October 13, 2010

Little Red Cutting Hood

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My parents and siblings all have this penchant for arriving at the airport ten million hours before their plane is supposed to leave.  I get that you have to take into account that security takes forever (what, with all the throwing away of perfectly good tweezers and nail cutters – they’re lethal, you know) and that there is always, at least, one notoriously late traveler who wants to cut the line, but is that really a reason to arrive at the airport three hours before your flight?  In my opinion, no.  But when big brother Keith is the one driving, my opinion counts for very little.  Sometimes I get the feeling that it doesn’t count at all.  And that is how I ended up at the front of the line to pass through security two hours and forty-six minutes before my plane was even be ready to board.

As I stood there, I sort of pulled a backwards George Clooney in Up in the Air.  I looked around at the three different lines to identify which was moving fastest, second fastest and at snail speed.  I subsequently started to walk towards the slowest line when a woman ran up to me, huffing and puffing like she was Little Red Riding Hood, running away from the Big Bad wolf.  “I’m sorry, but do you mind if I go ahead?  My plane is supposed to start boarding in five minutes and I’m running late …” and then the woman trailed off, like I was supposed to say “oh my, that’s terrible!  Yes, please go in front of me.  I was practically created by Zeus for the sole purpose of being here to save your spot in line.  Lucky that you recognized me without my toga and ornamental wreath of olives around my head!”

Normally, I would have let her go ahead.  My plane wasn’t leaving for a while anyway, so what did it matter to me if she cut the line?  But honestly, how am I expected to write a column about uncomfortable social situations without creating them to being with?  So I let her have it.  My reply was something along the lines of, “you know what?  I have a plane that is preparing to board soon as well and I really don’t appreciate your asking me to cut in line when I planned my morning accordingly and drove here during 5 a.m. traffic just so I could make it on time.  So no. You can’t just ‘go ahead.’”

When I first opened my mouth, I sort of had this smirk on face because I was anticipating her reaction.  I think the woman mistook my smirk for a sign of understanding.  One of those “oh yeah, I’ve been there.  I feel your apprehension for missing your flight.  I dig it.  Go ahead” facial expressions.  Thus, the more I kept talking, the more bewildered her expression got, until finally she landed on a look of mixed disgust and accusation.  She went back to her spot in line without another word, but she stared me down.  She gave me one of those “if I miss my flight to Great Grandma Pearl’s funeral, it’s because of you” looks.  I don’t know how she did it, but that waffle-mouthed witch-with-a-‘B’ made me feel bad that she arrived to the airport late.  It was suddenly my responsibility to make sure she caught her flight.  Aw, (hazel)nuts.

I’m not much for guilt (I can’t really imagine that anyone is) so I dismounted my high horse and found Great Grandma Pearl’s ancestor in the back of the line, and told her that I hoped she would accept my apology for snapping at her earlier (that is, approximately two minutes and eighteen seconds before).  I told her that I was conducting a social experiment to see how line cutters would react to being told that there were no cuts, no buts and no kicking in the coconuts (that was the phrase that Spencer Lloyd used to drill into my pretty little head that not even Ms. Hazel could get away with cutting, especially not when trying to cut the handball line at recess).  She seemed relieved that I wasn’t actually the world’s biggest jerk, and to know that there was now a chance that she wouldn’t miss her flight, I felt better simply knowing that I had rectified the situation and regained some good karma.

And there you have it.  If you need to cut the line, just ask.  Even if someone says no, you can convince them to let you cut by just staring them down.  The real moral of the story is to watch out for those dirty looks though – not even Sun columnists are immune!

Original Author: Hazel Gunapala