A Herd of Hundreds and No Where to Sit

‘’I don’t know about you, but I have flown the friendly skies at least 500 times during my lifetime. Most of the time, I have had very pleasant experiences. The boarding and deplaning processes have gone quite smoothly, the pilots have not been drunk (to my knowledge), and the stewards and attendants have been pleasant. All in all, there have been rare occurrences of what I would declare trouble during flight. But, what happens on the ground? The waiting process in the terminal by the gate sets the stage for the reaction on board, quite commonly. Last Friday was not a normal waiting period in the gate areas. I almost became a rat in the race to stay at the front of the line and to try and remain calm while waiting to board my jet in Chicago’’

~ Dr. Gayle Joplin Hall

crowded-airport-300x203 Chicago O’Hare was the setting for a most unpleasant experience last Friday as I was trying to get back to Dallas from Myrtle Beach. I had only been gone for three days on this business trip, but as it was, this horrendous gate bouncing and lies from the Spirit Agents, left the crowd and me feeling very frustrated, to say the least. For over five hours, in what seemed to be a script for ‘’How not to treat airline customers’’ hundreds of us were bounced from gate to gate, only to stand in line again and be told, ‘’your plane is on the ground. As soon as the pilot pulls up to the gate and deplanes, your group to Dallas will be next. We didn’t dare leave to use the restroom, for fear of losing our place in the terribly long line. We couldn’t go and have a nice meal, for fear of missing our flight that was soon to leave. Continuously, we were told that we would soon be leaving.

My arm was still in a sling because of a torn rotator cuff surgery, so I was trying to be careful and not get bumped in the crowd. That was not an easy task, with people pushing and shoving, becoming more and more hostile as the five hours wore on and on. Several fights broke out, with one white man who was overtly publicly intoxicated cursing at pilots, staff, and at the police officers themselves, still not getting arrested.

A brown man behind me took a simple photo of the pilots sitting on their butts, as it was announced over the intercom there were no pilots to fly our plane. One of the pilots jumped up and tried to grab his phone, stating that he would have him arrested if he took another picture. The pilot almost knocked me over in the process and left marks on the brown man’s hand. I asked why he was not offended as the white man had screamed obscenities at him and he did not answer me. I asked why it mattered that his picture was taken. No answer. I then told him, the pilot, that this was clearly a matter of racism and discrimination. The pilot told me that if I didn’t ‘’shut up’’ I would be arrested, too. I asked what I would be arrested for. MANY people behind us were videotaping the entire scene with their cell phones and told me they got the entire incident on video for YouTube if this were to go to court.

The Chicago police showed up. The white police officer told the brown man to not take any more pictures. I asked him if he was going to arrest the pilot for almost knocking me down and for threatening me. He said ‘’no.’’ I also asked him why the belligerent white, drunk guy was allowed to make an ass of himself, threaten the staff and pilots, and name call the pilots, without ever being arrested, and the police officer told me he was not a big enough threat.

Finally, I had my fill. I told the officer this was clearly a case of racism and discrimination. I told him I would testify in a court of law against the police officer and against the pilot. I told him that I was a citizen in good standing. The officer asked me why I cared what happened to the ‘’brown’’ man. I told him because it was wrong and I was not going to just stand there, witness it, and allow it to happen. The officer walked away, no arrest was made, and the brown man and I continued talking until the flight was finally cancelled. I don’t even know his name.

So, what causes most people observing a situation such as this to have the bystander effect? The bystander effect is when there are many people, but nobody will step up and do the right thing. The larger the number, the more unlikely it is that others will help. Social psychology is an interesting subject and one of my very favorites.

As if a hostile crowd of adults was not enough to deal with during a five-hour delay while changing gates, all headed to multiple destination points, one little boy standing two people behind me vomited. Yes, he sure did. He puked all over the carpet, big time. His mother yanked him up by the arm and spanked him. People were covering their noses and mouths, all horrorstruck, and rightfully so.

The smell was horrendous. I have a terrible gag reflex. But…unlike everyone else who pushed back from the little boy and mother, I got closer to them, squatted down, and asked the little boy if his tummy hurt. He shook his head ‘’yes.’’ I told him I was sorry and told him that sometimes my tummy hurt, too. Then, I tried to console his mother, instead of doing what I would normally do, which would be to speak to her about spanking her child. Who would spank a kid for puking? Did that mother think her little four-year-old enjoyed puking right there in front of everyone? He was sad, she was humiliated, and the crowd was angry. Once again, nobody came to their assistance. That made me very upset.

What does it take to get a herd of hundreds to come out of the mass and help someone in need? When does a fellow man or woman put another person before themselves? What does it take to make someone realize we are here on this Earth, not just for ourselves, but for helping others? What would you have done in either of the two scenarios I just painted? Anything? Nothing? Nobody else did anything…nobody.

To Leave the Herd of Hundreds and Do the Right Thing, Follow Three Simple Steps:

  1. The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  2. Listen to what your gut instinct tells you is right.
  3. Make your feet and mouth follow your heart and gut decision.

I did make it home that Friday night (actually, it was 1:48 am when I landed at DFW and my bag was lost). Flight 903 on Spirit Airlines was finally cancelled. I did not follow the herd down to the Spirit Counters as 284 of us were directed. I went to the closest American Airlines gate, paid a full price for a ticket, and then ran 27 gates to catch the last flight of the night headed for Dallas.

What was my lesson learned? To always do the right thing no matter what and to keep marching to the beat of my different drum.

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