Have you ever seen airline rage? What I noticed about him first was that he was busily rearranged the items in the overhead compartment. He spent so much time doing it that I thought he was a flight attendant until I looked at what he was wearing – a white long sleeve shirt with cuff links and suit pants. He settled into his seat on the aisle of the first row. He had a deep tan, silvery short hair, and blue eyes.
Silver Hair Starts Getting Angry
After the flight took off I overheard Silver Hair talking to the man next to him, Window Seat. He was skillful in asking questions to draw the other man out as they discussed Window Seat’s job, job history, favorite restaurants and golf. When Window Seat asked Silver Hair about favorite restaurants, Silver Hair identified a few, and then dismissively said, “When I come here I like to spend time with the children and grandchildren and chill out.” The conversation abruptly ended.
The trouble started about an hour into the flight. From my vantage point across the aisle, I could see the man sitting behind Silver Hair. He was casually dressed in a blue polo shirt, jeans and sneakers. He was unthinkingly swinging his foot back and forth, hitting the metal support of Silver Hair’s seat.
Blue Polo Shirt was oblivious to the impact he was having on Silver Hair until Silver Hair turned around, got Blue Polo Shirt’s attention, and said, “Do you MIND? You are hitting my seat. You are kicking my seat. STOP it!” He raised his voice to make his points. Blue Polo Shirt looked surprised, innocent of the irritation he was causing, and then apologized, saying he did not realize what he was doing.
The Airline Rage Emerges
It should have ended there, but it didn’t. Another hour later, Blue Polo Shirt was back at it, kicking the seat support. I hope it was accidental. Silver Hair turned around and hissed at Blue Polo Shirt. The vehemence was clear. Blue Polo Shirt glared at him and did not apologize this time. They were like two bulls, pawing the ground, getting ready to fight. I held my breath. Blue Polo Shirt stopped moving his feet.
At the end of the flight, Silver Hair took charge of the overhead compartments again and graciously handed me my carry on. I asked, “Are you an executive?” “Yes”, he answered warily. “You have a take charge attitude” I told him. He gave me a blank stare and briskly strode off the plane.
The Lessons Learned
It takes a lot of energy to be Silver Hair. It takes a lot of energy to be in control, to contain anger and to direct others. Silver Hair was the embodiment of a Type A personality. I am sure he considered his first class trip ruined by the careless behavior of the man behind him.
Yes, I think he should have spoken to the man behind him, but the pure anger that came boiling out his piercingly blue eyes the second time made me think of road rage. I witnessed airplane rage at 30,000 feet.
I realized it would be very difficult to work with Silver Hair. His standards would be set so high that those who failed to meet them would recoil from his anger. As I thought about this, a different picture of Silver Hair emerged.
I saw him in a hospital, dressed in a white lab coat with a stethoscope around his neck, berating his colleagues and the nurses. Notch up his behavior several steps and he’d be a bully. All of the facility’s efforts to promote engagement, a collegial atmosphere, and a team spirit would be challenged by Silver Hair’s behavior.
Do you work with a Silver Hair? Have you ever seen airline rage? Life’s too short to be so angry.
Patricia Iyer MSN RN LNCC is President of The Pat Iyer Group, a legal nurse consulting firm. She is not a Silver Hair.