Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"TALK, TALK, TALK!" Taro's Holiday Travel Story

On Monday afternoon my wife, son, and I flew from New York City to Jackson, Mississippi to spend the holidays with my wonderful in-laws.  When we arrived at the American Airlines terminal at LaGuardia Airport in New York City it was a madhouse.  There were many, many long lines and it was quite confusing to everyone which line to stand in.

After asking a few other people on line what the deal was I determined that the first step was to find an empty kiosk and do the self-serve check in.  Step two would be to stand on an over-one-hour-long line to drop off our bags. But which over-one-hour-long line was the right one?  I certainly did not want to stand in the WRONG over-one-hour-long line!

As I was walking back to my wife and son with our newly printed boarding passes in hand, who should I see but an American Airlines employee.

So I said, "May I ask you a question?"
She turned to me, stopped walking and said, "Okay."
So I said, "I just printed our boarding passes and I was wondering w-w-w-w-w- (that's right, I had a block on the word "which").  
As I was trying to get the word out, she said, "TALK, TALK, TALK!  I DON'T HAVE TIME!"  
At the same time that she was interrupting me she was backing away from me.  When she was finished with her remark she turned her back to me and walked away.

This was certainly not the first time this kind of thing has happened to me or to other people who stutter that I know.  But it was still shocking, frustrating, maddening, and sad.

Needless to say, American Airlines will be hearing from me.  She picked the wrong person to interrupt and walk away from.  

I wanted to share this experience because I know this kind of thing happens all to often and it is important for people who stutter to remember that we are not alone in being discriminated upon or treated unjustly because of the way we speak.  I would love to hear from those of you who have been on the receiving end of unthinking or cruel comments.  Take a moment to leave a comment sharing your story, and keep in mind that you're never alone, and there's never any excuse for someone treating you rudely because of your stutter.  

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

HEY!!! Joe Pop here. Once at Taro's 35th birthday (AWESOME!) i was at a food stand and I got stuck on the word, "pretzel" so he was like "HURRY UP HURRY UP!!!!!!" I just walked away feeling sad and almost ALMOST cried. It sucks but we have to get over it!

chelsea said...

ooooooh that makes me SO MAD! HAPPY HOLIDAYS AMERICAN AIRLINES! grrrrr.

riki said...

Taro, thanks for sharing this infuriating tale. I apologize to you and all PWS on behalf of all fluent ignoramuses!!!

momawk said...

Taro
I'm appalled! Who can I contact at American Airlines to express my disgust at the behavior of this employee. As a former speed/language therapist and as someone who believes that this kind of rudeness and ignorance is unacceptable, I would like to make my voice heard. I believe that fluency without compassion is NOT fluent.
Bless yu, Taro, for your wonderful work and your beautiful spirit!
Kris Halstead

Anonymous said...

Taro,

Go get em! I hope you post an update of this situation.

Happy Holidays,

Peter

riki said...

Taro, friends are calling me after I sent this post around. They are angry, appalled in fact, and glad you wrote your experience down. Some were wishing you had the name of this employee, but after further thinking, said it'd be better to go straight to top management as correcting this type of ignorance should be part of training for all AA employees. Go Taro! And yes, I hope you'll keep us updated!

Catherine Ryan said...

"Fluency without compassion is not fluent."
I love this. Thanks Taro. I remember that a mom from California that I met in New Orleans said her daughter had a similar experience on a plane either going to or returning from the conference. I will email and see if maybe her daughter wants to write about it. I think it was Jet Blue.

Anonymous said...

This is as apalling as saying 'walk walk walk' to someone who is wheelchair-bound.

Ezra said...

"Smack, Smack, Smack!"...as in: some people just need to be...

ezra

StutterTalk said...

Hey Taro,

You know, this is such a great opportunity to bring awareness to this airline. Have you thought of offering to do some type of presentation to their employees about what stuttering is and what are some more appropriate ways to respond to people who stutter?

Take care,

Peter Reitzes

Daniele said...

Yowza, that was just beyond rude and self-centered. Airports around the holidays and spring break are stressful but the employee should have known better (on every level) and probably did. I hope she got coal in her stocking.

Barry McGee said...

How ignorant of her, I hope you got her name badge so she can be brought to account..

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I recently have experienced a similar problem. Becuse of MS I frequently am stuck to find the right word or cannot pronounce them clearly. This from an intelligent and before, articulate individual. I sense the impatience of many. I also get tired of repeating what was originally difficult to say in the first place. All that being said, I have always subscribed to the theory of survival of the fittest and therefore refuse to do anything but attempt to carve out coping strategies so that I can stay viable. s they say, "That's life!"

Anonymous said...

The behavior of this American Airline employee is SICKENING! I don't care how buy you are. Respect is the not only the nice service to provide, but the right one. I hope this employee is fired. There are much more deserving people who are out of jobs who deserve to get this person's paycheck.

Sweet Cherry Vintage Lingerie said...

That is sad, sorry this happened to you. There are a lot of people who are ignorant to other people's disabilities. Perhaps she never encountered a stutterer before. I know I haven't. Not defending what she did, but some people are totally ignorant.

Joe Pop the coolest kid ever said...

I am never flying on American Airlines AGAIN!!!!! I HOPE YOU GO OUT OF BUISNESS AA!!!!!

Annie said...

How awful! I have done some work in the area of accessible transportation in Canada and just reviewed the code of practice and guidelines for Canadian airlines. While it has a lot of excellent detail on what should be done to accommodate disabilities, it doesn't go as far as to say "don't be rude". I think that goes without saying.

Marsha said...

This letter makes me very sad to read. I've worked for AA for over 25 years. I currently work as a ticket agent at LAX mostly at the self serve Kiosks. I certainly agree that the employee in question didn't handle the situation correctly but was also probably under tremendous pressure to help 10 other people and keep them from missing flights under tight time restraints, that we as employees can't often control.
That's not an excuse for rudeness. I have helped many disabled, special needs, hearing impaired, folks with MS, etc. and it normally takes just a couple of minutes listening to key in on a situation that takes extra care. The agent that failed here may never have known "why" it took so long for the question. I certainly don't wish anyone to be fired because of this. This is the busiest travel season any airline goes through each year, add to that lots of luggage situations that cause a slow down of processing check in times. I can't tell you how many times I am thanked by people who needed some extra time or help from me. I am sad when I hear stories like this because I've been so proud of my airline for so many years. It's the people that make an airline and when they fail it can cost us having a return customer for a lifetime.