Not My VIP

Posted on Monday 4 June 2007

I was raised to be mindful, to be mannered among strangers. I was raised to defer, when appropriate, and to engage those around me, as appropriate. I was raised to understand restraint and to fully appreciate an act of civility, as well as how to behave with gentility–especially when others do not. I was taught to let others out of the elevator first, before entering. I was taught to stand when an adult entered the room. I was taught that utilizing these finely honed manners is what would separate me from those unfortunate someones who were never taught this. And I mostly lived according to these standards–at least for all appearances’ sake–despite my rants to myself and those posted on my blog.

But, I am thinking my great-grandmother, my grandmother, and my mother (God rest all their souls) got it all wrong. Because they didn’t foresee the close quarters of today’s airplanes, nor the anarchy that pervades what remains of a semblance of the rules of etiquette they lived by. No, today I wonder if they are each wondering where they went wrong with this Gal–if they are judging me based on my actions on Saturday’s flight.

Really, it wasn’t my fault.

I paid a small fortune for my last-minute airfare to the Pacific Northwest. I paid this fortune to two different discount airlines, because otherwise I would have paid a huge fortune to United or Delta. My outbound flight through JFK was unremarkable–the Squeaky Frome look-alike kept to herself (she’s still in jail, right?), the skinny man dressed all in purple who mumbled to himself sat nowhere near my row, and the woman with two yapping dogs in mesh carry-on bags was shown to the rear of the plane.

No, it was my last-minute splurge to upgrade to business class on the way home that positioned me square in the way of a type of guest I know all too well–the spoiled brat VIP who behaves badly, because they know they can.

The scene: A couple enters the plane, glances at their boarding passes, then stares at the woman who has seated herself in one of their seats and spread her book, laptop, purse, sweatshirt, loose papers, and God knows what else all over the other seat. “Excuse me,” says one of them, “I believe you are in our seats.”

Now, my Mom trifecta likely would have assumed that a mannered person would have excused herself, gathered her belongings, and asked for further assistance from the flight attendant as to where she might sit. Uh, no. This one said instead, “They told me to sit here,” clearly daring the couple to challenge her. At which point, a flight attendant interjected herself.

“Can I see your boarding pass, ma’am?” she asked the lone traveler.

“I don’t have one. They told me to sit anywhere in Business, wherever there was an open seat.”

“Well, ma’am, these seats are assigned. Let me help you gather your items. You can sit right–” and she turned and pointed to the empty seat next to me, “–there.”

“I can get my own things,” muttered the squatter, dismissing the flight attendant’s offer to help.

Crap.

After much huffing and puffing and sighing and “I’ll blow your house down” noises, Ms. Sit Anywhere gathered her stuff and shuffled across the aisle to stand next to my seat.

Her anger fairly rippled through her ample arms, shook her sagging jowls, and quivered through her protruding middle. As she stared at me and paused, I realized I had two choices to make in less than a split second–swerve and duck or get the hell out of the way. Because I learned one podium lesson very well as a maitre d’–some people throw things when they are angry and sometimes it’s a pager you handed to them. This one had no pager, but she had my head and face in her sights, and it emanated from her flexing cellulite.

Crap.

I couldn’t move fast enough. The zipper of her hoodie grazed my cheek. Her book missed me by mere inches. The corner of her purse brushed my chest.

Are you f—ing kidding me?

I jumped up at that point, just as she pushed past me to plop her dimpled behind in the window seat, my look of shock registering right away with the flight attendant.

“Ma’am,” the flight attendant barked in the best teacher voice, ever, “With all due respect, there is a passenger in the seat next to you and you almost hit her by throwing your things. She is trying to get out of your way!”

ALMOST hit me?

Instead of slapping her as someone would have done in the movies, I gave her my most withering, “Uh, yeah, b—-!” look, which wasn’t all that effective or practiced because I am not sure I have ever used it before. But even in my attempt, I knew I was lost. All my upbringing had been crassly stashed in an overhead bin, and I was primed for the worst kind of reality TV brawl.

Thankfully, the flight attendant saved me from myself, just as my great grandmother, grandmother and mom surely were fanning themselves with angels wings. “Don’t worry, I’ll talk to her and we’ll move her,” she said.

Yeah you will!

But I was happy to back down at this point.

They hauled the crazy lady outside of the cabin and onto the ramp, and after much finger pointing and arm waving, she stomped back in and over to my row, reached over, and grabbed her belongings out of the seat she’d thrown them in. “Sorry,” she sneered at me, the overt sarcasm easy enough for a toddler to grasp, “I didn’t mean to throw anything at you.”

And this was the moment at hand for me, the moment it didn’t matter what I said or how I said it, because she was not some bullheaded guest in my restaurant who I had to treat as “right.” No, she was wrong, had been called out, and was no one I ever planned to see again. That’s right, I spoke my mind.

“Oh whatever,” I spit out, rolling my eyes like the teenager I mimicked, and I half wondered if she was going to swing her purse at me, but she stepped once again into the aisle.

“Bitch,” I ostensibly said to myself, but plenty loud enough for her to hear as she made her way in front of me. She froze, paused, and looked back at me. And I stared right back at her. And won, apparently, because she turned and trundled down the aisle to the back of the plane.

Oh my God, did that feel good.

Later, the flight attendant approached me mid-flight. “I want to apologize again for what happened,” she said.

“Hey, not your fault, but thanks,” I told her.

“No, really, my apologies. It was just so awkward.”

“Well, no harm done, awkward or not,” I smiled.

“But it was really awkward,” she stressed again.

Okay. So what?

“Really awkward,” she repeated.

Okay, I’ll bite.

“Why? She wasn’t thrown off the plane or anything,” I pointed out.

“I know. But…” and she paused for a millisecond, weighing whether to say her next thought.

“But what?” I prodded, because now I was curious, and I knew she wanted to share a punch line.

“Because she is the pilot’s wife!”

Oh!

Really?

Oh dear. Yeah, what do you do with that?

“Well, I guess that’s why they didn’t throw her off the plane!” I laughed.

“You would think that by flying free she would have…” but she didn’t finish that thought. She was her VIP in her world, and she was stuck with her.

“Yeah, you would think,” I finished for her.

You would think she would get over herself. You would think her stupid pilot husband would have long ago explained to her what I had been brought up knowing.

You would think…oh, whatever. Just another VIP. Thankfully, not mine.

Bitch.

23 Comments for 'Not My VIP'

  1.  
    PublicEggo
    June 4, 2007 | 11:30 pm
     

    Oh yes, feel very bad for the pilot. Having flown as a pilot’s VIP many times in the past, it was explained to me each and every time that even the slightest transgression could result in disciplinary action against the employee–even termination (although I only know of two such incidences within our extended group of acquaintances). Her VIP status was a privilege–one that she was lucky to not have taken away that day.

  2.  
    June 5, 2007 | 3:35 am
     

    ROFLMAO ~ OMG – YOU GO RG…. for the one time you DO stick up for youself, you know how to coose them!!!

    but i know what you mean about how you were raised…there are times when you act appropriately…… and this is one of them….. and then, well…. there are times when, you just need to tell it like it is ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3.  
    June 5, 2007 | 3:36 am
     

    coose = choose

  4.  
    June 5, 2007 | 6:35 am
     

    Of course now you’ve opened the door, trying to restrain yourself from calling the next stroppy, awkward customer who appears at your restaurant a bitch is going to be 10 times more difficult ๐Ÿ™‚

  5.  
    June 5, 2007 | 6:54 am
     

    PublicEggo–Wow. Who knew? And thanks for taking time to comment.

    Question Girl–I stick up for myself more than I write about, I just try to back away from the really crazy people!

    Kim–You know how cartoon characters have cloud thoughts depicted above their heads? Thank goodness that only happens in cartoons. You, sir, have not seen my awesome game face….

  6.  
    Julie
    June 5, 2007 | 9:12 am
     

    Muttering “Bitch” and nothing else showed great restraint… and it might be something she needed to hear from someone who didn’t know who she was.

  7.  
    Lauren
    June 5, 2007 | 10:41 am
     

    I would have called her a bitch straight to her face. I was brought up properly but I call a bitch for a bitch. This world isn’t meant for manners.

  8.  
    June 5, 2007 | 11:02 am
     

    haha. That’s a great punch line. But also, I wonder if someone really did tell her to sit wherever. That’d be a pretty stupid thing to do to the first passenger,presumably, to arrive though.

    Being nice and polite ALL the time is just a pain.

  9.  
    June 5, 2007 | 11:45 am
     

    Ooooooh! I hate the pilot’s wife. What a bitch for real…
    Imagine the poor pilot – he’s stuck with her.

  10.  
    June 5, 2007 | 1:07 pm
     

    Ah, the joys of air travel. And once again, you showed all of us your extreme poise and grace under circumstances that would normally unravel the rest of us. This is why you are so good at what you do and we all just watch in awe.

  11.  
    June 5, 2007 | 1:22 pm
     

    I personally would’ve taken “Sit in any open seat” to mean “any seat that is not reserved for someone else.” Thus, I would’ve probably waited until everyone else was boarded and seated or asked an employee where I could sit. Sheesh.

    This earned a huge “Oh…wow” from me. No matter how long I work in customer service, I’m always amazed at how rude and obtuse people can be.

  12.  
    Nana
    June 5, 2007 | 6:47 pm
     

    As a former airline employee, I can assure you this pilot is about to find himself in BIG trouble. First rule of flying free: paying pax go first. Second rule: employees’ guests will behave appropriately, quietly and subserviently at all times. Unreal!

  13.  
    Rosebud
    June 5, 2007 | 9:17 pm
     

    I just read this aloud to my husband. We don’t travel very often, but will be going on a trip this summer to celebrate my Aunt’s 100th Birthday. Please, GOD, let me avoid these people.

    BTW, just went on a picnic with your former GM, who actually lives a couple of blocks from my place. What a small town this is.

  14.  
    m
    June 5, 2007 | 11:55 pm
     

    I’m not sure where I’d find the nerve to call someone a bitch to their face, although I’ve certainly thought it to myself before. Kudos to you for not letting her get away with self-centered rudeness and outrageous behavior. Impressive.

  15.  
    June 6, 2007 | 11:21 am
     

    I think you handled yourself quite nicely… I can’t even imagine how that flight would have gone had this very ignorant person continued to sit next to you. >. okay so I can imagine it.. but I prefer not too… your version is much funnier ๐Ÿ˜‰

  16.  
    June 6, 2007 | 4:18 pm
     

    I think you were quite restrained. Good work.

  17.  
    Kaitak
    June 6, 2007 | 9:28 pm
     

    Just to echo what PublicEggo said, this could have been a very bad situation for the pilot. I’ve worked for a Major US airline for 13 years. It has been ingrained in us that any misbehavior by the employee or their family while flying Non-Rev (Non-Revenue ie free) can result in loss of our pass benefits. A co-worker lost her pass privileges for 6 months because of a misunderstanding (argument) between her dad and a flight attendant. The smart non-rev is very polite to gate agents and flight attendants and wouldn’t dream of being rude to a paying passenger. If there is a problem, note names and times and handle it through channels at a later time.

    I think it would take the employee doing something really extreme themselves to lead to termination but, at least at my company, if the flight attendant reported the incident the b**ch wouldn’t have been flying for quite some time.

  18.  
    CK
    June 6, 2007 | 11:23 pm
     

    I usually enjoy reading your blog, but this story was ruined for me with all of the fat references. Fat does not equal rude, self-absorbed, unpleasant, etc. All of the descriptions of cellulite and ample-ness were unnecessary. Would her behavior have been acceptable if she was skinny?

  19.  
    June 10, 2007 | 1:14 pm
     

    I grew up flying as a VIP – both parents working for different major airlines. That sort of crap would never have been tolerated. I would have found my butt back in the terminal faster than you can say “boo” and my parents would have been severely admonished, maybe even facing disciplinary action. Oh, and I would never have been able to fly VIP again. Just goes to show you how lackadaisical our society has become. Incredibly sad.

  20.  
    June 14, 2007 | 10:10 pm
     

    I used to date a guy who worked for AirTran. We flew non-rev all the time, but we were the absolute last to board (they had to see if there were available seats) and we usually got boarding passes with assigned seats. We could not wear jeans, flip flops, running shoes, shorts, workout clothes or anything else that many people would consider appropriate for flying but that I look at and think, “What a slob.”

  21.  
    philosopherP
    June 16, 2007 | 5:45 pm
     

    I grew up as a non-revenue passenger and that kind of behavior wouldn’t have been tolerated. She an her husband will be lucky if the flight attendants don’t file a complaint.

    Unless the flight was about to close, I’ve never been told to “sit anyplace” — and I suspect that the pilot’s wife knows the drill and was just being a jerk.

  22.  
    June 17, 2007 | 2:12 am
     

    …what CK said…

    totally uncalled for.

  23.  
    Julia
    June 19, 2007 | 5:53 am
     

    Your writing is a joy to read, but I do agree with CK and JoAnna – the size of the VIP was in no way relevant to your story. Yes, I am fat, but I am not rude and I’m pretty sure no one has ever been pushed to call me a bitch because of my behavior, even under their breath.

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