Thursday, October 9, 2014

Insults on a plane

A dear friend was on a long-distance flight across the USA within the last 24 hours of my writing this blog. She was sitting next to a teenage boy. She glanced at his phone and saw he was tweeting that he was in middle seat next to "fat bitch." She said "Really, dude?" And he said "Oh, just trying to be funny."

She sat there in the seat, feeling humiliated, for almost an hour. As she said on one of her social media accounts where she related this story, which I'm retelling with her permission, "I finally decided that listening to him have fun while I felt awful was just too much."

Awful. She felt AWFUL. Can you imagine how she felt? I can. The feeling - the pain - makes my skin crawl. I know exactly how she felt.

She walked to the back of the plane and asked the Alaska Airlines flight attendants if there were any other seats available. "When they said no, I explained the situation and that I felt uncomfortable staying in my seat. I wasn't trying to get him in trouble; I just really wanted to move. They were all immediately sympathetic and the people in the last row offered for me to sit with them. The guy who swapped seats with me was really nice about it."

So, already, my faith in humanity is restored at this point in the story - the flight attendants were genuinely sympathetic, and random strangers in the last row of the plane offered to help out. That's just what you need in a situation like this - to know that you have, indeed, been horribly wronged, and that people want to help you.

As she said in her retelling,"I went back and got my backpack and said to the kid, 'What you wrote was cruel. It was really mean and not ok.' After I sat down in my new seat, one of the flight attendants went up and talked to the kid. At this point, his dad who was sitting in the row in front of him figured out what was going on. After a little while, the dad can back with tears streaming down his face, apologizing for the behavior of his son. He was horrified and I felt so bad for him. I assured him that I didn't think his son was a bad person, just a young person who needs to remember that words hurt people. We talked for awhile."

To know that the Dad was ashamed for his son just makes this all the better. That's beyond awesome. That's as it should be.

She added, "Then the boy came back and sheepishly apologized. He seemed genuinely apologetic." I should note there that I am NOT ready to cut that kid any slack. Especially since, 16 hours later, that tweet is still up. And that tweet is even worse than she's related, but I cannot quote it verbatim to show you just how bad it is because then you would be able to find him on Twitter, and she has forbidden me or any of her friends from outing him. My friend is, obviously, a better person than me.

She said, "After the flight, I saw them all again. The father and I embraced and while he had said there would be repercussions for his son's behavior, I urged him to make it about learning not punishment. The kid waved to me and again seemed genuinely sorry." Did I mention that, 16 hours later, the tweet is still there? And favorited by five different people already?

She also said, "The flight attendants were super kind and gracious and gave me unnecessary perks like a free video player." You rock, Alaska Airlines!

Of course, when she related this story, so many of her friends, myself included, jumped in to say what an incredibly classy, wonderful, awesome human being she is. My comment, "you are just pure GRACE. I mean it. I'm blown away at how you handled this. I could never, ever have handled it so well. You are a goddess."

I hope that all you parents out there will have a talk with your kids about both social media, about shaming people for any reason, including their weight, and about sexism. Explain to them that, indeed, words hurt.

1 comment:

  1. I also could not have handled that with such grace. Fuming that he did not delete it.