Thursday, April 26, 2012

Those Mid-America People


Disclaimer: I love Seattle. There's no more beautiful city on the planet and I have met many nice people there. That being said...

Dawn had broken over Mount Ranier in a glorious array of purple and amber rays fanning out overhead, and I was thinking it would be a great day to fly. As our crew bus rumbled along from the operations building toward the terminal I listened to the flight attendants chattering, as they are prone to do even in the early hours. They were very senior Seattle-based ladies plus one guy. I didn't pay much attention to the chatter until I heard a woman use a phrase that shocked me out of my morning yawn fest. Contempt dripped from her lips.

...those mid-America people...”

My eyes snapped to the woman. She was telling a colleague how she dreaded working a flight that had people from the interior states. They were unfamiliar with flying, understood nothing, asked too many questions, made too many demands and caused myriad problems. She sighed, shook her head. She was hoping today there wouldn't be too many of those kind of people aboard.

Did I actually hear what I thought I heard? Unbelievable. Unfathomable. I'm not a middle-American, but rather a Southerner, and I suspected she regarded the people of my region with the same contempt, if not more.

The needle on my ire gauge arose and swung to the red arc. I'm not one to burst into a rage—although I've had my temperamental moments in past years. But I had to tell myself to hold back. Words are awesome weapons. Yet what I had just heard hit me like an atomic bomb.

I refrained from counter-attack, since she had not directed her snobbish arrows at me, but as we filed into the elevator I found my opening. A different flight attendant mentioned that the house next to her was for sale and she hoped she would get good neighbors. I stormed into the conversation. “I hope you don't get any of those wretched Mid-America People in there next door to you.” My eyes cut to the culprit's face as I said it. She diverted her eyes. “That would be terrible,” I pressed.

As we filed off the elevator and made our way as a group toward the plane, I continued to vent my ire. Sensing their normally mild-mannered captain was gravely pissed, all prattle stopped but mine.

“Those mid-American people! All they do is grow our food for us. Produce our energy for us. Teach their kids good work ethics. Miserable wretches!”

We walked on. Not a word was said by anyone else. And still, I wouldn't leave it alone. Shooting a derisive glance at her I mumbled, “All they care about is flying their flags, going to church, cheering their football teams! What do they know about the world? Those mid-America yokels!”

As we winged eastward she never apologized and I don't much blame her. I scared her. My reproach was misdirected. If had any trace of viable leadership qualities I would have calmly and privately told her that her remarks troubled me. I would have reminded her of how she feels when people stereotype flight attendants, and how such attitudes make the chasms of cultural misunderstanding and disrespect deeper and wider in our endangered great republic. 

Unfortunately, thanks to me the only thing she likely learned was to be discrete about voicing her prejudices. 

 Cruising toward a distant spiral galaxy?
 Nope. Just LAS.

13 comments:

Joanna said...

As a midwestern-er' living in the armpit of America, I appreciate your support. I am actually proud that I was born and raised here. I think that midwestern folk are nice, caring and good people. Again, thank you for defending the likes of us.

Love the pictures! Being a city at night from so high is just awesome!

amulbunny's random thoughts said...

As a transplanted Central Wisconsin person I am glad that you recognize unlike your flight attendant that many hardworking people are in the middle of this country. The make cheese, drink beer, and raise families who take vacations by boarding those long aluminum tubes you fly.

Great picture of Vegas, I was there for 3 days last week. Perfect weather.

Ryan said...

Great comeback! I would've probably said the same thing, or at least would have attempted to gather enough courage to say something similar. I can see this got your blood boiling, enough to even write about it. Hope this has vented your frustration! Nice pic of Vegas, strangely similar to mine. Hope that wasn't you above me!

Keep the shiny side up!

Ryan

dedgemon said...

Alan, I think we get the last laugh. After all, we live where you can afford a nice house, the occaisional airplane, and the people are friendly, etc.

K1MGY said...

I thought "those people" were nearly gone when, at 93, I said goodbye to a Minnesotan friend who left this Earth, leaving a slight hole in it, yet to be filled. He was such a decent, compassionate, wholesome man who loved his family, his home town, his nation, and eventually who fell in love with another person from a far away place - Japan - during his service there in the US Navy as a Commander at the end of the war - the real war.

He lived his life as if today was the only one, and in spite of all things - a failing heart - he never complained, instead being the first to ask "How's it going, friend?"

His name is Loren Kiser, and I can offer this remembrance proudly. I remember him, and I remember him well.

I would suggest to the young woman spewing her poorly-directed impertinence that her cure would have been to meet him; to shake his sure and solid hand; and to find his eyes, where she would shrink and realize just how small she is in the presence of a most certain Human being.

I imagine he would see her frailness and in that witty way he always expressed himself say, "Oh, don't worry yourself now. We're only people, you know".

bradcockrell said...

... oh and the miserable wretches fly your jets!

Frank Ch. Eigler said...

Don't feel too bad about dressing her down in public. There is a culture war on, and the onlookers need to know.

TwoDogs said...

What Frank said. They think we're evil and stupid and have no shame about saying so, loudly, in public. Screw civility, it's time to fight back.

D.B. said...

to quote Rodney King, Can't we all just get along?

I have lived twice on the East Coast (New England), twice in Southern Plains (TX), once in the Great Lakes area and have great and civil friends all over, including the Pacific Northwest and the "Mid-America region" (where the **** is that anyway?). I've also met nasty bigots in all of those regions too, including the middle states.

Don't let one nasty b*tch from any place mess up your equanimity and cool. Let's all just get along. Together. As One Nation, Under God.

CharliB52 said...

To her defense sometimes it's very difficult to maintain composure at times when you feel the way you do things is under threat by a bunch of folks hundreds or thousands of miles away that have no appreciation or understanding of your corner of the country. Many feel that way up here about other areas of the country who seem to make it their business to pass judgement where it is not wanted or needed.

I don't support her opinion, Midwest folks are some of the nicest people on the planet! But being a fiercely proud life-long Seattlite myself and hearing and seeing things that some people in other areas of the country say and do - I understand the frustration. But in the end she (all of us) needs to remember that generalizations like this is what breeds intolerance in the first place.

Give up your anger and accept all. Easier said than done for sure!

Anonymous said...

Alan

Great post as usual...........I guess North Dakota is as middle as you can get......let's see...clean air/water, no traffic issues, almost no crime, great economy (probably no property tax this next year), pretty much everything you need within a short drive, strong work ethics, and virtually every family has at least one member in the ND Army Guard........personally, the less people who know about us the better.....

Brad

Should Fish More said...

You did preface your remark with the statement that you like Seattle, and have met 'some' nice people there, and that's fair. I've traveled the US a lot, and find the same in every section; the good and the bad. The flight attendant could have been from anywhere, commenting about those effete 'west coasters' or those snobby east coasters, or whatever. Bigotry and prejudice ain't limited to one region, captain.
Cheers
Mike

Anonymous said...

It has been my experience that a lot of people I've met who live in the Seattle and Portland areas feel that they are Soooooooooo much smarter than us rubes living in fly-over country......just my personal observation.

Lastly, good for you Captain!!!!

Al
USN Retired