“Five years ago, I gave a speech about Ned called The End of Cute. The premise was that when he was a little boy, people were drawn to him. He was talkative, friendly, and cute. But as he reached his late teens, I noticed that strangers who only a few years before would have taken a step toward him now seemed to be taking a step back. He was a Retarded Adult, and Retarded Adults scare some people. I said it back then, but I had never had any obvious, direct experience with the fact that for some of the population, Ned is someone to avoid.
I got that experience an hour ago on this plane. Our flight was completely full, so as the final twenty people arrived in the cabin, they looked around for somewhere available to sit. Five of them saw the empty seat in the front row and started for it eagerly. Then they saw Ned. They stopped, looked apprehensive for a moment, and then went down the aisle to the back of the plane. Just as the doors were about to close, the flight attendant tried to direct a woman who appeared to be in her early sixties to the empty seat between Ned and me. She looked at Ned, said haughtily, “Well, I’m certainly not going to sit there!” and marched on past. I glanced over at Ned. Looking out the window at the ground activity, he was oblivious to what was going on inside the plane, thank God. He was also not drooling, playing with himself, leering at women, or slowly removing his clothes. He was just looking out the window.
Practically the last guy through the door took the available seat happily… The latecomer told me a few minutes ago that he was surprised to find a seat available in the front row when he got on the plane at the last minute. “Usually on these Southwest flights I’m crammed into the middle row of the back seat.”
“It’s because there are a lot of crapheads on board,” I explained…
Exactly the same thing happened with some entering passengers [on the way home] that happened on the way down. When offered the seat between Ned and me, even thought it was in the front row with more legroom and a quicker exit at the other end, they got a look as though there were a bad smell on the plane and took off for the back rows. I can see I’m going to have to get used to this. I’m going to have to suppress the urge to go back there and pass among the bastards with a baseball bat.” pp 123-124
This passage is heartbreaking. Have you ever experienced such blatant bigotry? Do you think we should ‘get used to it’ as Palmer suggests? What would you do?