I was recently returning home from visiting friends in London whom I haven’t seen since before the pandemic. I accessed my boarding pass and arrived at Heathrow three-and-a-half hours early, but was told by several different airport employees that my boarding pass wasn’t valid.
I finally found a supervisor who said agents at the gate are the only ones who could assign me a seat.
On my way, I met and accompanied a crying, insistent mother from Nigeria who was trying to get to Ottawa to see her daughter who’s studying at a university there.
We sat together at the gate and I accessed the standby list. My name was first on the list so I relaxed. However, my new companion’s name wasn’t listed.
When an agent arrived at the desk, I approached him, while staying together with the agitated mother as people lined up behind us.
At the counter, I saw my boarding pass and about 20 others. But the anxious woman was told she’d have to wait for the next plane... maybe even for a day!
I politely said that she was already at the airport when I’d arrived hours earlier, and pointed out that she was now in distress.
The gate agent said, "Well you can give her your seat.”
I could hardly believe what I heard! Was this just an overworked, exhausted airport employee who also needed my understanding of his situation?
Or was the agent’s snarky, dismissive response based on racism?
The woman I’d comforted and tried to help told me she was born in Nigeria, proudly black like her parents before her and her children after.
Now, with her daughter’s acceptance by a prestigious Canadian university driving her eagerness to re-connect with her offspring, she’s verbally pushed aside... likely for many more hours, even days.
I took my seat for which I’d long-ago reserved and paid, knowing that my own family was at home waiting for me. But I felt terrible about leaving my airport “friend.”
Caring for this woman’s predicament came naturally to you, because it’s in your nature. Whether the airline agent was exhausted and/or irked by your support of the woman during a tense time, his dismissal of her (and nasty challenge to you) reflected an “attitude” ... call it uncaring, or suspect it’s racist... it happens too often to too many.
Recently, many travellers have learned and suffered through the reality that Air Canada employees and passengers have experienced the worst-ever phase of flight delays, packed waiting-areas and lost luggage in the airlines’ history.
Racism, too? If yes, there’s no acceptable excuse.
With Toronto alone declared in “Most Diverse City in the World,” back in 2017, Canada has benefitted from its influx of immigrants, many of them excelling in the health field where hospitals and medical researchers are very needed.
Still, there are people who maintain a distanced attitude to “the other.” It keeps them “safe,” they think, and “not my problem.”
Unfortunately, they miss the benefits of learning/accepting/knowing the cultures, histories, and friendship of their neighbours.
Racism, by contrast, is fear and ignorance. Apologies to the woman on the plane.
FEEDBACK Regarding the man, 28, dating a woman, 43 (July 1):
Reader - “You can be sure that the 28-year-old guy will not still be around with this woman who has children likely closer to his age than hers, when the currently 43-year-old woman will be 70, or even 60.
“The younger man is after her money or looking for free living arrangements rather than continue renting with roommates.
“I'm personally baffled as to why a woman her age goes with someone who’s her son's age. I guess she needs to prove that she's still “young.”
“I do agree, though, that age differences between older people is more acceptable such as a 70-year-old male with a 55-year-old female.”
FEEDBACK Regarding the couple funding their niece’s university education (July 18):
Reader – “Here’s a good solution for this problem of her not working in the summer to contribute her own money and similar advice for others like them: Matching funds.
“Whatever a student earns, you’ll match it. That gives incentive, rewards the niece, and it also prevents her from otherwise just sitting around at home, not getting a summer job, and doing nothing towards her stated goal, all summer.”
Tip of the day:
Negative attitudes about “others” ignore the economic and cultural benefits of Canada's world-acclaimed diversity, with newcomers bringing unique talents/skills/foods/music, and the ambitions of their children born here.