Years ago, we used to have a feature on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher called "Get Over Yourself." It was given to the person or place most in need of lightening the fuck up. There's nothing that needs to lighten up more than airports -- or more specifically, our national attitude about airports.
I flew back to Los Angeles from Portland, OR last night on an airline that shall remain nameless (hint: the name rhymes with "Horizon Air, a regional carrier for Alaska Airlines"). When my wife and I got to the airport, we were informed that I was checked in but she was in danger of being bumped off the flight because it was oversold. I reacted to this news by informing the agent I felt that this was "unfair." The ticket was pre-purchased. We were traveling together. It was the last flight of the night and we needed to be on it. I was firm but I wasn't overly aggressive -- no cursing, no loud talking, no six vodka tonics before boarding (three, max). Plain and simple, the woman behind the counter was being a derogatory term for the female anatomy. I asked if I could speak to a supervisor, to which she replied, "Go sit down or you can talk to the police." After I wondered aloud if Sting and Stuart Copeland were on the flight, she repeated herself. "Go sit down or you can talk to the police." Yep, she was serious. She was trying to turn a minor disagreement into a jail-worthy confrontation.
On my way back to my chair, Carol Gotbaum popped into my mind. In case you forgot, she's the woman who died while in police custody in the Phoenix airport. She's been on my mind ever since a friend told me last week that he knows the family. And it got me thinking. Is this what it has come to in America? If I dare to demand that a contract I entered into with a service provider be honored, they threaten me with the police? Airports aren't airports anymore. They're Communist China.
If you want evidence that the terrorists have already gone a long way toward achieving their goals, look no farther than American airports. We have become so oversensitive at airports they're close to becoming college campuses. I mean, sure, taser a kid for yelling at John Kerry. If that kid had gone any farther, he could have ignited an open exchange of ideas. And we can't have that at our educational institutions. But don't threaten me with the cops because I want some decent service. Imaging being turned away from a sporting event because they sold your seat twice -- doesn't happen.
In America it seems like we react with senseless emotion first and logic way later, if ever. Think about terrorists in airports. Have they ever gone out of their way to call attention to themselves? No. They do to the opposite. They try to blend in. They HIDE AMONG US. They don't reek of booze or act demanding in line. And by the way, so far, none of them have been 45 year-old soccer moms from the Upper West Side on the way to rehab.
Last night, if I didn't have a couple of kids to get home to, I might have requested that the airline employee call the police. I could have told them that someone was attempting to steal from me. I paid for something and then that person I paid refused to give it to me. You can go to jail for that. I just wanted a cramped seat in coach on a musty airplane with a bunch of farting sleeping old people (I know it was you, lady in the orange sweater).
It's not really airports that need to get over themselves. It's us as a society that has turned these dung heaps of human misery into modern Indian burial grounds -- walk with respect and don't look sideways. The terrorists hit us once. Hard. They changed our way of life. I have the confiscated bottles of Aveda Confixor to prove it. But can we just take a deep breath and realize that even in these bad times, people still have bad days, even at airports. We've suffered enough. Let's not live by the motto "Don't freak out in an airport -- OR YOU MIGHT DIE."