I don’t understand how this episode could happen as it has been described. I am assuming for the purpose of the post that it did, and thus have almost nothing to add to the story other than to ask “What the hell is the matter with these people?”
Tahera Ahmad, an associate chaplain and director of interfaith engagement at Northwestern, described the alleged incident on Facebook while she was on the United flight from Chicago to Washington, D.C. Friday night.She wrote that she was in tears following an ugly episode that began with her request for a Diet Coke when the beverage service reached her row. The flight attendant had given her an opened can of Diet Coke. When Ahmad requested an unopened can, the flight attendant told her, “Well, I’m sorry. I just can’t give you an unopened can, so no Diet Coke for you.”
Then the same flight attendant gave another passenger an unopened can of beer. Ahmad said she asked why the man was given an unopened beverage can, but she was forbidden from having one. The flight attendant, according to Ahmad, replied, “We are unauthorized to give unopened cans to people, because they may use it as a weapon on the plane.”
Ahmad told the flight attendant she felt she was being discriminated against, and the flight attendant quickly grabbed the man’s beer can, opened it and said, “It’s so you don’t use it as a weapon.” When Ahmad asked for support from other passengers, a man sitting in an aisle across from her said, “You Muslim, you need to shut the fuck up,” Ahmad said.
“What?” a shocked Ahmad said. The passenger looked her in the face and said, “Yes you know you would use it as a weapon, so shut the fuck up.” “Some people just shook their heads in dismay,” Ahmad wrote on Facebook. But nobody rose to her defense.
After the flight, the attendant and the pilot apologized to her, and United issued a lame mea culpa. It doesn’t matter. Everybody on the plane except for Tahera Ahmad should hang their heads in shame.
What the hell is United (or whoever made the “unopened can” policy, if there really is such a deranged policy) thinking? A can of soda is a weapon? There must be hundreds of things in carry-on luggage that would make a more plausible weapon than a soda can. Like pens. Like laptops. Like powercords. Like dop kits. Like electric razors.
Like fists and feet. Ridiculous.
Gee, I always thought they opened those cans to be nice…
What the hell was the flight attendant thinking? Making that excuse to Ahmad, and then handing a male passenger an unopened can right in front of her? What an obvious insult!
What the hell was the man with the beer thinking? Why didn’t he stand up for Ahmad right then and there? Did he want his beer that much? What a craven jerk. I guess he didn’t want to get involved. The town in “High Noon” was filled with people like this, but I thought it was just anti-American propaganda.
What the hell was the crude, bigoted passenger thinking? She would use a can as a weapon? Nobody ever uses a can as weapon. Telling a woman to “shut the fuck up” like that…Where was this jerk raised, in Bull Connor’s house? What civilized American male is gratuitously insulting like that to a woman or anyone, except in “Mississippi Burning” or “Billy Jack”?
What the hell were the other attendants thinking? They are in charge of order on the plane; they can’t let that kind of abuse of a passenger pass. This is a breach of responsibility and duty. And also cowardly.
What the hell were the other passengers thinking? Why weren’t a slew of them in that passenger’s face, and reprimanding the flight attendant?
This isn’t the United States of America I thought I knew. The incident is not quite as bad as the incidents of bystanders ignoring muggings, beatings, child abuse and helpless people in distress, but it’s bad enough.
* UPDATE 1: Reader Jay Wohlman reminds me, correctly, that there undoubtedly were passengers who were unaware of the episode. By “everybody,” I do not mean to impugn them.
UPDATE 2: Here’s more from Slate, including the original Facebook post, and reports of a looming boycott. No action, coordinated or otherwise, is fair or justified until the basic facts of the complaint have been confirmed. Obviously something happened, and it was not about Diet Coke. By the way, I have occasionally asked for a full and unopened can, and been handed one without comment. But unlike this young woman, I don’t look like someone who wants to whip off a sock, stick the can in one, and start swinging.