I haven’t posted for the past four days because I was on our 8th grade class trip to Washington DC. with 130 8th graders. Internet was intermittent and well, by the end of the day, I was just plain exhausted. Actually it was a wonderful trip. DC is an awesome city filled with all kinds of sites and museums, chockfull of history, monuments from every time period and era, large and small, commemorating important events and people in America’s shared journey, and all very accessible to lots of people at the same time. It’s also an incredibly exhausting trip—on the go from 6am to 11pm, having to be upbeat and observant, playful and vigilant with teenagers 24/7.
But none of the students acted as disrespectfully as the man who sauntered up to the counter at the gate, where I had been waiting in line to find out information about why our return flight was delayed. A student was in line with me to keep me company. There were two United Airlines workers behind the counter. One was busy handling a large group of women who were coming from a Headstart conference and needed to switch flights to American because otherwise the delay would make them miss their connections in Chicago. There was another woman behind the counter but she was entirely focused on her computer screen, not recognizing those of us in line so none of us bothered to interrupt her, thinking she was working on some critical information regarding some flight or other.
As we in line patiently waited, this very tall man sauntered up to the counter in front of all of us and leaned against it.
A bit irritated, I said, “Excuse me, but there is a line here.”
“Oh, but I have status,” he replied loudly for everyone to hear.
I guess I must have had a shocked look on my face, surprised at his mean-spirited behavior. “And any staring at me is not going to make me change my behavior,” he said looking directly at me with a very large grin. It was clear he was a man who always got his way.
A woman behind me said, “This is a line and you f—ing need to go to the back of it.”
“If you gave as much money as I did to the Obama campaign, then you could stand up here too.” I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by that except that it felt awkwardly embarrassing.
He leaned over the counter and quietly asked the woman behind the computer screen his question. She actually answered him, even though she had heard this entire exchange (it was too loud to ignore). She did not say she was busy behind her computer. She did not tell him he needed to get to the back of the line. She actually answered his question. I guess this is what it means to fly the friendly skies.
As he walked away, he looked at the growing line and said in a booming drawn-out and dramatic voice, more fit for a Shakespearean monologue, “Thanks for all the ill will and thanks for dropping the ‘f’ bomb. That was very liberal of all of you.” Then he and his inflated ego walked away, with victory in each of his steps. The woman behind the counter shrunk behind her computer and continued typing.
The student, who was waiting in line with me, said he never thought that people like that actually existed. He thought that such characters could only exist in books and that he had never seen an ego quite that large. I responded that the man’s ego only seemed really big and that it was probably a lot smaller than his own. This demonstration of monumental arrogance and exaggerated self-importance was probably the most memorable monument my student saw all week.