My original intention was not to be writing today. I am in the process of packing and preparing for pitches at Romance Writers of America (RWA) Nationals tomorrow. However, I took a break to pick my oldest son up at the airport from a three week visit to his grandparents in Mississippi.
Upon arrival, a U.S. Airways representative directed me to the special services line for a pass to get by security to pick up my unaccompanied minor. When placed in the line, I was behind three other customers. The normal check in line was much longer and the man at the front of the line started yelling about how our line came from nowhere. I spoke to him, maybe I shouldn’t have, but I said, “This is a special services line, I’m just here to pick up an unaccompanied minor.” In my defense, I said it in a very polite way, not intending to inflame him, but to reassure him. It didn’t work.
He barked back, “I’ve been waiting 30 minutes and I have two young children that are hungry and crying.” I had observed one of their little girls just before he had sent her to the mother that was sitting somewhere else. She had not been crying.
I had not expected the rage that turned on me. I did get angry and said something about my child being left alone at the terminal (can’t remember my exact words), but at this point my tone was not nice.
When the people in front of me were finished, he jumped to the representative in front of me (the one he was not supposed to go to). She had no idea what was going on so proceeded to help him. I stood their stunned. This emboldened the people behind him to rush to the other special service rep before I could take a step closer. Now there was a group mob mentality that was determined I was in the wrong for doing what I had been instructed to do.
The second group that cut was promptly sent back to their other line because the representative had a limited scope of duties. She called me up, but I couldn’t speak because I was trying to hold back the tears. Getting my security pass took less than two minutes.
When I walked away, I looked back at the father. He wouldn’t look at me, but I know he heard me when I said “Now you’ve made a stranger cry today.”
So here is why he may be the inspiration for a villain in a future book. I can totally sympathize and understood where he was coming from. As a mom of four children that has traveled frequently, I know how difficult it is to navigate the system when you have whiny little ones pulling on you. But there is a point where you either cross the line or keep your emotions in check.
My daughter is taking a psychology class this summer and I’ve been lucky enough to read some of her essays. So this is my analysis of the event based on what I’m gleaming from her class. She has since told me that my interpretation is not reflective of the class as a whole, but it is based on the limited knowledge I have.
1. The father was the perpetrator.
2. I was seen as the weaker party.
3. The group in the regular line began to feel the effects of deindividuation, which means these people were acting as a group and not individuals responsible for their own actions. Then their views became polarized based on their perception of the perpetrator’s and they acted out against the “weaker party”.
The father acted out of frustration, impatience and most likely hunger, but I’m not sure why he and his family had not eaten by 9 am on a day where they were catching a flight. (His obvious lack of parenting skills is a topic for another day.) There is a study that shows that lowered glucose levels lead to higher aggression levels.
I was the weaker party. I made myself a target by speaking up. I was acting out of fear because I was first afraid I would not be able to get to my son in time and then because of all the anger directed at me.
The group felt a diffusion of responsibility because they were no longer responsible as individuals and therefore saw their actions as justified.
I reached my son in time and all was well. But who knew I would learn so much about analyzing the perfect villain from my daughter’s class and a trip to the airport?