Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bathroom Bandit

Driving to the airport on Monday, I heard a discussion on a radio call-in show about some poor bloke who was in jail because he dared to use the wrong bathroom. Let me explain.

Joao Correa made a big mistake. Prior to taking a Delta Airlines flight from Honduras to the USA, he decided to get something to eat. No article I have seen relates what the offending food item was, but we're talking Honduras, OK? Probably pretty much everything around you falls into the category of "not to be taken internally". Anyway, about 30 minutes into the flight poor Joao was caught short by the dreaded Montezuma's revenge. Still, at least he was on a plane positively replete with bathrooms, and the seat belt sign was off so no problem, eh? Alas, no. This was a Delta 737 flight, seemingly crewed by staff who graduated from the Stalin School of Service Person Charm.

On a 737 there is but one aisle which, at the time of Joao's attack was blocked by the drinks cart. The ever helpful stewardess, on hearing of his dilemma, thoughtfully refused to move. After all, pushing a metal cart full of fizzy sugar water is important airline-type business, is it not? Joao, fearing the inevitable and fast-approaching roar of the aforementioned offended Mexican deity, asked if he could use the business class bathroom. This, too, was refused.

After a few more minutes back in his seat, with the cart still in the way, Joao could take it no more and made a run for the business class lavatory. The stewardess apparently put out her arm to stop him so he pushed it out of the way - or twisted it, if you take her side on this one - finally getting into to a place where his bottom could explode in safety, thereby avoiding incommoding both himself and likely anyone else within a radius of 50 feet.

Upon landing, adding further insult to injury, poor Joao was arrested and slung in jail for two days while being charged with interference with a flight crew. Oh, and in case you didn't know, TSA says using the wrong class of bathroom on an international flight is also against the - or rather, its - law, so he's probably up on that charge too.

What on earth has happened to common human decency and empathy with one's fellow man? I've seen flight attendants move carts for bathroom-bound passengers countless times. It's easy, too, just to step into a row and allow the cart to shuffle back and forth but once in order to get past. Why in God's name do some flight attendants think they are there solely to control passengers and not to help them? If you don't want to be in the service business then for heaven's sake please go and find a profession more suited to your temperament: debt collecting or rodent extermination might be more suitable, or how about Amish-style dentistry? And quite frankly, what was the poor guy supposed to bloody well do? Letting nature take its course would be far from pleasant for poor Joao, and decidedly miserable for every other passenger within sniffing or squelching distance too. I for one wouldn't care less if I never even got my fizzy sugar water if it meant avoiding that particular outcome.

Flight attendants are supposed to be there to help, aid and assist passengers, not to wield power over them just for the sake of a quiet life or, worse, just because they can. The vast majority I encounter firmly fall into that "keen to help" category, even at times when passengers can be a right royal pain in the ass. However, to my mind this is at the level of a medical emergency and should be treated as such. Bad job Delta. Back to the retraining camp on this one.

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