It’s been an interesting time in the news of late, what, with all the Donald and Hillary talk. But today, this was all over the television: a licensed doctor volunteered to help a sick man on a Delta flight and was evidently told to put her hand down as they were looking for a ‘real’ physician. The woman indicated that the man who was asked to assist the person in distress had not produced any credentials either but ‘looked the part’. The female doctor was Black, while the male doctor was White.
My heart aches for various reasons.
First, I have been through my fair share of medical emergencies with family members. It is a terrifying thing and if someone volunteers to help, I am grateful. Second, as a Black woman with a terminal degree, I am questioned often — ‘Oh!’ people exclaim as they read my custom vehicle license plates, ‘Are you a doctor?’ I say that I am not a medical doctor but have a doctorate in education. Some go on to ask if I teach and we exchange pleasantries. Others look at me like I am lying and begin to test me.
They end up embarrassed.
But one more reason my heart aches is that the issue is not a flight staff-to-passenger one only. Passengers treat flight staff members in the worst of ways, particularly if that staff member doesn’t fit the stereotype. I’ve seen older women berated and don’t even get me started on Black men and women.
I was on my way back from Jersey once and we had a Black female staff member in our area. The way the other passengers talked to her was beyond belief. She was the most patient person on earth. I had brought a favorite snack with me — a bag of Lee’s chicken wings.
Wait, I must pause in honor of these morsels right here. You have not had a piece of chicken until you’ve eaten one of the wings from this particular Chinese restaurant. Where I came from, such spots are a go-to. A staple, I tell you. Lee is the owner but he delivers, cooks, rings up, you name it. Anyway, the wings, the fried rice, the egg foo yung, the iced tea … heaven. So I brought back some wings for my travel snack since buying whatever that is that passes for food on the plane was just not even a consideration. And I wasn’t prepared to take out a second mortgage to buy food in the airport.
Long story short, I gave this flight staff person my last wing.
I asked her if she was okay after a particularly difficult encounter with a fellow passenger. She said she was, but that she was hungry. ‘Would you like a chicken wing?’ I asked.
‘Are you serious?’
‘Yes,’ I answered. ‘They are fresh. I haven’t touched this last one. It’s yours. Just heat it up. Or not,’ I said.
She took it like it was the last food on earth and thanked me. We were fast friends for the eighty-nine hour remainder of the trip. Okay, so maybe it was only five or six, but you get the point.
Anyway, people are the worst and we seem to bring out the worst in each other.
But we can bring out the best as well.
Can we try that? Just every so often?
Otherwise, the alternative is to let the machines take over. At least we know where we stand with them.
Sometimes, it doesn’t seem much different.