing our kids to make them like this?

  23. I think instinctually when you are directing your children to behave properly and teaching them manners. It becomes alot easier to identify and react to poor behavior in others.
    When I first started my job, and my boss hadn't worked with me or know my work product very well- He gave me some attitude when I asked him a reasonable question. Clearly, having a 16 year old, I recognize attitude. So I called him on it. "Did you just give me some 'tude'?" He quickly backed down and answered my questions.
    Parenting will do that to you....
    I don't think all people realize that it is okay to call people out tactfully.

  24. Some people are nervous flyers. Some people are claustrophobic. Some people have been avoiding the airplane restroom because they are just *nasty* and really, really, really need to get off the plane so they can use the restroom. Some people are just plain baffled by the fact that crowds of people are incapable of moving efficiently.

    I'm not saying that jerk-guy should have said what he said, but I know that I've found myself cramped and tired and freaked out and needing to pee and frustrated and barely able to contain the severe anxiety caused by the landing sequence, and really, really, really, REALLY REALLY REALLY (OMG, FREAKING OUT REALLY) wanting to get off the plane and wishing that people that knew that they needed extensive extra time to get off the plane would possibly just wait an extra 30 seconds so that the people who don't need to unpack carry-ons, etc., can just get out of the way, please God get me off this plane.

    I tend to have enough patience and maturity to calm myself down, but I just wanted to post a devil's advocate point of view here. He may have not reacted in the most level-headed fashion, but airplane travel is for many people an extremely trying thing. While his words were not kind words, his sentiment, to me, indicates someone who was (as I frequently am) really ready to get off the plane, not someone who is a rabid lunatic idiot who needs to be pummeled by his fellow passengers.

    I understand the need to take up defense of defenseless people, and call for others to assist in keeping general civility, but I read this, and I kind of feel like this dude could have used a little understanding, too. I mean, I think we all have times when we find ourselves absolutely at the end of our rope, saying and doing things we never, ever would do were we not in that hanging-on-by-a-thread place. I cannot say for sure what drove this person to act in the way he did, but I know that when I snap, and loose my cool, I am blessed to have friends and family and a husband who forgive those outbursts. I am lucky that on my last flight a very nice woman accepted my apology when I knocked in to her, running past on the gangplank, trying desperately to get to a toilet before I burst instead of calling me out as an impatient person who just needed to relax (which was probably what I really needed to do).

    I don't mean to be rude or mean with this comment (and I hope it doesn't come across that way), I just try as hard as I can to force myself to the assumption that people with ill behavior probably have a reason beyond just general mean-spiritedness for whatever behavior they are exhibiting. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the world is just full of a-holes, but I still hold out hope in situations like that. Foolish? Maybe so. I just know that when I act in ways I'm not proud of, I hope that the people impacted by that behavior give me the benefit of the doubt. Because despite my best tries, I know deep in my heart that there are occasions when my outside actions do not reflect my genuine nature.

  25. Kate, I don't think you are coming across as mean with your comment > but I think it is important to realize that rude behavior is never appropriate and shouldn't be tolerated.

    I'm pretty sure EVERYONE wanted to get off the plane as efficiently as possible. Maybe some people want to get off sooner than others, but that is no excuse to act poorly to your fellow travelers.

    It's unacceptable.

    I want to get out of the grocery store fast when I'm there with four small children. But that isn't a free ticket to yell at the people in front of me who I think are moving too slow.

    Now maybe if the man had yelled out, "I HAVE DIARRHEA AND I CAN'T USE THE TOILET ON THE PLANE, WOULD EVERYONE PLEASE STEP ASIDE?" I wouldn't have suggested that he grab an oxygen mask and take a breath. Perhaps I would have had more tolerance for his predicament. But he didn't say that. All that I saw was a young man, in his mid 20's, YELLING and CURSING at a senior citizen.

    He could be afraid of planes, small spaces, getting sucked out with the toilet water at 37K feet, or itty bitty carts that serve peanuts. It still doesn't excuse his behavior.

    But that's just my opinion.