I'm in the middle of playing "The wheels on the bus" on my ukulele for two Argentinian toddlers while their grandmother helps me with the Spanish lyrics when a scream of rage ruptures the moment. The youngest of the girls, maybe two-years-old, jolts at the noise and begins to cry. I'm also startled and look for the source of the scream. It's a woman standing at the American Airlines check-in gate assigned to a large group of us waiting for a delayed flight from Dominican Republic to New York (via Miami).
Nobody looks happy about the delay, of course, but we've accepted our fate and are making do. Not this woman. She's perhaps 50, dressed in an expensive pants, and has a New York accent. She's facing three fairly young American airline workers, local Dominican women if I had to guess. They look miserable. Like they'd rather be anywhere else in the world. The raging woman, who Cheri and I begin referring to as the Screamer, alternates between loud yelling, erratic pointing at something on her phone, and downright primal screams of unfiltered rage. Like a wild animal. Or a child throwing an unhinged tantrum.
The Argentinian grandmother picks up the crying child, glares at the Screamer, unnecessarily apologizes to me, and moves back to her family. I tell Cheri, who's posted up in our airport hobo camp, that I'll be back in a few minutes. I head straight for the Taco Bell, which I discover also sells margaritas. Well done Dominican Republic.
A burrito and beverage later, I head back to Cheri. As I approach our terminal, I hear screaming yet again. Wow, I think, she's still going strong after 30-minutes. Hardcore. As I pass the commotion, I note that there are now three additional security guards, though none of them are doing anything but watching the woman rage. Perhaps intervention is riskier than suffering through her abuse. I examine the screamer's face, which is monstrous with contorted rage. Spittle flies, her powdered jowls tremble, and again I'm reminded of a child's tantrum.
I flop down next to Cheri who says, "I wonder what it is that woman wants. Like what does she expect? Nothing can be done about flight delays."
I shrug. "Maybe she doesn't even know."
Two hours later, as we board, I find the aisle blocked by a woman who's doing nothing. She's literally just standing in the aisle leaning on a seat and relaxing, her backside plugging the path.
With unguarded sarcasm, I ask, "Can I trouble you to move?" She glares up at me, and I realize its the screamer. Of course it is. After a big sigh, she begrudgingly moves her substantial caboose and I have to fight the urge to "accidentally" give her a bump.
Several hours later, we arrive in Miami. It's stuffy and immigration takes forever. But we finally have our passports checked by a bleary-eyed custom's official. He evaluates me for a second before smiling and saying, "Glad to have you back. Welcome home." For some reason this unexpected statement of goodwill warms me a little. He probably says it a bazillion times a day, but it feels like he means it.
My newly rekindled belief in the goodness of humanity is popped like a bubble when I hear screaming, yet again. Guess who? This time she's got five airline staff and three armed airport police surrounding her. "No fucking way!" she shrieks while jabbing a finger at her phone. "I have it in writing right here. Right God damned here!!" The energy radiating from this woman is so nasty I can almost taste it in the air. Looking at the faces of those dealing with her, I see that I'm not alone in this perception. One cop has his hand on his gun. Use it, I think, and then feel guilty for such malicious intent.
Later that night, as I lie down to sleep in a surprisingly comfortable airlines' funded hotel due to an overnight delay in Miami, I realize that getting stranded could have been a lot worse and that acceptance of the situation had afforded me some peace. My revulsion to the screamer's tantrum had actually helped me let go of my own frustration with the delay. I wonder where she is and if she's "off duty" or raging on someone else. I wonder what happened to her to result in such volatile behavior. Was she forced to live with someone who unleashed similar rage on her? What a sad way to be, I think.
As I close my eyes to finally sleep, I say a little prayer for the screamer and thank her for being my teacher.