On the way to Michigan, my plane encountered a mechanical problem. After sitting on the runway for more than an hour, the pilot asked us to disembark while they attempted to find us another plane.
An hour later, another aircraft was located, and we were assigned a new gate. This gate was designed for a much smaller plane, so there was little room inside the space to sit or even stand. As a result, my fellow passengers and I were spilling out into the concourse.
Then an announcement was made from the podium, and because I couldn't hear it in the noise of the concourse, I stepped into the space to listen. This placed me at the entrance to the Zone 2 line, where passengers were beginning to line up.
I was in Zone 4. I would be one of the last to board the plane, which I usually prefer. I wasn't carrying a roller bag, so I wasn't concerned about overhead space, and like to get on the plane at the last possible second.
As I listened to the announcement, a middle-aged man in a suit tapped me on the shoulder. "Excuse me," he barked. "What zone are you in?"
"Four," I said.
"Excuse me then," he said, rather abruptly. He pointed up at the Zone 2 sign hanging over my head and then jerked his head to the left in a gesture meant to tell me to move away from the entrance to the Zone 2 lane so we could get a spot.
Shockingly, I complied. Despite his abruptness and rudeness, I was still listening to the announcement, and I wasn't fully cognizant about what was happening.I followed his order.
Then the man brushed past me with a huff, walked about eight feet, and assumed his spot in line.
Then it hit me.
What zone am I in? Did he really just ask me that question?
The guy couldn't wait another ten seconds for this announcement to finish? He could see that there was no room in this waiting area for all of us. He could see that I wasn't actually in the Zone 2 line or trying to get into the Zone 2 line. He was on the plane with me less than an hour ago. He knew the deal. And yet he motions me aside like he has some kind of "Zone 2 authority" over me?
And instead of just saying, "Excuse me," he asks me what zone I'm in?
Maybe it was the hour spent on the runway or the hour spent in the terminal that had me a little edgier than usual, but a second later I stepped into the Zone 2 lane, walked up on the guy, and tapped him on the shoulder.
"Excuse me," I said, aggressively. "What zone are you in?"
The man turned. He looked startled. "Zone 2," he said.
"Zone 2?" I asked, flatly. Staring him in the eye.
"Yes," he said. "What?"
"I just wanted to know what zone you were in today. Since you were so curious about my zone."
Then I just stared for another second. A long second. Finally I turned, left the Zone 2 line, and bought a pretzel.
The man looked concerned about my behavior, and he gave me side-eye until we boarded the plane. Rightfully so. I was acting like a crazy person. Rather than engaging in simple, polite, verbal combat or expressing my displeasure over the way he spoke to me, I decided to out-crazy him. I stood close, stared, and sounded crazy.
It wasn't nice.
Elysha hates when I do this. She worries that I'm going to run into someone someday who out-crazies my crazy. She's absolutely right. And to my credit, I have decreased these moments of public confrontation considerably.
The mechanical failure of the plane, the time spent on the runway, the delays, and travel in general had me on edge.
But if ever there was a place to out-crazy someone, it's probably an airport terminal. I knew the guy had undergone a thorough screening before entering the terminal and had no weapons on his person. Other than a possible punch in the face, I was as safe as I could be.
Still it wasn't nice.
There's a time and place in this world to call out people who aren't being kind, polite, civil, or decent, but there is also a way to do it. A better way.
It was one of those moments when I was simultaneously thrilled with the way I handled the situation and disappointed with the way I handled the situation.