Thanks to my friend Karen, and a story she posted on Facebook, I was reminded of two incidents from my past. Yes, once again – these are flying stories.
After reading the report of this woman’s arrest and detention, I can only thank God I emerged from my own civil disobedience with my non-arrest record intact, and not all that long ago. I chalk it all up to good old-fashioned civility. Read on and let me know if you agree.
This story happened more than ten years ago; well before 9/11. As passengers, we were pretty far from the myriad restrictions and constant high-alert most of us are accustomed to these days. On this particular day, I was one of the first people on the plane for an early morning flight to Chicago, courtesy of my frequent flier status. (Attaining “elite” status earned me “priority seating,” and I could board the plane before many of the other passengers. In other words, frequent fliers get the privilege of spending more time on the plane than non-frequent fliers. This is what airlines consider a reward.)
So picture this: I’m sitting on a nearly empty plane with nothing but time plus a lowered tray table in front of me. That meant one thing: time to polish my nails. Bear in mind I had done this dozens and dozens of times before in exactly the same situation. I was also well aware of the fact that the aroma of nail polish isn’t entirely pleasant, and could possibly aggravate allergies in some passengers. But because I was usually seated early, patiently waiting for the entire plane to board, I had time to start, finish and recap the bottle well before everyone was seated and the doors were closed. While traveling, I usually opted for a pale pink to minimize obvious strokes or visible mistakes.
Everything was going as planned. I had finished nine of my fingers when a female flight attendant stopped next to me and said, “You can’t polish your nails on a plane.” I thought she meant I couldn’t do it because of turbulence or some other kind of impediment, so I cheerfully replied, “Oh, it’s no problem. I do it all the time.” But I heard her wrong. She didn’t mean “can’t” because I wasn’t skilled enough. She meant “can’t” because she wouldn’t allow it. She was clearly worked up because she said again, just a bit more (read: much more) forcefully, “You can’t polish your nails on a plane.” Now, as I said, I had done nine. I had one pinky finger left.
Nope. She would have no part of this anarchy on her watch. I capped the bottle and put it away. Note that not one passenger had complained about this activity. And also that the doors weren’t closed for at least another 15 minutes. I simply complied with her ridiculous rule, but not without registering at least a little annoyance.
Once I was in the cab in Chicago, I did the last nail. Whatever.
I am nothing if not resilient. I am not a quitter. And, in the language of the grade school play yard: “She’s not the boss of me.” Which meant that the next time I took an early morning flight – same airline by the way – I again boarded early, dropped down the tray table, and started my touch up ritual with the pale pink polish.
Oh no – not again. This time, a male flight attendant stopped by my seat and started in on what I anticipated would be “the speech.” I cut him off and said, “You’re not going to tell me I can’t polish my nails on a plane, are you? Because honestly, I’m just about done here.” He seemed surprised at my response, then smiled and said, “No, I was just going to say, ‘Nice shade.’ ”
I loved him. And this little exchange taught me two things: At least back then, this kind of “no polish” rule was completely arbitrary and random. And that the female flight attendant hated working with the public. Or hated female passengers. Or hated female passengers who used their downtime on a plane to do a little grooming.
All I know is that no one detained me when I exited the aircraft. No one questioned me or arrested me because I disagreed with the flight attendant and spoke sharply to her.
I realize times were different in 1997 or 1998. I realize the world has become a scarier place with scarier people, at that’s not even counting everyone outside of Washington. But here’s the thing: can’t we all please just have one moment of sanity, clear-thinking and common sense when it comes to this kind of faux outrage and hysteria over something as ridiculous as this story? Nail polish? She was arrested over using nail polish and having an argument with a flight attendant? Are you kidding? Are you f--king kidding me?
Everyone needs to just get the hell over themselves. The only person who thinks about you every day, and worries about everything that happens to you, and is concerned that everyone treats you fairly and honestly and kindly and nicely, and will always, always, always see your side of things, and thinks that you are absolutely right in all ways about all things at all times … is you. And possibly your mother.
But I guarantee you that even the mothers of this flight attendant, the polish-wielding passenger, and the airport security officer would tell each of them to settle down and try being polite for a change. What a concept.