We are (hopefully) just a day away from the end to one of the most bitter presidential contests in U.S. history. As polls and statisticians predict a victory for Hillary Clinton, one die-hard Donald Trump supporter tried to make an eleventh-hour plea to passengers on my United Airlines flight from Washington DC to Los Angeles last night and was threatened and nearly thrown off the flight for it!
Boarding United Flight 1652 bound for LA last night, I was tired — it was 10:20p and I just wanted to get home to my wife and kid. As I settled into my economy class seat all of a sudden I heard a woman chanting, “Trump! Trump! Trump!” as she walked down the aisle.
Later introducing herself as Maria, the middle aged woman was adorned in a zebra-stripe head scarf and a giant turtle ring. Around her wrists were two purple fingerless gloves like you might see a weightlifter use in a gym. Juxtaposed to the zebra-striped headscarf was a white skirt and white shoes. In her hand was Trump’s The Art of the Deal book, a small paperback “Catholic Voter Guide, and a manila folder filled with paperwork.
After shouting “Trump” until she reached the very rear of the aircraft, Maria aroused the passion of a Trump foe who she would later describe as “a homosexual” and a verbal altercation ensued, with the disgruntled man allegedly threatening her with physical violence. I was not witness to that.
A flight attendant directed her to rear galley where Maria began to explain why the FA should also support The Donald. She must have pushed too hard because the FA called the cockpit and filled in the captain on what was going on and moments later the captain came on the loudspeaker announcing, “To the woman causing a disturbance: I suggest you stop now. The authorities have been alerted.”
Two gate agents boarded the flight and marched to the back with the onboard purser. A discussion ensued and Maria claimed she was not causing any trouble, just enthusiastic about Trump. Appearing to have calmed down from her frenzied in-flight campaign rally, she was allowed to remain onboard.
Maria was brought back to the front of the economy class cabin away from the angry man — and perhaps so FAs could keep a better eye on her — and placed in middle seat…directly across the aisle from me!
Not one second after sitting down she immediately began speaking to her seat mate, who was quietly reading the NY Times.
MARIA: “Oh, NY Times! You can’t believe anything they write!”
PASSENGER: <No response>
MARIA: “Hi I’m Maria. Let’s talk politics.”
PASSENGER: “No, I’d rather not. Thank you”
MARIA: “Oh come on! Who are you voting for? I’m for Trump.”
PASSENGER: “I don’t want to talk.”
MARIA: But who are you going to vote for and why? I thought both of them were bad but you know something, that Trump isn’t as bad as people say. I know he comes off as gruff, but trust me, he’s actually a great guy with a wonderful family and is going to make America great again…”
PASSENGER: Please leave me alone.
MARIA: Look, why don’t you want to talk about this? This is huge! What issues are important to you? What are you concerned about this election? Let’s have a conversation! What’s wrong with a conversation?
PASSENGER: I said I don’t want to talk! Please leave me alone.
MARIA: Well, we are sitting next to each other, of course we are going to talk. Let’s talk issues. What issues are important to you? You might be surprised at how much you agree with Donald Trump about!
PASSENGER looks over across the aisle and starts laughing.
Meanwhile, Maria turned around and began pummeling her seat mate on the other side with the same conversation. The purser walked by and the passenger complained that Maria would not leave him alone and be quiet. She asked if he wanted her removed from the flight and he responded that he just wanted to be left alone.
The purser sighed and retreated to the front galley where she picked up the phone and presumably consulted with the captain. Moments later she returned to our row, where Maria remained engaged in a conversation with her seat mate about Trump (in which she did all the talking).
Tapping her on the shoulder, the purser said, “Ma’am, if I hear one more word from you, you will be removed from this flight. The captain is ready to turn this flight back to the gate!”
Maria responded, “Oh okay ma’am. Thank you ma’am! I understand ma’am. Not another word from me, scout’s honor!”
Bringing her index finger and thumb up to her lips, she imitated a zipper closing over her lips and then perhaps for good measure did it again. And again. And a fourth time.
The purser looked at the poor man on the aisle and said, “If she utters one more word, I want you to hit the FA call button and we will turn around and remove her.”
The safety demonstration concluded and Maria had still not said a word, though she turned to each seat mate and made the zipping motion with her hand again and then crossed herself like she had just entered church or received mass.
We took off. Would she talk? Nope, she was quiet, until the food and beverage carts rolled down the aisle…
“I’d like three cups full of ice, a full can of diet coke and a full can of seltzer water.” Then reminding me of Andy Pipkins, she began ordering food off the buy-on-board menu.
“I want that one and that one and that one!”
The FA had to explain that many of those items were not available on a flight departing at 10:35p to which Maria did not seem to understand because she attempted to order the same items again.
Finally she decided upon two snack boxes and a package of candy…the total came to $17 and change and she handed over a wad of cash.
FA: Ma’am, we don’t accept cash.
MARIA: I have cash
FA: We don’t take cash. Credit or debit card only
MARIA: I don’t use credit cards. I like to use cash so they can’t track me.
MARIA: The people Donald Trump is going to clean up when he becomes President.
FA: Debit or credit card only.
MARIA: I don’t have that, but I have a bank card.
FA: Uh, that should work.
Her seatmates were both given complimentary alcoholic beverages.
Snackboxes in hand, Maria tore them open and began devouring the contents, chugging her beverages and loudly chomping on the ice.
A few minutes later the purser walked by to check on her and she ordered coffee, chugging that too as she feverishly ate her complimentary bag of snack mix morsel by morsel like a mouse eating crumbs off the floor.
The food appeared to have a calming effect on her because she remained quiet for the duration of the flight…until we landed in LA.
Upon reaching our gate, she tried to strike up a conversation with her seatmate again. He remarked, “Geez. If I didn’t have to drive I could really use another vodka.”
I then made the decision that I needed to speak to her. She was directly in front of me walking off the plane, but stopped to try to convince the FA and captain (who must have been very curious about the whole situation) that they should vote for Trump. I proceeded up the jetbridge, into the terminal, and waited for her.
Finally she showed up and was very happy to speak to me about what happened onboard. Rather than try to summarize it or edit it, here is the entire 17-minute conversation unedited–
This was indeed the way she spoke onboard as well.
I think United did very well in handing this incident. They could have thrown her off and let’s be honest…she deserved it more than I did for taking a picture of my seat. But choosing to deem her just a little nutty rather than a safety threat was the right call — imagine the headline on Drudge: “United Throws Off Trump Supporter”.
But my goodness, what poor etiquette. I’ve had talkative seat mates, political seat mates (like that time I flew with Donna Brazile or Wesley Clark), drunk seat mates, and obnoxious seat mates, but never this combination of oddness. I think Maria is a nice woman and I wish her all the best in her many endeavors, though I doubt Mr. Trump will be calling on her for battleground state campaigning. But who knows…
How do you think United should have handled the incident?
In any event, I think I speak for many of us in saying I look forward to the end of this toxic presidential election.