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.