A follow-up article in The Guardian referencing a recent in-the-air event where a drunken airline passenger became loud, obnoxious, and grabbed a flight attendant’s breasts and consequently had to be subdued, notes that United Airlines has asked its employees to not use duck tape to restrain unruly passengers. The Guardian notes examples of other airline crews using duck tape for the same purpose, one incident being when an American Airlines passenger tried to open the door and go outside in order to see if the cloud they were flying through was made out of cotton candy.
(On a side note, I understand there has been a long debate regarding whether this adhesive material is called duck tape or duct tape. Actually, it’s called duct ape. I, however, will be referring to it as duck tape because that’s what the Guardian refers to it as, and also it’s what I and my buddies referred to it as when we were in the Pacific theater during World War II fighting the Japanese, because it was waterproof, hence the duck reference. And yes, I’m that old. A hundred and six).
The Guardian states that in a memo sent to United Airlines employees last Friday, United flight attendants were urged to “please remember that there are designated items onboard that may be used in difficult situations, and alternative measures such as tape should never be used.”
What designated items are they talking about? An inflatable jail? A box of Junior Mints to force feed passengers that have become violent due to low blood sugar? What?
The list of duck taping goes on with further examples. My first thought was that if the crew is not supposed to duck tape people, why is duck tape considered a necessity for every flight. I’m guessing it’s kept on board in case a wing becomes unglued. Seems reasonable.
But United Airlines management sent a memo instructing their people not to use duck tape on unglued humans. The memo says, “the overwhelming majority of our customers have been on their best behavior…and returned to our flights with confidence and enthusiasm.”
I think I’m missing their point here. I think it’s a good point to make about duck taping people to their seats when they’re sitting and reading a magazine, but I don’t see how it relates to people who are grabbing stewardesses’ privates and/or other personal areas.
If the Guardian will allow me to quote further from their article, they note that ‘In instances of disorderly behavior, United said, employees should resort to standard de-escalation measures, including using “the huddle process” which involves discussing the situation with the captain, customer service representatives and ground security coordinator for evaluation and solutions.’
I don’t think there’s really time for all that when female from 31-C is trying to jerk the handle on the emergency exit to see if all the people in the plane will be sucked out all at once or one at a time. What I do know for sure, though, is that no matter where you work, no matter who your employer is, should you as an employee be faced with an emergency situation requiring immediate action—possibly to save the lives of actual people—no matter what you do, your superiors in management will not hesitate for a second to throw you under the bus. Or the plane, as the case may be.
Employees—of any company—have little to no time to assess the convenience or morality of having to resolve a situation with their wits and immediate judgement. What they worry about—and why they often hesitate so long, waiting to see how bad the disaster could possibly be if they do nothing (never a good idea)—is what their boss is going to say. And they have good reason to worry, because despite being an “associate” or a “member of the company family,” when push comes to shove, non-management employees are expendable, kind of like the crew of the Nostromo in Alien when robot science officer Ash’s directive was to get the monster back to the defense department. Management protects the monster, not you.
Also, I can only imagine, given such an emergency as described above, that should you employ “the huddle process,” whoever you’re seeking advice from is going to say, “Why are you talking to me! Don’t you know where the duck tape is!” So, the employee (you) will be in Dutch for that—dawdling and thus being the sole reason for all the ensuing horror.
The Guardian further notes that United said ‘Attendants were also directed to use the safety manual to guide decision-making if they feel a customer should be denied onboard service.’
Huh? In case of emergency go read the safety manual or tell the passenger they’re SOL on any more free macadamia nuts?
United offered no insight as to what this safety manual says the flight attendant is supposed to do. Also, whoever was interviewing them for this article didn’t feel it necessary to ask. But, if I had to guess, I would imagine the safety manual says something like this:
Instructions for dealing with passengers who are uncooperative, belligerent, or presenting a threat or potential danger to the crew or other passengers:
- Engage the particular passenger in a firm but compassionate manner. Say, “Is that a sad face I see? Let’s turn that frown upside down.”
- If that does not improve the situation or disposition of said passenger, threaten to call their mother.
- If the passenger continues to be disruptive, offer to let them fly the plane. This will both allow you to isolate the passenger from the rest of the passengers by securing them in the cockpit, as well as giving them something to preoccupy themselves with until the plane reaches its termination point, be that the destination airport or Lake Michigan.
The Guardian concludes United’s thoughts with, ‘Employees were also reminded that “in the event [they] are unable to reach an agreement with a customer about one of our safety-related policies (I’m thinking the one about don’t open the doors when the plane is in the air), [they] should follow [their] regular de-escalation and training process and always use [their] best judgment.”
Unless their judgment involves duck tape. Also, whatever [their] best judgment is, will be reviewed later as the wrong thing to have done.
On a side note, I have to say I’m getting very tired of hearing the term “de-escalation” and “de-escalate.” Also, “insufficient training” is a popular phrase for laying blame upon people you don’t know on a first-name basis but who you expect to do most of society’s heavy lifting. There is no wisdom or training sufficient that you can infuse into people who are designated in any way shape or form as being a protector—in any context—in order for them to benevolently resolve a problem instigated by people who are bat shit crazy. Who might I be talking about here? Who could it be? Could it be…the police? If you want the police to “de-escalate” every potentially dangerous situation so that the perpetrator just shakes his head and says, “Gee, I don’t know what got into me, sorry,” then arm the police with cannisters of Fairy Dust.
I was listening to a writer named Eyal Press interviewed last night on NPR. He wrote a book called “Dirty Work” about jobs that are terrible and nobody wants. One of these was prison guard. He was beyond himself with glee as he talked about how awful prison guards are. He then noted a prison guard he interviewed extensively. This person said that his feeling was that the prison guards get blamed for everything and nobody on the outside realizes what they have to deal with. And Mr. Press said, “Of course, that’s the statement you would expect from somebody in that position.”
So, no discussion, no interest—the statement doesn’t fit your agenda and so it’s dismissed with a glib rationalization.
Let’s stop doing that. Let’s stop throwing people under the bus because it’s convenient or prevents us from having to either be in an uncomfortable position or acknowledge not everybody subscribes to our personal agenda one hundred percent.
Also, I watched a PBS documentary last night about Woodstock on American Experience. Go watch it. Take a little ninety-minute break from the world we currently live in and go watch the towns people making sandwiches for the hippies when the hippies’ food ran out. Go watch the Army flying in doctors on Huey helicopters because the Woodstock people had no medical supplies. And go watch Max Yasgur, a conservative update New York dairy farmer on whose farm everybody was, standing on stage before the microphone, looking out on his ruined fields laid waste by the 400,000 people trampling through it—a horde he states having never envisioned—and hear him say with the utmost sincerity, “The important thing that you’ve proven to the world, is that a half million kids—and I call you kids because I have children that are older than you are—that a half a million people can get together and have three days of fun and music, and have nothing but fun and music—and I God bless you for it.”