I like to watch people. When I sit in an airport or on a plane, I watch for subtle social interactions. Sometimes they are humorous, like the guy who tried to tell my traveling companion to go to the back of the “B” line at Southwest’s terminal in San Antonio yesterday. He almost wet himself when I confronted him. The funny thing was watching the line bully change from an aggressor to a complete sissy when I lowered my voice and told him, “she is traveling with me”. He actually blanched when I spoke to him, going from healthy looking to oh-my-god-I-made-the-big-man-mad pasty white. I hate line bullies – but I hate racists more.
Living in LA, I don’t normally see open racism any more. But I’ve been working in Texas and Mexico over the last few weeks. Racism is alive and well in the lone star state’ it more overt racism than subtle racism so it is easier to see. Like eating dinner at a nice restaurant and then watching the whole establishment go quiet when a young black couple enters. After a few experiences like this, I started paying more attention to one on one social interaction. I got interesting at the airport.
I had already boarded the plane. My seat was two rows from the back of the aircraft on the isle. I watch the plane fill up. The line bully sat five rows ahead of me on an isle seat. He looked back. We made eye contact. It was not a friendly exchange of glances. A few minutes a later, a scraggly looking young black man walked down the isle. He wore a vest that showed his arms and a leather cowboy hat. An iPod mini hung from his neck. He carried not baggage. I had him pegged as a hurricane evacuee, like many of the other people on the flight, in my mind he was running for the safety of LA. As the iPod dude approached the Line Bully, he stopped and asked if the middle seat was open. He spoke in a gentle and polite southern accent; I thought he was from Georgia. The Line Bully lied. He claimed the seat was taken by person in the bathroom. Thank god for honest people, the woman in the window seat made it clear that the middle seat was indeed open. I watched as the iPod dude climbed into his seat. The Line Bully looked back towards my seat searching with anguished eyes for an open seat. I could tell he was completely repulsed by the idea of sitting next to a black man. I change my demeanor from passive observer, to aggressive challenger as he sought to make eye contact with me again. His smile faded – I would not be an ally in his search for an open seat. He rose from his seat to look around. There were still a few open middle seats, and one open isle seat. It happened to be across the isle from me. He moved to claim is new seat. When he approached, he asked the lady in widow seat about the isle seat “is this seat taken?” She replied, “Yes, by a woman in the bathroom”. It was a lie too – the seat remained open the whole flight.