Shelves full of books have been written and many movies made on dilemmas and how people handle them. They typically describe BIG issues, about whether or not to save someone’s life for example – Schindler’s list, The Pianist, … The Deer Hunter, dealing with the aftermath of the war, or stories about loss like My Sister’s Keeper. I faced a dilemma a couple of days ago that I still feel the tiniest bit bad about, deep down. Silly really, because it was not a BIG issue and the outcome was overtaken by events. Here’s what happened:
Airport, gate D7. We were all waiting for an evening flight back to London, tired after several long days’ work. Looking forward to coming home again. Then came the dreaded announcement that our aircraft was still in London “with technical difficulties”. Eventually the flight got cancelled and we were instructed to queue for a rebooking, from VIP loyalty card holders down to standard card holders and then the plebs. Nice touch, that. I guess they have to make it worth our while to pursue their wretched cards. By the time they got down to my level they had just given away the last seat on the next plane. There were two of us, an American suit and me, narrowly missing out. Not to worry, said the airline lady brightly, I can put you both on the waiting list. Then she paused, and added: “What if there is only 1 seat?” I mean, what was she hoping for? A fight? We just sighed and looked at each other, our minds whirring. Well mine was, anyway. This was my Moral Moment: I really wanted to be nice and courteous, this man looked as tired as I felt; why would I take precedence; it was the right thing to do. Another voice in my head screamed NOOOOOO I WANT TO GO HOME!!! It took me longer to resolve my inner conflict than it did the other traveler, who pulled the gallant card and “in that case offered the seat to the lady”. I was obviously delighted and thanked him appropriately – not too profusely, just showing appreciation -, but I couldn’t shake the hint of disappointment at my cowardice.
That guilt made me feel relief alongside disappointment when it turned out neither of us got on the next flight home, and we both were put on the same even later one. I am comforted by the thought that I did not cause the gallant American any avoidable delays, but I am now carrying the knowledge that I am a coward. If only he’d been a rude ass. That would have evaporated my dilemma in an instant. I am a coward…