Many of my friends who followed “Jane’s Big Adventure: Am I in London Yet?” have wondered why I haven’t weighed in on the United Airlines debacle. Up until now, days after the event, I chose to stay quiet as I in no way wanted to equate my ordeal to the disgusting treatment of Dr. Dao. Although the incident shocked me it certainly did not surprise me. Throughout my entire 11.5 hours delay plus lost bag for 36 hours saga, I had the distinct impression that UA saw me as nothing more than a giant annoyance in their daily scheme of things.
When I viewed the video of Dr. Dao, that was what terrified me the most: United Airlines truly sees their passengers as aggravating packages to be moved from A to B in the most cost effective and efficient way. Dr. Dao’s was simply a problem package. Just like that time you had that giant TV shipped to your home and then had to wrestle and wrangle it up the front steps only to find it didn’t fit through the lounge door, Dr. Dao had the misfortune of not fitting. He was the package that spoke up. And just like you manhandled the TV to make it through the door-bashing the box on the doorframe as you shoved and tugged-so did the security officers manhandle Dr. Dao. Just another irritating package that will be made to fit their requirements.
Why does this video frighten us? I believe it is frightening because we all realize that a basic social contract has been broken. The simple assumption that you treat people with the same respect you would expect.
As some of you know, one of my interests is modern manners. I have given many presentations and taught many classes in this area and I start each session the same way. I explain that the basis of all good manners is The Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This incident highlighted the fact that United Airlines has long since stopped adhering to this contract.
They exist for their own benefit and at any point, any person can be on the receiving end of their actions. Unless we give up flying or we buy our own jets (see my GoFundMe page) we cannot truly insulate ourselves against these mega-corporations. We can, however, choose how we act in our own lives. My goal is to continue to act toward others as I hope they will act toward me. If these corporations treat us like dirt, the least we can do is treat each other like gold.
Courtesy is contagious.