June 13, 2011
I’m a big guy. Not self-important, but large. So when I’m riding Metro-North at rush hour and the only available seats are those dreaded middle seats in the three-seat rows, I’d rather stand. Why inflict my girth on two fellow passengers and make three of us uncomfortable instead of just one (me)?
Taking public transportation is a compromise. We all must give a little and share the same space, sometimes in much closer proximity than we’d like. Sometimes this can lead to conflict.
Consider the following cases, all true and all from just the past few weeks:
First, the recent video of a “loud woman” being kicked off a Metro-North train for cursing and causing a scene when the conductor asked her to stop. This video, shot on a cell phone by another passenger, had a half-million hits within 24 hours, turning a minor incident into a huge embarrassment.
Or how about this? On an eight-hour flight from the UK to the Barbados, a fist-fight erupted involving a dozen passengers. Half way across the Atlantic, a group of passengers celebrating “something special” got into a fight with another passenger who complained that they had cursed in front of her child. The verbal attacks quickly turned physical with fists flying. It took other passengers and crew a half-hour to quell the melee. Barbados police arrested the trouble-makers on landing.
Or consider this episode:
A United Airlines jumbo jet bound from Washington’s Dulles airport to Ghana (Africa) had to turn back when passengers got into a slap-fest over leg-room. One passenger reclined his seat. His neighbor behind him protested, but the reclining passenger did nothing. So, the suddenly-cramped passenger smacked his selfish neighbor. Other passengers tried to intercede, but the crew decided to turn back to DC after dumping 16,700 gallons of fuel and requiring an escort (at taxpayer expense) by two F-16 fighter jets.
Or on the domestic front, how about the recent Jet Blue flight from Florida to Boston where a man, having trouble stowing his luggage under his seat, literally slapped a flight attendant? He was arrested.
Or on the rails, how about the woman sitting in an Amtrak “Quiet Car” who yapped on her cell phone for 16 hours, refusing to observe the rules or move to another car? She was arrested, later complaining that she felt “disrespected” by the incident.
Alas, it’s hard to find out what ultimately happened to these folks, though I think that a little jail time, a hefty fine and life-time inclusion on the “no flight list” would seem appropriate. Publicizing their punishment might go a long way toward deterring someone else from similar boneheaded behavior.
In the words of Rodney King… “Can’t we all just get along?”
It’s unlikely that the airlines will ever give us more legroom. And the stress of travel will never go away. Short of slipping everyone a Xanax before the flight, can’t we all just chill out this summer and get to our destination?
For those of you who can summon a private jet, enjoy! For the rest of us suffering in coach, let’s just learn to be civil.