Change, Memory

Sometimes I like to piece together all the dominoes that had to fall in order for me to do something. Assessing the butterfly effect or the chain reaction that lead to a decision. So here are some dominoes that led to me getting into it with a fellow passenger on my flight tonight.

That’s Self Protection

In 1999 or 2000, I read Inga Muscio’s book Cunt which included a wonderful chapter on self-protection. It begins…

when you see a really drunk girl leave a bar alone late at night and you follow her and make sure she gets into her taxi all right,
that’s self protection.
when you aren’t afraid of looking like a supreme chickenshit and ask your friend to go into a public bathroom with you because it creeps you out, but not for any tangible reason,
that’s self protection.
when you are sitting on the bus and the man who sits next to you gives you a bad vibe and you get up and move to another seat without giving a rats ass about feeling like you’re being rude,
that’s self protection.

In the years that followed, I did things like drive a stranger home from a bar because she was wasted and I didn’t trust the guy who was “taking care of her.” I saw a woman who looked scared of the guy who was creeping her on the dance floor and asked if she needed help. She didn’t, he was her boyfriend. Later in the bathroom she said, “Where were you three years ago when I needed someone to step in?”

Be Kind to Service Staff

I tip 95% of waiters 20% on the bill. I try to say please and thank you. I try to call people their name after looking at their name tags and reading it.

Last week my business trip to Seattle overlapped with my dad’s vacation in Seattle, so we stayed at the same hotel and met for breakfast. At breakfast he was so kind to the waitress that I wondered if sometimes I’m too rude to hotel staff. They usually see me at my worst when I’m finally alone, but exhausted and short on patience. 

Note to self: Going forward, be as nice to the hotel staff as my dad was.

E.P.T.

I had a pregnancy scare due to failed birth control right before election day. At that time in my life, I knew I wouldn’t choose to keep the baby if I were pregnant, but every election season reminds me of that scare. And every election since then, a woman’s right to choose continues to be eroded and I move the what if scenario forward a year and figure out what I would do.

But now that women are considered pregnant two weeks before conception in Arizona, it doesn’t even matter what E.P.T. says, does it?

My Last Client

Over ten years ago, I sat in an ER with my final client from a time when I managed a sexual assault hotline. She’d just finished a rape kit and the doctor found plenty of evidence. The cops, not believing the girl, had already released the perp and he was never to be found again (while I worked at the hotline).

When my Memorial Day Chicago anniversaries come around, I often think of her and wonder what happened. I add the years I’ve been in Chicago to her age the day she was raped and think about how old she is now and what she might be doing. Did she get counseling and make it to college?

Luckily, in 2002, Preven and Plan B were both legal and available. At least she wasn’t forced to carry a pregnancy to term.

@funkatron speaks up

Today my friend Ed stepped up and called another guy on sexually harassing a mutual friend, then the following exchange happened. Image

After the exchange, Ed said it made him uncomfortable to confront the other guy, but in order for the culture of harassing women to change, people must speak up.

Delta Flight

I regularly fly United, but tonight I was on Delta. When I checked in, I didn’t like my seat, so I paid an extra $19 for an aisle towards the front of the plane.

I get on the plane and after everyone boarded, I was happy to see the middle seat was open next to me and surprised the row next to me only had one person. Then the guy behind me asks if he can move to the aisle seat across from me, but the flight attendant explains the seats are premium and she doesn’t have the authority to approve his move. He says, “but I’m a Gold Medallion member!” and she says, “I’m sorry, I can’t authorize it.”

She was stern, but clear.

As soon as she walked away, the guy started calling her Nurse Ratchet and begins what will be an entire flight of complaining about her. She even returned to say, “here’s this list of 12 Gold members sitting in coach and there’s only 3 seats. The gate agent should have done the upgrade, but I can’t make those decisions now.”

I think she went above and beyond with that gesture of showing she plays fair with all the people with status. She clearly knows the lesson, “don’t bring valentines unless you bring them for the whole class.”

Unfortunately it went downhill from that moment. He talked about her hair being pulled too tightly into her ponytail, called her Nurse Ratchet repeatedly, and said she would be a horrible wife and that he’d probably have to divorce her after a year or two tops.

Now that is a “polite” man’s way of determining a woman’s worth based on whether or not he wants to sleep with her. It made my blood begin to heat up, but when he and the other two men started talking about their wives and daughters, I really got angry.

These men have women in their lives, but still find it appropriate to lambast a woman for doing her job and making a decision that he didn’t agree with.

At the end of the flight, I was trying to imagine how I could swing my messenger bag just right and clock him with it. Then we all stood up and he turned to the man next to him and said, “think she’ll say, ‘Heeeere’s Johnny!”

I said, “She’s at the end of a long work day, why don’t you lay off.”

He apologized, then decided he didn’t owe me an apology. Among the things he said to me were that it wasn’t my business, I should buy headphones if I don’t want to listen to other people on the plane, that he flies Delta religiously and deserves better treatment, that he’d been up since 8am pacific the day before and hadn’t slept, that he travels more than me and ended by telling his seatmates, “This plane has two Nurses on it.”

I feel like I was calm, even though my heart was racing. I told him he’d made it my business by talking about her the whole flight and that he should talk to her manager if he wanted better treatment. (And that my day had started at 3am the day before, so don’t try to one up me with regards to business travel).

His seatmates looked sheepish, lots of passengers heard us and luckily for me, they cleared the aisle and let me off the plane so I wouldn’t be followed and harassed by this guy.

Today’s Lesson

When you speak up to protect someone else, you protect yourself. You have to call people on it and ask them to be civil. This road the country is heading down is so full of reality tv behavior and it has to stop.

So when you see it, name it. Call people out when they are doing a misogynist thing or doing something racist. Don’t know how? Start with Jay Smooth.

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3 Responses to Change, Memory

  1. Dave2 says:

    The thing I most detest about flying is right here. It’s the horrible people who think that everybody should bow down before them just because they’ve flown a few miles. They’re self-entitled, abusive, egotistical, and rude… and make no apology for it. I see it almost every time I fly and it makes me crazy.

  2. Karen Smith-Cheng says:

    Good going Leah!! Thanks for turning me on to Jay Smooth.

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