Saturday, June 30, 2012
Assumptions and Prejudice in the Newark Airport
As Dear Husband and I were waiting for our flight in Newark, there was a young man - early 20s - who was trying to get on our flight. He'd apparently missed his 6 a.m. flight and was desperate to get home. In listening to him, it was clear to us that he was probably impaired in some way - maybe a lower IQ. He was just "off" somehow. He was offering people money for their seats on an already overbooked flight, and asking those around him if they thought he'd get a seat. People were reacting with polite disdain.
Once they started boarding the flight, it appeared that he'd get a seat. He was on the plane, but the flight attendant told him he'd need to check his bag at the plane's door instead of stowing it under his seat. He was a little frantic, telling her his medication was in the bag, and that he had seizures. People around us at this point were snickering and rolling their eyes: " 'Medication'? Sure it's 'medication' ", one guy said. The two guys behind us were tittering and laughing at this poor soul.
And then, the person who had originally booked the seat showed up at the last minute, and the young man was escorted off the plane. There was general and subdued relief, with the two men behind us gloating just a bit: "They kicked him off!" They man across from us was shaking his head, saying, "He was on something...."
There are a lot of things that bother me about this whole situation but here is what bothers me the most: the two guys behind us were gay. (No, I'm not making assumptions. It was clear from there conversations, including one of them saying his boyfriend was picking him up at the airport.) I would have hoped that two people who have "probably" had to deal with their own fair share of judgements and unfairness were taking so much delight in this poor young man's plight.
No. I'm wrong. What bothered me most is that I didn't say anything to them. I kept my mouth shut, and I shouldn't have. I hope that young man made it home, to those who love him. I should have loved him better.