I had an interesting experience involving gender roles and customer service yesterday. I’m not sure how I feel about it.
My friend Katie and I were traveling on American Airlines from Charleston, South Carolina to Los Angeles and we almost missed our connecting flight in Miami. Our flight from Charleston was late by 30 minutes – which was American’s fault. Once we got off the bus that carried us from the open tarmac to the terminal, we Jackie Joyner-Kersey-ed it from our tiny American Eagle flight allllll the way the hell to the other end of the terminal. Five other people ran behind us from the same flight. When we got to the LAX-bound flight, the gate was totally empty. We could clearly see the plane outside and luggage was in the process of being loaded, the cement blocks were still in place and the jetway was still attached to the plane. But no one was around. So I tripped the alarm by pushing a door marked “Employees Only” to get some service, and three minutes later, the gate attendant showed up. (Nice to know American’s response time is so quick should there ever be a real emergency. HaHa.)
The American employee was completely frazzled. We told her we wanted on the flight and she said, “Absolutely not.” Then, and here’s the interesting part: the two older white men who were part of our group from Charleston trying to make that flight started yelling at her. The yelling made her quickly change her answer to: I have to check with my supervisor. When the supervisor got to the scene, she also said, “Absolutely not!” about our question of getting on the plane. The two older white men started in on her, and lo’ and behold, after a few minutes of berating her, we were allowed on the plane.
I sure am happy we made the flight! We should have, after all. The plane didn’t leave for another several minutes after we boarded, so it would have been asinine if we weren’t allowed on and then just watched it sit there. However, the whole experience made me realize that if it had just been Katie and I – two women in our early 30s - yelling at those female gate attendants, we would not have been allowed on. Period. Those women responded to those older white men yelling at them. They bent their dumb rules because older men were yelling at them.
Again, I’m so glad those men yelled because as a result, we got on that plane and made it home before midnight. But the experience definitely gave me pause for thought. Should I be happy that female customer service employees will bend for men and not for other women? What does that say about our society? What if I told you the female flight attendants were Hispanic? They were. Does that make a difference in this story? I’m not sure.
What do you think??