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Monday, May 09, 2011

Who Said Airports Can't Be Fun?

I think I'm a pretty nice guy and I try to keep my grudge-holding to a minimum. But almost all cases where I find myself amid even the mildest of confrontations are results of someone else's actions precipitating my reactions. I'm rarely the instigator.

But I'm certainly far from perfect, and friends who've been on the receiving end of my self-righteousness would not contest this fact.

Still it was great fun getting in the face of a fellow traveler at LaGuardia Airport Monday afternoon.

Too many times I find myself thinking quietly in my head what I'd like to say or do, only to revert back to my polite Midwest manner and not take any action at all.

Today was a different story, however.

I watched a young, well-dressed Middle Eastern man with his Louis Vuitton carry-on bag and matching horn-rimmed glasses look right at a young mother with bags in both hands and a baby on her lap. She was in the aisle seat of my row near the back of the plane, but not making much effort to stand up. That's when Mr. Anxious, seated behind us, took a step forward and was standing even with our aisle. Once our group started moving, he walked ahead of us and that really bugged me.

I don't care that he didn't offer to help that slow mom, but I interpreted his blow-by to mean he felt he and his spot in the cab line that awaited were far too important for him to be bothered by unspoken rules of airplane etiquette. He was actually the middle violator of a total of three people who ignored the standard procedure. One was a woman, and as I've learned the painful way through living in New York for five years, females are officially allowed to do whatever they want. The first was an American male about my size. He set the trend and two others copied him because our weak culture is full of finger-pointing followers.

As I hustled into the terminal, striding far more briskly than I normally do, I walked past the woman and the American male, who by now was on his cell phone. So Mr. Anxious was my target.

As he turned left outside the airport, I was right on his heels walking toward the back of the taxi line. He claimed his spot in a line that was hardly single-file; I then slid between him and the gal in front of him. Here's what happened next:

Him: "Excuse me, sir?"

Me: (Nothing)

Him: "Sir?"

Me: "Yeah?"

Him: "Did you just step in front of me?"

Me: "Oh, did you step in front of me getting off the plane 10 minutes ago?"

Him: "No, I didn't."

Me: "I think you did. It's like church, dude. You let the people in front of you get out first."

He said something quiet and pouty, then accepted his spot behind me before muttering not quite entirely under his breath: "Insane."

Did this guy commit the crime of the century? Obviously not. In NBA parlance, he committed a ticky-tack foul, if even that. I certainly could have let it slide and I'll admit I've kept silent after witnessing far more offensive acts. But what I viewed to be his violation quickly became secondary. I was more interested in testing myself to see if I was actually going to make good on the tough talk going on in my brain during that long walk through the corridors at LaGuardia.

The original plan was to take the bus to the train to avoid the $35 cab ride, but it ended up all being worth it.



At 8:12 PM EDT, Blogger Marcus Riley said...

Good stuff.. I think we've all been in those "I should have said" moments before. One thing bothers me though.. you refer to the guy as "Middle Eastern" and later you refer to yourself and some others as "American male." How do you know the "Middle Eastern" guy isn't actually American? And conversely, the individuals you refer to as American -- is that actually code for white male? You described the "ethnicity" of the offender, but the "nationality" of the others. Ultimately, are any of the descriptions even germaine to the story? Because when you put it within that prism, it becomes the "Middle Eastern" asshole -- in an airport no less -- who may be and probably is, actually American, when instead the story is just about how you stood up to some asshole at the airport. If I were Arabic I'd probably be a little offended.

At 8:19 PM EDT, Blogger Big Primpin' said...

Those are fair points. I described his age, style, bag and glasses, so just was trying to paint the picture with another detail. Definitely not trying to make an Arab-at-the-airport connection.

At 9:21 PM EDT, Blogger Marcus Riley said...

I know you dude, and I know that's not your intent.. I'm thinking more with my journalist head, rather than the storytelling technique of a blog.. But I do think the distinction is important, especially with the bloodthirsty mood in this country right now..

At 7:58 PM EDT, Blogger ted said...

I love it! We are about to fly overseas with our children and work hard to teach them manners only to have too many idoits like this show my children that once you grow up you can say screw the manners I'm more worthy than you. By the way - white american girl married to dark mediterrian boy NOT offended at descriptions.

At 8:16 PM EDT, Blogger Big Primpin' said...

Thanks for weighing in, ted. I got a text from a friend today who accused me of being racist in this post. Perhaps my reference of the man's ethnicity wasn't relevant, but it was merely a mention. I think our sensitive culture sometimes overthinks what's racist or what's offensive and what isn't. Marcus made good points above, but at the same time, I'm reminded of Michael Scott in "The Office," when he asked Oscar if he preferred to be described in a way less offensive than "Mexican," as if Mexican was derogatory. But that's how our culture thinks, that sometimes mere adjectives are intended insults.

At 3:17 PM EDT, Blogger Marcus Riley said...

Your friend who called you a racist is wrong. You did what you did, regardless of the person's race. However, there is a proper way to use ethnicity in writing, regardless of what your intent was. Whenever you use race in your description, like it or not, you're painting a subtle, subconscious picture, which is why it must be used correctly. At the crux of the story, you described the villain as "middle eastern," and the protaganist as "american," and by putting it in those terms, it's not stretch to conclude that your villain is being labeled as somehow "un-American," in addition to being a dick. First of all, how do you even know he was even Middle Eastern? Dude could be from anywhere, but you've painted him with that brush, regardless of whether it's considered a slur or not. He had olive skin and thick eyebrows, so he must be Middle Eastern? THAT'S entering Michael Scott territory. And what does an "American" look like? A boorish yahoo with a cowboy hat and boots? Any editor worth his or her salt would slash those terms out. Your "intent" of your writing has nothing to do with it, it's how it's perceived by the reader.


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