Commentary: We used to call them Karens. They were usually middle-aged white women policing parks while calling the police on black people, refusing to wear a mask at the Home Depot, or demanding to speak to the manager at your neighborhood Chili’s. That’s how it started, but just like the coronavirus, Karens have mutated and can now be found in men and women, gays and straights, and in all races, creeds, and colors.
In the last three years, while the world has dealt with a pandemic, many people have lost their sense of compassion, patience, and respect for their fellow man. In addition to nearly one million lost American lives, has COVID-19 taken our humanity as well?
Over the course of one week in January, our lack of respect for others was on full display. An American Airlines flight from Miami to London had to turn around after being in the air for over one and a half hours because a woman in her 40s refused to wear a face covering. She was met by police at the airport and arrested. The 129 other passengers were all forced to deplane in Miami and the flight was cancelled. All because one person put her personal sense of entitlement over everything and everyone else.
As of January 18, 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration has received more than 151 reports of in-flight disturbances caused by unruly passengers, over 92 of which involved travelers violating COVID-19 prompted mask requirements.
Days later, a Merrill Lynch financial adviser from Connecticut was arrested for throwing an incorrectly prepared smoothie at a teenage employee — calling her an “f–king bitch,” and “f–king immigrant,” and other employees “f–king stupid,” and “f–king ignorant high school kids.”
According to cops, he ordered the drink without peanut butter — but didn’t mention to employees that his son had an allergy. After the video of the incident went viral, he was fired from his job.
A couple of days later, a friend of mine, driving with Uber for more than six years, decided to retire his steering wheel. His reasons are just what you may suspect. People have gotten too rude, too demanding, and too disrespectful. He says the occasional belligerent drunk is to be expected, it comes with the territory, but a steady supply of totally sober people in the middle of the day acting like entitled creeps was finally the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The Dickens you say
As a rideshare driver myself, my experiences have been mostly positive, with rare exceptions. On a Saturday afternoon in December, I received a ride request from downtown Galveston. A couple attending Dickens on the Strand needed a ride to their hotel on the Seawall.
When I arrived at the pick-up location, the female rider opened my front door and proceeded to toss my belongings onto the floorboard. (As part of their coronavirus precautions, the rideshare company does not allow passengers in the front seat.) When I stopped her, she said something like, “We are all professionals here.” Whatever that means. I didn’t get the memo that says doctors are allowed to be assholes.
I was so infuriated at her lack of respect that I nearly canceled the ride, but her husband apologized for her and ushered her into the back seat. It was then I realized she was very intoxicated and just hoped she didn’t throw up in my car.
After the ride, I gave her a blistering review and one star. (Three stars or less means the driver will never get connected to that rider again, and yes, we do look at rider ratings before accepting a ride.)
Laughter through tears
Probably my most satisfying ride came totally unexpectedly. I picked up a couple from a Galveston restaurant who needed a ride to Deer Park. While on the ride, I learned he had attended his mother’s funeral earlier in the day, and they decided to have dinner and drinks before going home.
Well, they drank too much and called for a ride. They sat in the back seat and away we went!
While talking about his mom he started to cry uncontrollably. I mean, wet and ugly crying! His girlfriend did her best to comfort him. After a few minutes, he regained his composure and started to apologize for losing it in front of a complete stranger. I assured him it was fine, and I knew how he felt.
I told him, “The good thing is you lost it in front of me, a total stranger, so don’t be embarrassed. More than likely, you will never see me again.” I learned from nearly 30 years of experience working in a psychiatric hospital that a little humor can sometimes help defuse the most intense situations.
They both burst into laughter him saying, “Thanks, I needed that.” The remaining part of the ride we spent listening to his girlfriend talk about his ex and apologizing for her language.
In these days of short tempers, restrictions, and way too much entitlement, it’s important to maintain your sense of humor, especially when so many of those around us have lost their sense of humanity.