Airport Security

A funny thing happened to me on the way back to Phoenix last week. Sounds like a Jackie Mason routine. But here’s what happened: I’m at Ohare airport with my kids, trying to manage a bag of overflowing McDonald’s fries, two carry-ons, a bottle of water that had just opened in my purse, and my laptop computer which I’m desperately attempting to keep dry. We manage to find a few seats at the gate and the uniform clad lady at the microphone,(what do they call those people who check you in and give you the bad news about late departures anyway?), is announcing how full the flight is and how if you have more than one carry-on per person they are going to take your bag and check it. She’s urging people to come forward and relinquish their excess baggage before it becomes an embarrassing scene at the end of the ramp.

For once I think, “Wow, this doesn’t pertain to me. I am actually following the rules like a normal person.” Suddenly, this sweet-faced, elderly Asian woman looks at me, her eyes filled with despair. She says in broken English, “You…two bags. Three people. Me…too many…bag. You say…one…yours.” My boys both look at me expectantly. After all, I tell them it’s their responsibility to help people out whenever they can. But I keep hearing the “Has anyone unknown to you asked you to carry anything on board for them?” question ringing in my ears.

“I’m sorry,” I say with the same empathy I might show to a would-be suicide bomber who asked me to take his explosive-laden vest onto the aircraft with me. “I just can’t do that.” My 9-year-old looks up at me with shock. “Mom,” he chastises, “Why don’t you help that lady?” “Well, sweetheart,” I say, loud enough for everyone around us to hear, “It’s against the rules to pretend that someone else’s luggage is your own at an airport. You could get in a lot of trouble for doing that.”

The moment passed rather quickly. The kindly Asian woman checked her bag. My kids got over my lack of compassion. (They’re big into rule following which helped the situation a lot.). But here it is days later and I’m still seeing that woman’s pleading eyes and wondering why I didn’t just help her out. It’s not like I don’t have enough guilt for my maternal and familial failings, but now I feel sick over some stranger who tried to pawn off her extra suitcase on me. This is ridiculous.

The truth is, I should be applauding myself. My behavior was so atypical for me. Usually I just smile and concur, without a flitter of thought as to the possible outcomes of my actions. But this time I was sensible. I didn’t know that woman. I had no way of knowing what she was carrying on board. I was thoughtful, mature, and rational. I didn’t want to endanger my children. I did the right thing. So why do I feel so icky?

Legally Inane

I don’t know about you, but if I was a passenger on US Airways flight 1549 last week that miraculously landed in the Hudson River without a single casualty, I’d be dancing a jig and celebrating every breath I inhaled for rest of my days. Not so for Joe Hart, a Charlotte based salesman, who suffered a bloody nose during the emergency water landing. He wants “to be made whole” for the incident and scoffed at the gracious $5000 check US Airways sent each and every passenger on board that plane. A little something to “help with immediate needs” after the crash, explained US Airways.

But, lo and behold, it’s not enough for Joe and a few other disgruntled passengers, all of whom have contacted lawyers and are considering legal action against the airline. Their cause is being championed by the National Air Disaster Alliance and Foundation who claims that the $5000 is merely a drop in the bucket.

Passengers argue that they lost more than $5000 worth of laptops, nursing equipment, clothing, etc… And poor Mr. Hart, he’s having a hard time flying again. He’s tense and super sensitive to turbulence. Oh, well, maybe he ought to notice THAT HE’S ALIVE!

My cynical husband said this would happen. “Just wait,” he warned on the day after the crash. “It’s just a matter of time before one of those lucky-to-be-alive passengers sues US Airways for some kind of negligence or reckless endangerment.”

“That’s utterly absurd,” I told him. “What would make you say such a horrible thing? Those people have got to be so grateful for just being alive.”

Fast forward to yesterday when the stories began to emerge about pending legal action against the airline that saved 155 lives because of the amazing forethought and technical prowess of one Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger. It’s enough to make a person sick. This may be the single most inane illustration of voracious greed I have ever witnessed. There’s no one to blame for what happened to flight 1549. The plane collided with a flock of geese, for God’s sake. It’s not like the pilot was banging the flight attendant and slammed into the side of a skyscraper.

The law firm “Kreindler & Kreindler” in NY, that represents crash survivors, confirms that they’ve been contacted by several passengers. I really can’t get my mind around this. What kind of negligence, malfeasance or mechanical misdemeanor are these ungrateful nitwits charging? Geese are kind of outside the pilot’s jurisdiction.

There is some shred of hope in all this. Amber Wells, another Charlotte passenger on board flight 1549 says that she’s so grateful to have survived and be with her 9-month-old baby, she hasn’t even thought about her belongings. “Everything that’s gone can be replaced,” said Wells, “My life cannot be replaced.”

Well, Halleluiah for one voice of reason in the midst of the cacophony of insanity and entitlement. I hope US Airways fights every single lawsuit that comes their way. They did everything right, and if they settle even one of these baseless law suits, whose sole purpose is to make some fast, easy cash, they’ll be demeaning themselves and discrediting the heroism of Captain “Sully” and his entire flight crew.