Monday, June 27, 2011

It's Weird Up There

You know it's the silly season when media reports - in the United States, where I live, anyway - are filled with reports about a man dressing in exposed women's underwear while flying, a college student with trousers hanging below his waist being taken into custody and escorted off a plane, and the Internet buzzing about a pilot who inadvertently complained into a radio frequency about the unattractiveness of female flight attendants and preponderence of gays at his airline.

Is there nothing better to talk about? Apparently not, at least not in the slow old summertime.

Critics charge - they're always charging something, have you noticed? - that the aforementioend pilot, an employee of Southwest Airlines, was inappropriate in his choice of comments. No doubt he was, though he didn't know anyone except his co-pilot was listening to remarks made in the cockpit that were in fact disseminated through parts of the U.S. aviation communications system. Said critics are now demanding the pilot undergo sensitivity training. Good luck with that. The opinions, which veer on the knuckle-dragging side, are nonetheless this fellow's personal opinions. As long as they don't interfere with safe and efficient operation of an aircraft, it's hard to image they constitute a truly serious offense.

The guy who flew in women's undies? A 65-year-old white guy with white hair, photographed on a smart phone in purple halter and bare midrift, a choker, long black stockings and tight purple underwear. He told the San Francisco Chronicle that he flies like this a lot, doesn't mean to offend anyone and does it for fun. He is apparently an elite level frequent flier on US Airways and describes himself as a business consultant.

As it happens, US Airways is the same airline that tossed the college student, an African American football player, off a flight before take-off after he allegedly refused to hitch up his pants when the flight crew asked him to, and then - in the airline's account - grew belligerent. The student says, no, he was cooperative and was sitting in his seat when approached and his underwear - described as skintight by several fellow passengers - couldn't be seen. The NAACP has gotten involved, claiming this is a clear case of racial profiling. The young man has a lawyer. In America, where racial animus has been boiling over for generations, playing the race card is always a possibility, as is litigation.

US Air compounds its public relations and customer relations problem by saying the airline has no dress code; people are free to fly as long as their private parts are concealed, according to the Phoenix-based carrier.

That still leaves a lot of territory for debate and disagreement. In the usual venting and rage-o-rama, common sense, whether by airline or passengers, seems to have gone missing. Yet, having some regard for the sensitivites of others, whether enforced by rule or not, doesn't seem like such a bad idea. Is keeping one's snarky opinions of fellow employees to oneself really that hard? How about covering up one's body? Hard? Really hard? We don't have to start issing burkas for passengers to put on in transit, just exercise a minimum amount of courtesy.

And so the battle rages, along with ongoing media coverage - and media commentary, like this post. And just think, it's only June. Wait till the really slow news months roll around. July and August should be doozies.

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