January Is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

While the pilot proceeded to remind passengers that January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Joanna tried her best not to be too irritated by his latest interruption since, you know, it was for a “good cause.” Theoretically. Yet it was unclear why the pilot should feel the need to mention it if he wasn’t trying to collect donations or some such “equivalent” (not that there’s ever an equivalent, in this capitalist life, to cold hard cash). But no, instead, the pilot was merely informing his passengers that Delta’s flight attendants are highly trained in spotting signs of someone being trafficked. Not that one would really need to be “highly trained” for such a thing. All a person has to do is keep their usual stereotype goggles on to find something “off.”

As Joanna tossed this thought aside, she foolishly believed that, now that the pilot had finished his latest frivolous spiel, the music she had been listening to through the limitedly-curated airline playlist would resume, and she could once again try to get a bit of sleep. Even if only “plane sleep.” Not so, however. For the lone flight attendant that spoke French subsequently got on the PA to make the same statement in said language (being that this flight originated from Paris). Had the language been spoken by an actual French person, Joanna might have been able to at least deem it pleasant-sounding (as it usually would be to hear French). But because the woman in question was clearly American and phoning it in with her fumbling pronunciations, it was like enduring still more nails on a chalkboard for Joanna. To her, it was obvious that the flight attendant had probably studied French in college and then told Delta she was fluent. Being that an American person who can speak two languages is hard to come by, the hiring team probably believed what they wanted to believe. Good help being hard to find, and all that rot.

In any event, hearing this flight attendant’s atrocious attempt at speaking French made Joanna feel sorry for the likely few French people on the plane who couldn’t understand English (as most Parisians do have at least some working knowledge of it) actually relying on her for information about what the fuck was going on. And even sorrier for the English-speaking majority that probably assumed this was what French sounded like.

And so, after two unnecessary announcements in different languages about Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Joanna again fell prey to believing she could settle into the playlist she had chosen (or rather, that had been chosen for her): “Pride Classics.” The only gem amid a sea of generic pop. Indeed, Joanna couldn’t help but muse about how absurd it would’ve been for Delta to even consider having such a playlist anytime before the 2010s, when homophobia was still chic among corporations (before they all decided to commodify “acceptance” during Pride Month). But here the playlist was in the present, revealing homosexuality as being “chicer” than ever. There were even some “deep cuts” on what could be considered a “Pride Classic.” Like Pet Shop Boys’ “West End Girls,” CeCe Peniston’s “Finally” and Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman.” Classic or not, it was definitely better than listening to Ed Sheeran, who was lately still more pervasive than even Harry Styles.

At the same time, although the playlist indicated some sign of “progress,” Joanna could feel her mood dip as Cher’s “Believe” came on. Suddenly, it just didn’t ring true. It was another hollow attempt at the mainstream feigning to be “with it,” when really, all They did was graft elements from the marginalized and turn it into something more “palatable” for those who were not deemed “fringe characters” by “polite” society. So Joanna started to look for a movie to watch instead (side note: what kind of psycho would want to watch Terms of Endearment or Schindler’s List on a plane—or at all, for that matter?). Among the standouts (and not in a good way) of the selection were two movies directed by Woody Allen (namely, Play It Again, Sam and To Rome With Love) and Franco Zeffirelli’s version of Romeo and Juliet. Joanna would have assumed the corporation might pull something like that from the rotation immediately after hearing of Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey’s sexual abuse lawsuit. But then, perhaps they imagined that having Baz Luhrmann’s edition available as well would offset any accusations of favoring predators (though, clearly, they did—because Woody and Franco were also joined on the list by Roman Polanski with Rosemary’s Baby).

A quick glance over into the TV shows section, however, took Joanna back to the opposite spectrum, with such fare as PBS’ Sex Trafficking in America and Trafficked in America. So sure, indications of “noble intentions” abounded with regard to the entertainment lineup. But, in the end, all the mixed messaging wasn’t mixed at all. The (highly American) intent was to cater to as many different tastes as possible. It didn’t matter if it was no longer “kosher” to watch movies directed by the likes of those accused of sexual misconduct—some Woody Allen-loving fucker (yes, they exist) still had to be pandered to. And so did the “fags” that the “Pride Classics” playlist was aimed at placating for approximately ten hours on an international flight. In effect, there was no true sense of being able to say, “Oh look, they really do care about me. My tastes. My interests.” All they cared about (and this goes for any airline) was avoiding passenger unrest at any point during the flight. In which case, the only thing missing from the selection were some Fox News shows, or at least some type of “flag-waving” fare for the MAGA ilk.

Maybe that was why the man sitting behind Joanna was getting uppity. Particularly after unearthing the unchallengeable reality (unlike the 2020 election results, of course) that the chicken option for lunch had run out by the time the flight attendant reached the back rows of the plane with her hallowed cart. In contrast to how a European would react, this inherently entitled American didn’t take the news with a grain of salt. For, as the flight attendant automatically started to present him with the alternate choice—gnocchi (which he likely had never heard of in his role as crude dolt) with red sauce—he rebuffed, “Don’t you have any more chicken? I want what I paid for!” Naturally, all he had paid for was the promise of a meal, not any food that might actually “satisfy” him (as though a person like that could ever be satisfied). And yet, so many Americans were laboring under the delusion that spending money would somehow translate into “satisfaction guaranteed.” While the flight attendant once more explained that she couldn’t pull a nonexistent chicken out of her ass, the man continued to escalate his outrage. This consisted of such threats as, “I’m going to make sure your CEO hears about this!” As if.

The flight attendant looked around helplessly, almost like she was in silent prayer hoping that a miraculous lightning bolt would strike him. In a state of mounting panic about pleasing this fuckwit, she then tapped Joanna on the shoulder—because she had been the one to take the last chicken meal. Joanna looked up as she was on the verge of ripping the white cardboard top off the aluminum base (yes, it’s no wonder the planet is suffering from climate catastrophe with landfill materials like these rotting it to its very core on a daily basis). The flight attendant then inquired with a blend of desperation and mellifluousness, “Excuse me ma’am. I’m so sorry to ask, but is there any way you would consider switching out your chicken for the pasta?”

Joanna might have actually been willing to say yes, even for a douchebag like Chicken Guy, but before she could actually consent, he was spewing, “That’s disgusting! I don’t want food that’s been touched by someone else.” The flight attendant had no chance to remind him that the meal hadn’t been opened, because he was already berating her further. All the while, the meek teenage-seeming girl next to him with a complexion of dark color (making her “descent” dubious) kept staring down at her own unopened meal. As though afraid to “break bread” without Chicken Guy’s approval. This is what had been attracting the flight attendant’s attention for the past several moments while Chicken Guy continued to go off on her.

She kept nodding along, interjecting with an occasional obsequious, “I understand, sir” before wheeling her cart abruptly to the back of the plane where she made some swift notifications that no passenger was aware of until the previously invisible air marshal approached Chicken Guy (who had stubbornly refused to accept any food of any kind) and commenced in not only silencing him with his presence but asking the girl next to him a series of questions that she couldn’t seem to grasp in any of the languages he offered to converse with her in. While Chicken Guy might have spared the pilot from needing to ground the plane if he had simply persisted with the verbal abuse track, he decided to get physical with the air marshal himself, who couldn’t restrain him as he ran down the aisle, at last surrendering to his thinly-veiled freakdom by screaming, apropos of nothing, “Trump is still the president!”

The girl continued to sit there in silence, looking down at her meal as though making eye contact with anyone might violate some sacred vow she had taken. Whoever she was, she had been the catalyst for the plane landing at the first available opportunity as the air marshal and several flight attendants worked in conjunction to subdue Chicken Guy. Who was so quintessentially arrogant in that Andrew Tate sort of way that he didn’t think his superfluous flare-up would attract attention to his human trafficking attempt. And as the plane was grounded, Joanna couldn’t push away the idea that perhaps he would have been less prone to irritability about the chicken shortage had he been accommodated with more tailored in-flight entertainment, like Fox News. Alas, even with running the gamut from sexual predator-directed films to a Pride Classics playlist, you can’t be everything to everyone.

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