SUPER LONG POST ABOUT GETTING LIGHTLY GAY BASHED & FILIPINO BASHED ON A PLANE MONDAY NIGHT. HAVE FUN! I’m on an airplane. I feel moderately queasy and am glad for my aisle seat. I glance back to measure the distance to the lavatory. A woman appears over me and pierces the air with her vuvuzela voice.
Her: Can I sit here to be near my kids?
She gestures across the aisle, past a large man partially obscuring a teenage girl and a slightly younger boy, 2 quiet, capable-looking humans. She gives no additional information. I look up at her again.
Me: I would prefer to stay in the aisle.
I try to say it with need in my voice. She shrugs, smiles blandly and climbs over me to the middle seat. She makes short conversation soon after: “Do you speak Spanish? No? What are you? Filipino? Oh.”
2 hours pass. 2 beers are served. I passively take note of her constant carousel of behavior past the left tip of my book: of yelling toward her daughter “QUE HORA ES!?” (though people closer have watches), of talking loudly at the meek, window-trapped college girl and of glancing hungrily over at her children absorbed in glowing tablets.
She hollers for the time again, leaning a little too close to my ear.
At this point, I am embarrassed for her daughter. So bloody embarrassed. Embarrassed at her obvious need for her children to need her. Embarrassed that she can’t tell that Window Girl just wants to read. I’m embarrassed that the one time her son turns to find her during turbulence, she doesn’t bother to glance over, lost in her own bellowing head.
Her final holler jars me. I glance over at her daughter with an “I’m so sorry your Mom is doing this” look, but her face is blank. That’s good, I guess. I glance toward Vuvuzela, inches from my now blank expression. Her eyes are glazed and narrow, locked on mine. Her voice is now more of a slow french horn.
Her: You are rude, you know that?
Her: You are looking at us. You don’t need to look.
Me: You were talking loudly in my ear.
Her: You are rude. You said no to me to sit next to my children. You must not have children. You do not understand motherhood.
Umm, lady, you have no idea the things I know about motherhood. I look over at her kids again who are still very capable of safely pre-heating an oven. The Aisle Guy stares straight ahead, uninvolved. I pull out my earbuds.
Me: I said I preferred to sit in the aisle.
Her: Heh, yeah. I see your face. You look like my sister.
Her voice drops further, grimacing.
Her: She is gay. You look gay.
Me: I am gay. (What the heck. Why not just go for it, you know?)
Her: I knew it! That is why you are rude. You are gay. No offense, but I can tell.
Me: Great! (Unsarcastically, I swear, bc to take offense at being gay is, well, dumb.)
She relaxes her visage. I take that moment to check in with myself. More queasy. Tingling all over. Breathe deep. Stay sane.
Her: Yeah! I love my sister. I mean no offense. That is where we are going. I am going to stay with my sister and her girlfriend in Pasadena. I love her very much.
Her: But you are rude and I can see it in your face that you are gay and that is why you are like this.
Me: Again, the sound was jarring.
She mocks my last sentence, bobbling her head around. I am impressed by her limited emotional & intellectual capacity.
Her: You know, Filipinos and Mexicans are the same. BUT… Filipinos are much louder than Mexicans. MUCH louder.
Me: Actually, it did sound like family. (Not lying. It crossed my mind how familiar the vuvu was.)
Her: I don’t think so!
She crosses her arms. My stomach gurgles. I push the call button and wonder if my face triggers some unconscious rage toward her sister. I wonder if her sister silently judges her. A gentlemanly flight attendant checks in.
Me: Hi. I’m having an experience. This woman was yelling to her child over there. I looked at them and now she is telling me that I am rude and that my face is gay.
Her: Because she is looking at my kid and me! She doesn’t need to look. I can see she is gay and that is why.
Me: I looked… one time.
Her: I asked her to switch so I can be near my kids. She says no because she is rude.
The attendant is following our story, taking it all in like a champ.
Attendant: (to me) Okaaay. Do you want to move? I can move you.
Me: I’m fine. I’m not angry. (pause, then slowly) Just, could you please not serve her any more alcohol?
He glances at her litter strewn tray and gossip mag she never opened.
Attendant: (to her) Would YOU like to move? We have other seats all over.
Her: No! If she isn’t going to move then me neither!
I giggle inside. I don’t want to move because I am tired and sick and we only have 30 minutes left and I don’t care enough. She seems to think it’s some showdown.
Aisle Guy Next to Kids: I’ll move! I can switch.
Her: Oh THANK YOU! You are SO. NICE.
She reaches her hands out to him in reverence. The flight attendant offers him a nice seat near the front. He is excited by this. I am genuinely happy for him.
She bouquets together her cup of coke, her cup of beer & her can of whatever and I initiate contact.
Me: You know, you could have asked that man to switch. Or asked a steward. (Or had your teen sit with the girls while you sat with the boy. Duh.)
Her: I asked YOU. And you said NO.
Me: You still would have been far away. I have a reason why I need to be in the aisle right now.
Her shoulders drop. “Oh.” Her face drops.
I stand next to the flight attendant while she stumbles across the aisle.
Me: I’m sorry about that. It was so weird.
Attendant: I have never seen that before.
Me: Yeah. Wow.
And with that she is holding court with her kids, laughter filling the cabin. I smile sadly to myself.
I worry about those kids. I worry about the day they see this memory with new eyes, no longer as that time the rude, gay Filipino lady kept their family apart, but as having a mother wrapped warmly in projection, assumption and privilege spewing poison.
My heart hopes there is not too much sadness under all that laughter. Someday they might realize she is the reason why they are so quiet, making constant sound to fill her lonely places. They might one day free themselves to find a voice wholly their own.
We pour out of the airplane and I watch them bounce through the terminal and I feel like a jerk. I’m probably wrong about all of it. I mean, they seem pretty close.
And then I see her leave them and walk straight into the men’s room. She yelps, walks back out and immediately blames them for her mistake.
One corner of my mouth twitches as I walk past.
Alaska Airlines Flight: 524
Itinerary: Seattle to Burbank
Author: Sandra Daugherty
Aisle Seat: 24C
Date of Incident: March 31, 2014
***Originally posted to my Facebook profile April 1, 2014.