This week's shocker was a ticketed and boarded passenger, 69-year-old Dr. David Dao dragged screaming, bloodied--broken teeth and broken nose--off a United Airlines plane at Chicago's O' Hare Airport. But I was not surprised it was United.
While not on the “whole world's watching” scale of Dr. Dao's torture, I, too, know United's heavy-handed coercion.
A few decades ago, we flew from Portland to New York City. A "red-eye," one change of planes at Chicago's O' Hare.
Before we left for the airport, I felt a weakness, as if I might be catching a bug. Still, the trip was important: My sister-in-law was getting married. We had to be in NYC.
Night flying to O' Hare was uneventful, and after a few hours, I went to the restroom. Hand on the door latch, I felt faint. I fell to one knee, but almost instantly recovered and stood up. I used the restroom and once out, a flight attendant asked if I was alright--she'd seen my fall. I said I was fine, just tired and thought that was that.
At O'Hare, we hiked between terminals with luggage. Other than a sweat, I did okay, but felt tired. I hadn't really slept on the plane.
I stopped at the men's restroom and unexpectedly tossed my cookies: I did have a stomach bug.
I told my close associate what happened, but said I would be okay.
At the United counter to get our next boarding pass, the United clerk said I could not board because they had decided I was not physically fit to fly. I asked why. He said, "You were sitting in seat ZZ, and a flight attendant saw you faint. You might have had a heart attack. We would have been forced to divert the plane for an emergency landing."
He needed medical certification of my fitness to fly. He told me the emergency room of Resurrection Hospital would do and gave us cab fare vouchers.
We considered buying tickets on another airline. But we had bought the United tickets—worthless unless we accepted United's coercion.
Resurrection Hospital saw my predicament as revenue. Kept me overnight for observation of a mild temperature, nevermind I'd been hauling my luggage about. Wise to the hospital agenda, I finally kept a chunk of drink ice in my mouth while the doctor took my temperature to be sure I got discharged.
At O'Hare for our NYC flight, my close associate was rightfully snarky to the United clerk. He replied airily, "Well, you can't help some people."
Later, I cheered when United Airlines went into its first bankruptcy. I pray Dr. Dao's lawsuit and the attention it gets might stop United's rudeness for good.
Image credit: mynewsla.com
Read Charlie Dickinson's
story collection [and feel free to share with a friend] The Cat
at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)
Also, a flash fiction, "Ylena Thinks Nyet," is at Cigale Literary Magazine.
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