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A politically incorrect death: Hurt feelings at 36 000 feet

by Shelley McKinney
web posted May 21, 2001

The airline claims that it was on a mission of mercy.

The three people claim that their vacation -- their expensive vacation to an exotic locale -- was completely ruined.

The airline says that their service of shuttling critically ill passengers from remote island locations to a bigger island with a big hospital has saved dozens of lives.

The three people couldn't care less, and they are demanding restitution from the airline for the entire amount of their vacation, which is upwards of $10,000.

Canadian citizen Donna Beaulieu, her daughter and son-in-law spent a week on their dream vacation in Bali, frolicking in the surf and soaking up the rays of the tropical sun last January. When they boarded their Continental Airlines flight home, they were weary yet contented, full of the memories that their time in the sun had provided them.

Those memories were slain when a critically ill man, en route from his home on the isle of Majuro to a Honolulu hospital, was bold enough to die on their flight. Such inconsideration of the fragile feelings of one's fellow passengers just shouldn't be allowed. How thoughtless! How unkind! How gauche!

(How politically incorrect!)

When the Beaulieu family saw the unconscious man being wheeled aboard the plane and settled into a seat near theirs, they were deeply offended. The sight of his I.V. and his oxygen cannula killed their holiday spirit.

"We looked at each other and said, 'This guy is not going to make it,'" Donna Beaulieu told some handy newspaper reporters.

Mourned Beaulieu's daughter, "We can't think of the happiness part of the holiday. You just focus on what happened on the plane -- a man died." She made this statement on Good Morning America, proving the fact that re-hashing the dreadful event over and over again to every available print and broadcast media outlet wasn't too torturous -- it was just being in the presence of death's grim specter which was just too awful for words. The nerve of that man, putting his mortality on such indecent exhibition!

The Beaulieus were the only people on the flight who complained about the dead man, who "frothed at the mouth" before he died, unnerving them still further. They made a big, fat fuss and were allowed to move up into the first-class section, away from the corpse. The other people on the Boeing 737, while probably not overcome with wild hilarity at the man's untimely demise, dealt with the situation like adults and preserved the peace.

Once they were back on their native heath, the Beaulieus demanded that Continental reimburse them for the entire amount of their vacation, on the grounds that no one from the airline called to "discuss" the on-flight episode with them. They wanted to verbalize their pain -- lucky for them they were able to parade their anguish across America's television screens.

This farce is just a typical politically correct desire for everything to be perfect at all times, plus a rather un-subtle grab for a free vacation. If things offend or inconvenience us in any way, we feel free to trumpet our angst to the heavens, demanding that people bow down to our wounded feelings. The Beaulieus need to explain their convoluted logic: How can a dreadful occurrence on a Friday subtract from a wonderful experience on the previous Saturday? That makes no sense, especially when one considers the fact that these people had an entire week's worth of pleasure, compared to a couple measly hours of time on their return flight with the dead guy. Surely these things don't cancel one another out. Unless, of course, one is the type of person who is on constant red alert, searching for a grievance to parlay into a cash windfall. Dead guy on an airplane got you all upset? Ka-ching!

Also typical of the selfishness inherent in the Feelings Crowd, the Beaulieus apparently haven't even tried to put the event behind them and resolutely call to mind the happy portions of their trip; they also seem to be neglecting the fact that the critically ill patient was having a much worse time on the flight than they were. What's important here is that they suffered. There must be adequate recompense, like maybe another trip to Bali, only free this time.

That'll make everything all better again. I'm politically correctly sure of it.

Shelley McKinney is a senior writer for Enter Stage Right. She can be reached at smckinney@enterstageright.com




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