Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Most Bizarre Airport Story

I have been meaning to type this story up for more than a month now.  Nearly two months actually.  That is how far behind I am in blogging (and everything else in my life).  Eeks! 

So background.  I went to the November AJLI ODI in Orlando with one of my fellow Junior League board members.  I thought for sure I would get to meet some of y'all there but when I asked and asked on Twitter, no one spoke up that they were coming too.  Bummer.

Anyway, we flew Southwest and had a stop at BWI.  This was the Thursday before the conference. 

So we are in the Southwest terminal of BWI after getting dinner, just waiting for our flight that is still a good hour away from leaving.  We're right next to the check in stand and also next to the rocking chairs.  When we hear a commotion sort of right behind us.  Whip our heads around to see an old lady, who was not a day shy of 75, fussing at the Southwest representative.

It seems that the flight was overbooked and this lady was the last to check in (it never ceases to amaze me how many people are unaware that you need to check in online 24 hours in advance) so she was on the bump list unless/until they could find others willing to give up their seats.  And she was screaming mad about it.  The SW rep was trying to explain that they were very sorry and would ask for volunteers to give up seats but had to wait until closer to the flight.  But the old lady would not let the SW lady get a word in edge wise.  She just kept screaming "They stole my seat, they stole my seat!" at the top of her lungs and waving her fingers in the face of the SW rep.

The finger waving and up in her face became an issue though.  The SW rep must have asked her to calm down and take a step back a dozen times.  But it just fired the old lady up more.  When the SW rep warned that she would have to call security if the old lady didn't take a step back, the old lady then starting screaming "Go ahead and call them to arrest me!  You stole my seat!!  Just arrest me!"

So security was called.  Rightfully so.  You can't just act like that in an airport (or anywhere but especially an airport) these days.  However, this is where things get strange.  Er.  Stranger.

So it takes BWI security a good 10-15 minutes to appear.  Not even kidding.  So let's hope if there is ever a major concern at an airport, it's not in Baltimore.  While waiting for security, the old lady was going back and forth to her wheelchair (which she clearly did not need as evidenced by all her standing and flailing and walking about) to put her bags in the seat of the wheelchair.  Then she would take up screaming again at the SW rep.  And sometimes to anyone who would listen.  Eventually, security starting rolling in.  Literally.  Two arrived on those stand up scooter things.  And others meandered over.  Taking their sweet ole time.

Now one might think that the eventual appearance of 6-8 airport security officers would make one hush up and sit down with her tail between her legs.  One might think.  But not in this case.  Oh this only added to the drama.  Because now not only was the old lady causing a scene, but just the grouping of the crackpot security team around her make it appear like a scene.  If you know BWI, you know that this is taking place sort of at the start of the Southwest wing.  So every single flight that was going in and out of there played wittiness to this.  And when a flight down the way would let out, there would be this mass flux of people.  As soon as the increased passenger flow began, she would wail louder and louder.  "You stole my seat!"  And it got more elaborate to also include, "I need to get to Orlando for my surgery tomorrow!  I am having surgery and now I can't get there because you stole my seat."  All the while, the SW rep is still trying to explain that if she will please just calm down she will work to find her a seat. 

But this lady was off her rocker.  She then began getting in the face of not only the SW rep but also the one female security officer (The other 5-7 male officers just stood there, saying not a damn thing, in a circle, like bumps on a log, making matters worse.  Not helping at all.).  She was waving her hands in their faces and screaming at them and was completely confrontational. 

So after another dozen warnings and pleas to calm down, they put handcuffs on her!

Oh it gets worse...

This cuffing happened to take place exactly as a big flight was getting off a plane so there were maximum viewing opportunities.  Dozens of people standing there videoing it on iPhones.  Adding fuel to old lady fire.  So what does she do when handcuffed?  Well she doesn't take it lightly.  But does take it lying down.

So as they are cuffing her, she is WAILING at the top of her lungs that they are breaking her arms and begging onlookers to please help her.  Those just getting off planes, have not seen the 25 or more minutes leading up to this, so they are all shouting at the crackpot BWI security team to let her go. 

Chaos, y'all!

Eventually, they get her handcuffed.  But they use two sets of cuffs so that one set is on the right arm and the second set is on the left arm and the two extra cuffs are linked together.  So her arms are behind her back but not tightly behind her back. 

She is still WAILING that they have broken her arms, she is having surgery tomorrow, and of course, stolen her seat.

And that's when it goes from bad and bizarre, to worse.

She.  Lays.  Down!  Just plops down on her back and "broken" handcuffed arms.

To recap.  Old lady somewhere in the range of 70-100.  Agile.  Crazy.  Screaming and in your face mad.  25 mins later, finally handcuffed.  Now flops down on the ground.  In the middle of one of our nation's busiest airports.

But because she is now refusing to get up off the ground and claiming broken arms and much needed surgery, the crackpot security team won't touch her.  Not a finger.  Lawsuit-itis.  So they call paramedics.  Who, in the vein of the crackpot security team, also took their sweet time showing up.  A good 10 or more minutes later, two paramedics roll up with a gurney to a scene of complete chaos.

You don't think that the lady was quiet on the floor do you?  Oh no no no.  Every time the crowds would die down, she would be quiet.  But three minutes later when there were new crowds, she would get back into full swing.  Wailing and screaming. 

So one of the paramedics keeps asking her to get up but she says she can't because her arms are behind her back and now broken.  And she needs surgery tomorrow.  And they stole her seat.  And the additional, "my mother just died."  At that point I starting laughing.  There is no way her mother just died.  Unless you consider 50 years ago "just."  At this point I am lined up in my A line to board.  As we were all lining up, a lady next to me says, "you know, I was walking up to the stand to offer her my seat when the security team showed up and made everyone back up."  So if the crazy lady would have just calmed down for 30 seconds, all of this could have been solved. 

As I was walking to board, the paramedics convinced security to uncuff her so she could sit up, because she claimed she could not sit up without being uncuffed.

Now here are a few things I find curious...

First, the severe length of time it took for security and paramedics to show up.  And the mosey pace they took.  Let us all hope that no true airport emergencies occur in Baltimore!

Second, I never saw an ounce of news coverage of this event.  I checked everywhere and never found a whisper.  That shocks me.  If a politician or movie star sneezes or yawns, that image is plastered all over every possible platform.  This felt like a big story to me and it was nowhere to be found.

Third, while I think that the Southwest reps handled themselves well and had every right to call for more help, I do not think that the security team handled things well.  From the length of time it took to get there and even do anything once there, to the number of officers just standing around doing nothing and causing a bigger scene, to how they physically handled the old lady.  She had that wheelchair sitting off to the side.  Now, they didn't actually realize it was hers I suspect.  I mean, she was standing and walking just fine.  But they should have at the very least, called for another wheelchair and then cuffed her to the chair.  Then wheeled the chair off to a quiet room.  This woman was causing a fuss because she was enjoying being the center of attention.  Take away the attention and I suspect she would have quieted down and acted normal in two minutes flat.  Instead, this went on for 45 minutes that I witnessed.  And likely lasted longer given that she was still on the floor as I was boarding the plane.

Fourth, I hope this lady is now on a no fly list.  While I don't think the crackpot BWI security team did a particularly good job here, she clearly cannot handle herself in an airport.  Can you imagine if she made the flight but they ran out of peanuts?  You stole my peanuts!  Emergency landing to have a peanut crazed old lady arrested.  I do believe that this woman needs to find a new mode of transportation!


Love Being A Nonny said...

Oh. My. Word. Crazy!

Erica said...

I agree that she pitched a huge fit. BUT, she does have a point. It angers me to NO END that airlines have the right to sell non-existant seats and bump people. If I bought the seat and I check in at least 90 min prior to my flight, they should have NO RIGHT to bump me.

I totally feel for the old lady, the airline DID steal her seat.

Brittany said...

What. The. Heck.

That is SO bizarre!!! That sucks that security was taking their time. Hopefully it wasn't because something worse was happening elsewhere in the airport? But that is still weird!!

Unknown said...

Anyone checked youtube yet? If you find it, please post. If there are amateur videos...it would be worth another post to go with this hilarious story. Sounds like Baltimore needs a security overhaul!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps she was on her way to have brain surgery? Do they still do lobotomies these days?

Preppy Girl Meets World said...

This story made me sad. My Nana who is around that age has alzheimer's and dementia. She is nowhere near capable of being able to travel by herself, but if she did, I can unfortunately see this sort of thing happening with her. I don't think she knows that you're supposed to check in however much earlier before a flight.

Ally said...

This is a crazy story! Thanks for stopping by my blog.

REBrown said...

This is insane! She sounds like she was crazy all around.

Ruth said...

Oh my God! That is so crazy at her age she should know how to act.


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