“The Universal Resiliency of the Human Spirit”


2002 – by Patti Smith

Pencil on handmade paper, folded as schematic

As I write this, I am on an airplane. Flying the Friendly skies has never been SO unfriendly.

Flying  post 9 -11 is some other beast. You take off your shoes and your belt and your watch and bracelet and all your Talismanic necklaces and somewhere along the old TSA line you take off a bit of your dignity.

Today on a flight from NYC, the home of the Twin Towers and all that despair and all that renewed hope, to my home across America, I felt Fear. A flight attendant who at this moment refuses to give me her name played some strange power game with me using Sarcasm and  Fear as a weapon. This woman scared my son. That is NOT a good idea with a Mama Bear.

I was told to stand still as I boarded the plane with my son. I did, until the line began to move as people needed to board a plane that was expected to be full. I moved forward and was met with  a steely eyed flight attendant  telling me to stay still.

It did not make any sense what so ever. The plane was filling with people trying to board midweek, business people in no mood for a delay. I waited in the center of the aisle around row number 27; 10 rows empty in front of me. I waited for the flight attendant to allow me to move forward to my seat.  I  had the Fear you get on a flight now: they can throw you off for the slightest infraction. 9 – 11 created an unreasonable Fear that continues to weigh us all down as we travel.

I stood still not understanding why any  flight attendant in their right mind would cause such a delay while boarding a full aircraft. She then demanded to know why I was not moving.  Sarcasm. The flight attendant was wildly sarcastic and holding up everyone who was boarding the plane.
I moved forward with my son, we quickly stored our bags and began to take our seats. I asked the flight attendant for her name. She threatened to throw me off the plane if I did not get my self in order. She refused to give me her name.

We stored our computer bags. The gentleman near me handed me his business card without the flight attendant noticing.  It was obvious that this was some crazy experience and my perceptions were not at all skewed. He told me to call him and to use his name in any complaint I would file. As I made small talk with the businessman, I was told by the flight attendant that the she WOULD indeed have me thrown off the plane. I was told to wait in my seat and that an associate would soon come speak with me.

On the flight my son and I were on our best behavior, meaning we did not have to change our behavior at all. We travel frequently and my son, at 13  is a seasoned and well-behaved traveler. He is just a darn good kid any way you want to cut it.

I was soon shaking hands with the captain of the plane, Captain Lyman Lee. He began to ask if everything was all right and was interrupted while the flight attendant began to recount how we would not store our gear and had delayed the plane. The sarcastic flight attendant was lying through her teeth. I assured Captain Lee that we would not cause any trouble and shook his hand again. He looked me in the eyes as he handed me his business card.

I was clear to me that the captain was not unfamiliar with the sarcasm and insulting nature of the flight attendant. I had his business card and that of the president of a sizable company in NYC. I was ready to write my letter of complaint.

I was told to stand still in the aisle of a packed airplane departing NYC, leaving probably 100  customers waiting behind me. All of us inconvenienced by one flight attendants bizarre sarcasm and cruel use of the Fear left with all of us following the tragedy of 9 – 11.  This is one of those strange moments that my unusual family background and writing skill will come in handy; I will write a letter to the President and CEO of United Airlines,

The days of civility are going, going gone. I see it in what little TV I watch, I see it in the way teens talk to their parents and the way parents talk to other parents. The deterioration of civility and the dumbing down of the people of our country bodes ill for all of us.

How can it EVER be OK to be mean to one another? When is it EVER OK to use sarcasm or fear as a tool for control? Who can possibly think it is OK to scare a young man needlessly?

It begs the question: do we have so little control in our lives that we feel me must stoop to the level of ridicule and sarcasm and controlling others with fear to feel OK about ourselves?

This begs the next question: how good can you real feel about yourself controlling someone else with tools of oppression? What happened to feeling good about ourselves because we have made someone smile or laugh?

In the October issue of Hemispheres, the inflight magazine of United Airlines, in an article titled Varied Bliss, flight attendant, Sally Grace Quek is quoted as saying, “When I don’t feel well or I’m troubled by something, I still have to pick myself up and provide service with a smile.”  She goes on to say, “I think you just make up your mind to do it. I read once that when you think you are beautiful, you will be beautiful. It’s all in your mind. When you think you will be good, you are good.”

This is what my father taught about customer service. I learned this at 9 years old and it served me well in my successful career and it continues to serve me well as a Domestic Goddess/Mother.

Sally Grace Quek sums it up very nicely,  “That’s what it is all about for me, being committed to my job. having lots of patience. And serving with love. When you are good to somebody, they will be good to you. It always works both ways, I think.”

And there you have it; the nut of the problem fallen back in my lap. How much patience am I showing on this flight? Compassion? Love? And how much should I show considering my concern for the lack of civility in our culture?

I will be making a formal complaint today to United Airlines. I will also write a letter to the President and CEO of United Airlines about my experience with Fear and Sarcasm on a flight on one of his planes out of NYC.

I learned that from my father. “Honey, If you get lousy service, contact management. If you get excellent service, contact management. Any business owner needs to know where service is falling apart and where it soars. help that man stay in business.”

I haven’t asked my sister lately, but my guess is as a Winkel Woman, she still abides by the Winkel Rule; tell the poor man. Thank God there are more businesses run by women now than there were when my father sat us down as little girls and taught us this rule. Businesses are failing all across America as we speak. Money is tight and housing is in foreclosure.

Times today  are not unlike the times in the late 70’s when my father lost his business, lock, stock, and barrel, due to the gas shortage. We lost our home, rental property, a house in the mountains and my father’s business. My mother left my father for what seemed at the time, to be for good.

My father, like his grandfather before him, picked himself up and started anew. The loss of the business, our home and his family led to his ulcer bursting which led to his unintentional sobriety.

Blessings Abound. Weird, Yes?

The title of the article in the on flight magazine, Hemispheres, is

Varied Bliss. I believe that I may have encountered that today on this flight.

I am full of memories of a very special time in the city that never sleeps,  honoring the life of a man I loved who has passed from this world and celebrating another beloved mans tribute to him.

My family was gathered from the four corners, celebrating the varied bliss of what is my ‘family’; great grandmothers by marriage, mothers is law, not by law, but much more deeply by decades and by Love, ‘Brothers in Arms’; men who stand with my blood family through thick and through thin. My friends, some new and some of my oldest and dearest; my Varied Bliss gathered to celebrate a man we loved, an artist who loved him and to celebrate connection.

I experienced Varied Bliss in the city. I was able to see an art show at Hunter College called  Patti Smith 9.11 Babelogue by my Mother/Poet Patti Smith. This exhibition, on view from September 8 – December 3, 2011, comprises some 26 works on paper by the esteemed poet, performer, and visual artist Patti Smith as a response to the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001. “The artist’s elegiac homage does not align the Twin Towers with one nation, religion, or race, but instead offers them as symbols of the universal resiliency of the human spirit.”

I experienced Varied Bliss in the quiet of the gallery with my friend Diane. The images are beautiful and the poetry sings without the need to open the slim volume. “The universal resiliency of the human spirit”;  now that is Varied Bliss.

My son is calm now and his spirit is light once again. His fear has passed and I celebrate that.

I am experiencing varied bliss now as I am writing simultaneously, a blog post  and a letter to a man who is in charge of a business with an employee who may just need a few days off to get a grip on her sarcasm and lack of civility.

When I leave this flight I will be one of the last off. I am going to get the flight attendants name and I am going to report her cruel use of  Fear on a plane leaving the city that suffered the worst. I will leave with a name, a blog post for you to read and a letter to a business man.  I am a Winkel Woman and I will follow the Rules: the Winkel Rules.

My father also taught that often the meanest of people are the people suffering the most. I will ask the attendant to  shake my hand and hope to leave her with a smile. Maybe I can follow in Sally Grace Quek’s shoes and just ‘Be Good to Someone’ who probably  needs a hug.

I will also contact a business man in trying financial times. I will follow all the Rules. And I will hold in my heart the memory of the men I have loved who have left me and the Universal Resiliency of the Human Spirit.

I will sign off with a word used often by the man we celebrated in NYC;



“BDB shows that the main derivation of the Hebrew word “selah” is found through the fientive verb root סֶ֜לָה which means “to lift up (voices)” or “to exalt”, and also carries a close connotational relationship to the verb סָלַל, which is similar in meaning – “to lift up” or “to cast up”. … perhaps the most instructive way to view the use of this word, particularly in the context of the Psalms, would be as the writer’s instruction to the reader to pause and exalt the Lord.[4]

Contemporary usage

“Selah” is used in Iyaric Rastafarian vocabulary. It can be heard at the end of spoken-word segments of some reggae songs. Its usage here, again, is to accentuate the magnitude and importance of what has been said, and often is a sort of substitute for Amen

Taken from wikipedia

~ by Step On a Crack on October 27, 2011.

12 Responses to ““The Universal Resiliency of the Human Spirit””

  1. You are indeed a special woman, I am so glad we have become blog buddies.
    Sadly, psychopathy seems to be on a rise, and these kinds of people do well in our winner takes all kind of society. I’m glad there are still good people around to make up in some way for the bad ones.


    • I am grateful for our Blog Buddiness too! YOU are a special Woman! I think you are 100% right. Mental illness is on the rise and it is a sad sad thing. I felt very sorry for the woman once my son calmed down. I did send my letter to the Pilot: he met me at the door as we were leaving and gave me a heartfelt apology and asked me to BE SURE to write to both the CEO and to him. I received an email from the pilot this afternoon in response asking me to call him ASAP. He told me I was very poised though the whole thing. I DID try to shake hands with the attendant as I was leaving and she would have none of it. That is when I really suspected there is probably a serious problem for her. Compassion ehh? I hope she can get some help AND I NEVER want my kid to go through that again. The pilot was kind as was the businessman on the flight. It all balances out right?!!


  2. Oh, definitely write the letter, love. These go into their “file”. No doubt this bitch has got a wee bit of a thick folder! Honey … under yahoo i’ll tell you about a FA yelling at me. It IS NOT the forum to scare another human. I’m so angry for you. Great writing as usual … and i’m with you. How MEAN are we? I know that sounds vague and silly … but everything we learned in KINDERGARTEN goes a bloody long way, right? BE NICE! or beware of Goddess Jen, … karma is powerful. love m


    • The letter is written and I have already heard from the pilot. He met me at the door as we were leaving and TOLD me to write to both him and the CEO. I felt so sorry for him needing to fly with her.

      I think we are really really a mean culture and it shows in popular media. It is a sad state of affairs. BUT we can be nice right??

      See you SOON my Friend!!! xx Jen


  3. The flight attendant, terrorizing the passengers, in the name of trying to prevent more terrorism, is insane. Too bad. I think a few days off would be far too lenient. We put terrorists in jail in this country. Those are the rules.


    • I have to say I laughed at the last sentence! Humor kills the Beast of Fear and Anger once again! I was met at the door of the plane my the pilot; he TOLD me to write to both him and the CEO. I have already heard back from the pilot with a message “call me asap and thank you for handling the situation with poise” Nice word, poise. Too bad it was actually fear I was feeling. I was really afraid she would toss me off the plane. My son was SO upset I needed to just get a grip so he could feel ok.

      The pilot told me that this is not unusual behavior from her. Based on my conversation with him and his email, I think he NEEDS me to write the letter to have her fired. I feel a teeny bit bad BUT I really remember how hard it was to have an unstable employee on staff. I hope she can get help.


  4. It’s wonderful that you were able to turn this unpleasant experience into something positive and inspiring. We will always be confronted by insecure people, we have no control over them, but we do have control over how we react and how we deal with the situation. Your choices were inspiring!



    • Al, thanks I DID try to shake her hand and make eye contact. NO go. I did write my letter and sent it to the pilot first He responded within minutes with PLEASE CALL ME. I think he needs the attendant gone. I feel badly for her; she obviously has problems and that is just sad.

      Selah Yes. It is a Good Word.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: