I see by another link on Insty Saturday afternoon that the United Airlines- Sheila Jackson Lee flap has not quite faded away – much as MS Jackson Lee, AKA ‘the Queen’ or ‘Cruella’ Jackson Lee likely wishes it would. I surmise that this bit of congressional bad behavior is still rattling the newshounds and the commentariat for several reasons. The first of these is that ‘Cruella’ is one of the dumber members of Congress. (The honor of the dumbest must go to Hank “Guam Might Tip Over!” Johnson, of whom it might rightfully said – stealing a paraphrase from the late Molly Ivins about another spectacularly dumb career politician – “Lose any more IQ points, and his staff might have to put him in a pot in the corner and water him three times a week.”) But there’s more! ‘Cruella’ Jackson Lee has been acknowledged hands down for many years as the rudest and most abusive boss on Capitol Hill.
For extra points, her award-winning awfulness is not reserved for members of her staff, but has been spread around pretty freely during her decades in public life and aimed at just about anyone who has the misfortune to draw her ire, judging by comments on the various stories posted about her, over the years. Abusive, rude, demanding, and free with accusations of racism are her calling cards; as well as true to form in demanding an upgrade to first class on the spot from United. As a frequent flyer between Washington and Houston, ‘Cruella’ has been notorious for appalling public behavior, a reputation dating to her very first days in Congress, according to this 1998 local article. My guess is that the United management sensibly wanted to avoid yet another ghastly public scene and took the easy way out, but with such resounding customer-relations ineptitude that they managed to make a potentially sticky situation several degrees worse.
Yes, booting another flying customer out of the seat she had paid for, with frequent-flyer miles rather than cash in hand, in favor of Queen Cruella, and then treating that customer in a demeaning and insulting manner – well, really, that does trip the trigger of flying customers everywhere. United rightfully should take some lumps for crappy customer service in this. Not many of the traveling public have experienced the indignity of sharing a Houston/DC or DC/Houston flight with Queen Cruella, but lots of us have had the experience of a stupendously bad airline flight. OK – so, flying now is like an intercity bus with wings. Crammed in, treated like cattle by security before the flight, treated like cattle during it, thrown a measly packet of pretzels or nuts, and a soft drink, perhaps the chance to pick up a cold sandwich on our way in … it’s become an unpleasant experience, which the public puts up with because a basic airline ticket is relatively cheaper than it was in the Golden Days of Yore when it comes to airline travel. That is the game, much as we regret the courtesies and luxuries available in the Golden Days of Yore.
We paid through the nose for those benefits then, and are still able to pay for an upgraded seat in First Class if we are still inclined, using cash or air miles. All to the good, having the means of obtaining a degree of lessened awfulness. A more comfortable seat, additional courtesy from the cabin staff, a higher- quality meal … and then to have that all yanked away from you, for no particular reason than one of the Ruling Class wants your paid-for-seat for their careless last-minute convenience? And then to be calumniated as a racist upon objecting for this high-handed behavior? Well, yes – given the generally miserable flying experience lately, no wonder that coverage of this otherwise insignificant incident has legs. I shouldn’t be surprised if an additional motivation is suppressed resentment bubbling up from underneath; resentment by white Americans at being unfairly calumniated as racists and then informed by handsomely privileged members of the ruling and media class – like Queen Cruella herself – that such disparagement is deserved somehow because of our so-called white privilege. Discuss.