The Airport Conflict Story: Less Is More
Years ago I was stuck in the Miami airport while coming back from the Dominican Republic. I found myself standing in a long customer service line to get rerouted on a flight to Tampa after my original flight had been cancelled.
If you’ve ever been in such a situation, you know that people aren’t in the best of moods. The airline employees get badgered with questions, unreasonable demands which they cannot fulfill, dirty looks, and general meanness from stranded passengers.
You may also know how, when a bunch of relative strangers all find themselves in the same place dealing with the same situation, there’s always a Loudmouth who makes him/herself the de facto leader/mouthpiece of the people. Loudmouth doesn’t have to be particularly wise or polite, he (it’s often a man, in my experience) just needs to be vocal and brash. The Loudmouth is the guy who, when lines are long at Walgreens, asks out loud why there aren’t more people working the registers.
At the Miami airport, a Loudmouth quickly emerged.
Loudmouth started talking, loudly, and to no one in particular, about how long the lines are. He complained about there not being enough workers present. He sighed loud enough that everyone knew how displeased he was. He made unfulfillable demands of the helpless people directing the lines.
I’ve seen plenty Loudmouths. This Loudmouth stood out, and I still remember him, for 1) The extent of his boldness: He started talking shit to other passengers in line, and 2) What happened when that happened.
There were two lines; I and Loudmouth were in the same snaking — and longer — line. The other line was straight and shorter (maybe for priority customers). Just as Loudmouth was gaining steam and feeling more and more emboldened to talk more shit, an older couple schlepped into the shorter line.
The man and woman were probably in their 60s. As they stepped to the end of the short line, Loudmouth felt a sense of injustice. He directed his bloviating to the perceived oppression, speaking to no one in particular but gesturing toward the short-line couple.
“THEY get to get into the short line. Why do THEY get in THAT line, while we have to be in THIS one?!?!?!”
The man of the older couple paid no attention to Loudmouth. He didn’t even turn around. But his wife paid attention. She addressed Loudmouth.
“We were TOLD to stand in this line!”
Everyone turned to witness what was now an exchange between this woman and Loudmouth.
Loudmouth didn’t find her explanation fair, and he let her know it.
“Well I’ve been standing in THIS line, and you’re gonna get helped before me, and I’ve been in line longer than you, and…”
The woman, apparently, had already heard enough from Loudmouth. She looked directly at Loudmouth and offered him a clear, specific instruction that no one could misconstrue.
“KISS … MY … ASS.”
Yes, it was really spaced out that way. For emphasis.
Loudmouth didn’t say a damn word. I’m sure he was experienced in being a Loudmouth, but had never had that happen. I mean, what could he say back to that?
I laughed. Hard. I laughed while writing this; snot bubbled out of my nose. The woman’s male companion still hadn’t acknowledged Loudmouth, or the exchange his woman had just abruptly ended.
This couple, I knew immediately, weren’t southerners. They had to have been from Philly, New York or Boston. In those places, that’s normal language.
What I learned from this one: Less is more. The woman didn’t have to say anything else.
And we’ll end it on that note.