It’s time for my weekly look at the differences between Americans and Australians. This happened to me last night. I don’t think this would happen in Australia but I’d love to get some feedback from my Australian friends–or others who may have had a similar experience.
Am I looking at Australians through rose-coloured glasses? Is this being a bit harsh on Americans (not my friends though don’t you know)? Or is it not a negative thing in a different context, with a different example?
Differences between Americans and Australians: my right to do what I want–you can’t make me
I’m sitting on the tarmac in Las Vegas airport on the last flight to Burbank (LA) and as we’re getting ready to pull back some smart arse starts talking back to the flight attendant.
While getting ready for the safety demonstration, the “hostie” asked him to please get off the phone as it was time to switch mobiles off. Instead of wrapping up he kept talking. She asked him again, quite patiently, to “please sir finish your call and switch off the phone.” He kept talking, showing no signs of wrapping up his call.
Then minutes later when he was ready he said goodbye and switched off his phone. The hostie then reminded him that he must listen to her requests while on board the plane.
“I don’t have to listen to you, I turned off the phone before we took off, I can do whatever I want.”
Here we go.
She reminded him again that he needs to listen to their instruction and cautioned him. With that she walks down the aisle to continue her checks.
He yells back again saying he can do whatever he wants. (It’s his right).
The supervisor comes up the back to question him further.
“Excuse me sir are we going to have a problem on this flight?”
To which he says,
“No, she told me to turn the phone off, I got off the phone before the plane took off, she doesn’t have the right to tell me what to do.”
“Well sir, on board the flight you are required to follow our instruction so are we going to have a problem with that?”
“No, I did what she asked but if she asks me to pick my nose I’m not going to do that am I?’
“Well sir she is not going to ask you to do that.”
Blah, blah, blah on he goes about how he flies all the time and has never had a problem and how he’s going to write a letter to Southwest and how he’s already spent tens of thousands of dollars with them.
Then one guy ( who can fend for himself) stands up and says to the guy, “please stop talking, listen to them so we can all go home”.
But Mr frequent-traveller-who-may-or-may-not-look-like-a-frequent-traveller is adamant he can say and do what he wants.
He is still rabbiting on about how he can do whatever he wants and his rights.
Meanwhile I sit back, three rows in front of him to the other side, and think, do I want to go home or do I want the plane to stop and get him off? My first thought is is he allowed to carry a gun? I’m guessing he’s not. Or at least not a loaded one. Everyone is a cross between disbelief, sitting quietly hoping the issue will be resolved and looking back at him with intimidating stares begging him to pull his head in.
All he had to do was pull his head in.
I’m relieved when the plane stops and moves forward towards the gate. Now we’re sitting on the tarmac waiting. The pilot asks us all to stay in our seats. Is this going to turn ugly? He must know something is going on. Right? How are those rights looking now mate?
Are we waiting for the cops to take him off the flight? Is he getting more ruffled sitting there knowing full well it’s because of a scene he caused?
So now I’m quietly anxious and nervous and text home an update. He didn’t pull his head in before why should he now? And as the minutes are counting down I’m thinking it’s obvious we’re waiting for someone to get him. What on earth is he thinking?
Are we going to have an incident or are we waiting for him to cool down? But what if he’s waiting to cool down then when we get in the air he loses it? Like my teenage girl when you think everything is ok, she remembers what happened then relives the anger.
The people in the row in front of me start talking about guns. Do you have one? What do you do? I couldn’t hear much of the conversation but I thought back about Lorie on Twitter and how she thinks if there’s a mass shooter there would only be two shots fired. What if the guy in front of me thinks he’s defending himself and fires a shot? Would he be a good shot and would the guy hurling abuse have a gun & shoot him or shoot the nearest person? What about stray bullets?
Would the guy with the bad attitude think it’s time to pull out his gun. And why am I thinking about who’s carrying a gun? Isn’t that what the strenuous security measures are there for? But if you’re a psycho then could you get around the security measures? Can I trust them? And why–if guns are a right and used for personal protection–are we not allowed to carry them on board a flight?
Am I going crazy?
Finally the doors were opened and two ground staff came to escort him off the flight. I was so surprised to see two women and not security or police.
He was escorted off the flight in a bit of an anti-climax. Thank God. I was expecting a tantrum-like scene that would make my daughter look like an angel. He still didn’t really get it though. He was still playing the it’s-my-right power card and “you just can’t do that” to him.
Here’s the thing. In “the future” post October 21, 2015 (had to get a Back to The Future Day reference in there somewhere), post 9/11, post mass murder after mass murder you just can’t do that. You just can’t do that.
So we’re taking off half an hour later than scheduled but I feel safer. I started thinking about what would happen if we were in the air and he wouldn’t stop. Then what. Would we have to pull together and fight him down. Cause I would. I’d be amongst it. I’m not going down wondering.
So you see it’s not your usual “Difference between Americans and Australians” post. The rest of the flight–filled with Americans–did not agree with this guy.
But engrained somewhere in many American’s psyche is that whole “my right to…” thing. And it’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s used for good and not evil. But I wonder if America and its taglines “living the dream” or “the land of the free” leads some of its citizens to believe that means they can do whatever the bloody hell they want. Because it’s their god-given right.
And, by the way, dickheads are all over the world.
In Australia we have dickheads you can put up there on Wikipedia as the ultimate definition of a dickhead.
We have bogans that think they’re tough and give lip. And in Australia I wouldn’t be scared of guns I’d be scared of the fighting–fists as weapons which do get through the security checks. But I think in Australia we might be more worried about the consequences. I don’t think we’re prepared to take the chance that we might be black-banned from flying again–or at least for a long time. I don’t know.
That’s where you come in. What do you think? What would you do? Do you think a guy would talk back to–and continue to talk back to–a hostie and then a supervisor on a Qantas internal flight or Virgin flight?
When we landed I felt like doing American/Chinese style woo-hoos and clapping that I landed safely. What a bizarre situation. Come on Chuck Lorre we can make an episode out of this one. Let’s do it.
Meanwhile. I’m exhausted and signing off. And weirdly, the kids didn’t know what had happened to me but when I came home they raced out of their rooms and welcomed me home with hugs and kisses. Yep, life is short … and too short to be a dickhead.
xx It Started in LA xx
PS: My congratulations to the crew of the Southwest Airlines 845PM flight 143 from Las Vegas to Burbank who handled the situation with professionalism and putting our safety ahead of their schedules.