Have you ever been sitting on your porch, watching baby birds in the nest, all tweety and whatnot, and thinking “Awwwww”….and then a squirrel runs down the branch and wreaks havoc in the nest and one of the babies falls out of the tree? You kind of stare for a minute, wondering if you really just saw that. It’s heartbreaking. It also seemed to be totaly unnecessary, as the squirrel had no real use for the baby birds.
On Saturday morning, I wasn’t on my porch watching baby birds. I was in an airport in Houston. I should have been home already, but my flight the day before had been canceled, and the next available flight was the next morning. I was ready to get back to the Ozarks and my family. I arrived at an airport full of bustling travelers ready to get going on their weekend getaways. Since I had checked in online and downloaded my mobile boarding pass onto my phone, I headed straight for Security. If the line wasn’t too long, I could probably grab some java at Dunkin Donuts before boarding.
We moved like slow cattle through the maze to have our IDs and boarding passes verified. As my license was handed back to me, I was directed to one of the screening lines. In front of me was a man who seemed to be in his late 60’s, holding tightly to the hand of another man who appeared to be at least 90. I watched long enough to decide in my head that they were Father and Son. I don’t know if they really were or not. The Father was hunched a bit, holding a four pronged cane in one hand while grasping the Son’s hand with the other. He wore thick glasses, a hearing aid, and though the weather was mild, a heavy coat and scarf over his polyester pants and white athletic shoes. The Son was manipulating 2 pieces of rolling luggage and a carry-on gym bag with his one free hand as he waited to get to the steel table and bins to begin their TSA check. The Son spoke happily and somewhat loudly to the Father, explaining that they had plenty of time, and that it was going to be a good day for flying. As they neared the tables, a TSA employee asked if they needed a wheelchair, to which the Father shook his head with a firm “No, no, no”. The Son smiled and declined.
I watched this tender scene, wondering if they both knew how lucky they were. A man the Son’s age, who still had a Father in his life, and a Father who had a son that would take a journey with him. I hoped they were heading to a happy event….a wedding or birthday or graduation or family reunion….and not to say final goodbyes to a loved one, or to a specialist for medical treatment.
The TSA officer was explaining to the Son that his Father could leave his shoes on, when, like the squirrel running down the branch towards the bird nest….
“Jeeeeeez-us CHRIST, can Grampa move ANY slower?!?”
A big sigh from behind me. Mumbling. Then, almost to himself, but not quietly, “Shit, we’re all gonna die of old age before Moses gets outta here.”
I abruptly turned around to face the voice. We locked eyes, and he gave me a derisive snort. A snort?!? He looked down at his iPhone and started fiddling. I didn’t move. I didn’t look away. I was instantly and inexplicably pissed off beyond reason. To make a long story short, by the time I’d gathered my ballet flats from the end of the conveyer belt, my inner voice of Reason had given up trying to talk me down and I was confronting the Verbal Assaulter.
“I don’t know in what universe you live in that deems it acceptable to bully and degrade an elderly man, but it’s not OK. Are you so self absorbed that you think someone doing the SAME THING YOU’RE DOING, but not as quickly as you want it done, is an intolerable inconvenience to you?”
He blinked. “I’m sorry. I’m just in a bad mood this morning.”
Apparently his mood was not as bad as mine, because the apology didn’t soothe me at all. “Well thanks for spreading that around. And you don’t owe ME an apology, but you certainly owe one to that gentleman over there.” I pointed to the Father and Son team, who were just finishing up the Father’s pat down.
To my surprise, the jerk walked over to them and began to speak. Having gotten my rant off my chest, I walked off to Dunkin Donuts. Neither the Father & Son duo nor the Jerk were on my flight. I still don’t know if that was a relief or a disappointment.
I sat down at the gate with my coffee and one of those attractively advertised Egg White Veggie Flatbreads. Just FYI, don’t fall for the hype on the flatbread. Total disappointment. I digress…
I’m not even sure which word describes this attitude most accurately. Bullying? Disrespectful? Inconsiderate? Rude? When did this type of behavior become so prevalent? Why do so many people act as if they are the most important presence in the universe, and if something doesn’t suit them, it’s unacceptable? What happened to understanding, consideration, grace, common decency?
The Verbal Assaulter is probably not a bad guy, in the general sense. He’s probably not even a jerk on a regular basis. He just feels entitled, is devoid of empathy, and has a lack of maturity. That’s all. So maybe that does make him a jerk. Jerks aren’t exactly an endangered species, but are they now “normal”?
No one else seemed to pay much attention to him. Just observed. Is it no one’s business? IS he entitled to spout off about an elderly man delaying him? Was I the one that was out of line? Truth be told, my actions were out of my norm on Saturday morning. As I was having my coffee, I was trying to figure out why I spouted off. Any other time, I may have glared, I may have even offered a return derisive snort (and I am a champion at derisive snorts, let me tell you), but I wouldn’t have confronted a 6’2″ grumpy man in an airport 600 miles away from home. I’m supposed to be working on my karma, after all. Being kind, being calm, turning the other cheek and such.
Maybe I’m failing in my efforts, but I’m tired of entitled people. I’m fed up with someone parking across 3 spaces because their car is so much more valuable than anyone else’s and they don’t want to risk a door ding. I’ve lost patience with a delayed passenger yelling at a gate agent because it’s snowing in Detroit. I’ve no more tolerance for mean people, and I’m not going to look the other way any longer.
Stay tuned. I may need bail money.