Don’t Be That Guy

This is still bothering me, so let me just briefly write it up. Content note for possible domestic violence.


Flying back from my writing retreat, I had a layover in Dallas, long enough to stop and grab some fast food pizza. I sat at a long bar with an empty seat to my right, and a man on a computer beyond that. I didn’t get a good look at him — was reading my book and listening to music on headphones — but impression was of a young-ish white man, maybe late 20s.

He first grabbed my attention when he started not-quite-but-almost-shouting “I don’t fucking care!” Glanced over, realized he was on the phone with someone, using headphones. Tried to tune him out, mostly succeeded, as he continued to rant for a while. Something about flight delays.

A little later, a young woman showed up, politely asked if the seat next to mine was taken, and then sat down between me and him. It quickly became obvious that they were together, as he’d stopped yelling at the phone and was now ranting at her. Not quite yelling AT her, but clearly super-upset about their flight situation. She tried to calm him down, especially when he escalated to shouting, and suggested that he could go talk to the airport person.

Any time she didn’t immediately echo his take on the situation, suggesting maybe it wasn’t quite as malicious as he was taking it, he’d get angrier and accuse her of gaslighting him. It was super-tense-making for me; I was genuinely worried about her.

After a little while, he did get up and storm off, which gave me the opportunity to touch her arm, and when I had her attention, ask if she was okay. She was even younger than I’d first thought, maybe 20 or so. She, clearly embarassed, reassured me that she was fine, that he wasn’t mad at her.

They’d apparently had their first flight delayed, missed a connection, got scheduled onto a second flight….and then it all went to hell, in ways that aren’t very clear to me. The end result being that they had missed the second flight, the third flight, and were now waiting for their fourth possible connecting flight.

I said some things about how if it was the airlines’ fault and they got stranded, they should be able to get a hotel for the night and some meals out of the airline, maybe a free flight. She looked tired in response, and said they hadn’t offered anything like that. I said it might be worth asking, and then I turned back to my book; I didn’t want to bother her too much, and I’d need to go board my own flight in ten minutes.

Then he came back, and starting ranting / shouting some more. Not quite loudly enough to attract airport security, although they were certainly getting plenty of looks from other people in the area. I thought about intervening — but what do you say, especially when you’re about to leave? I didn’t want to risk escalating the situation and making it worse for her, possibly making her a real target for his frustration.

As a particularly irritating side note, he was now ranting about the “racist bitch” airline person who had “deliberately” kept them from getting on one of the flights because “she’d decided she didn’t like us for some reason.”

Buddy, I suspect I know the reason.

I don’t know the race of the airline person, but given that he certainly looked white, I’m guessing she was Black or otherwise visibly POC. Clearly, that added to his fury.

Another woman (young, white, pretty) sat down on the other side of him, and at first, I thought she was part of their group too, because she started chatting with him about missed connections and flights and how she’d been stuck in the airport since 8 a.m. (It was now close to 9 p.m.) But it became clear after a bit that they’d just met — she introduced herself and got him to do the same. By the time I had to leave, five minutes later, she’d calmed him down, getting him to even chuckle a little.

I caught her eye for the briefest instant, and it’s sort of amazing how much you can convey in that — me saying, “You okay? Can you believe this guy?” and her saying, “It’s okay, I know how to handle him.” So I felt sort of okay, going off to catch my flight.

Although still worried about the young woman he was travelling with, and what would happen if he hit another roadblock that day. Or some other day. The mom in me really wanted to take her aside and say, “Sweetheart, are you sure you want to be dating a man with this kind of temper?”

I don’t really have a conclusion to any of this. It was an awful sequence.

I guess mostly I just want to say, travel can be sucky, especially now with all the cancellations, etc., but no matter how frustrated and exhausted you are, don’t be that guy.


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