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Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Strangers on a Plane

There's a woman across the aisle from us.  She's a few years older than we are, mid thirties perhaps. She's watching us from the moment we take our seats and and sit William down snugly in the space between us. She gets up several times, walks up and down the aisle slowly.

A few hours into the flight she leans over, asks us, "Where are you going?"

"We're going to visit my family in Canada."

"Oh?" she turns her lips down in an exaggerated pout and asks in an intimate tone "You're going out of duty?"

There's a pause while we consider what that even means. "No, not out of duty, for a visit."

"Where do you live?" she continues.


"Oh Norway! Lovely! And tell me, how do you feel living in Norway where it's so rich when there are so many suffering people in the world? And have you seen the Northern Lights?" "No, not where we live..." is our puzzled reply. Her eyes widen and she stares at us and says in an innocent voice full of disbelief as though we were lying, "But...I thought you said you live in Norway! Oh! What a beautiful child you have!", she continues in a flash smiling sweetly at William, "Where is he from?" "Sri Lanka", we reply cautiously. Again her eyes widen, this time in exaggerated delight, " did that work? Did you just go there, pay his mother a lot of money and take her child away from her? How wonderful that you did that!", she says in a bright, falsely sweet voice.

Obviously something is very wrong. (We probably should have stopped the conversation dead in its tracks but easier said than done.)

"No, we adopted him legitimately."
She puts her hand under her chin and leans forward as though we're old friends sharing secrets over tea and asks in a voice dripping with honey and sarcasm, "But how did that feeeeel for you? Taking him away from his mother like that? What a good thing you've done! How selfless you are!" She shakes her head in a parody of exaggerated admiration.

I sigh. This feels overwhelming and is made all the more difficult by the fact that she is so manipulatively sweet and not blatantly hostile which is a world easier to deal with.

After about an hour of conversation in this vein, we turn away and begin to feed William, hoping this will signal an end to this bizarre, invasive and dark conversation.

But nothing deters her and she stands up and comes over and sits down beside Per, almost clapping her hands together in mock pleasure and says in a bitter, cloying voice "I just had to come over here and witness this beautiful little moment of perfect family happiness!" She carries on "So what was wrong with you anyway? That you couldn't adopt a child from one of your own countries? What sort of marriage do you have anyway?" Finally I say "I don't want to answer those questions. Why don't you tell me what sort of view you have on adoption because you sound very negative about the entire issue." She gasps in surprise, as though entirely taken aback at my rudeness and answers sweetly "No, no, no! It's only that I admire you and what you've done so much!" And then she mumbles something that sounds as though she is asking me if I am religious. So I answer hesitantly, "I am religious..." And she looks at me with such naked dislike and says in an ugly voice "I didn't ask you if you were religious but since you feel the need to talk about it, go ahead then, tell me..." I reply, "Actually I don't want to tell you anything. We need to lie our son down now, would you please go back to your own seat?"

My heart is pounding and my hands are shaking in my lap and I'm hoping she doesn't notice. She stands up and says very loudly "Well, it's just that I think your little boy is so beautiful and that what you've done is so wonderful...imagine that, ripping a little child away from its home and its mother! It's so absolutely wonderful! Look!", (she says while gesturing to people in the seats around us), "Everyone's smiling at what you've done, they're just so happy you've taken a little baby away from it's mother!"

I reply, "We didn't do it for anyone else's approval."

She smiles condescendingly "I know, I know, you're so purely selfless! Such a good person! Well let me just tell you one thing before I sit down and that is that there is no one, absolutely no one on this plane who cares at all about you and what you've done. Alright? No one cares."

And that was that. This went on for well over an hour and there was far more to it than I want to write but that was the gist of it. I think it's the only time in my life where I have genuinely felt harassed and it was so overwhelming that all the logical responses (as in, stop talking to her altogether, ask a flight attendant to intervene, etc,) just flew out the window.

But live and learn, right? If we ever have to deal with such an atrocious person again, we'll be much better equipped. ;)


Ellinor said...

OMG! Is it possible? I guess it is...
I really hope she is the only one in the entire world with those thoughts and the nerve to say them out loud

Sesselja said...

I'm enraged just reading about this. How dare she!? And even if she believes adoption to be evil on earth, whatever good did she imagine having such a conversation in front of a child would do? I feel an intense need to bitch slap her!

Colleen said...

Thanks for the support Ellinor and Sesselja! It was seriously unsettling at the time and just extremely strange. Later I thought she was either seriously mentally disturbed (After she went back to her own seat, she spent the remaining hours of the flight staring unceasingly at us and scribbling madly in a journal) or that she had had a bad experience herself with adoption or something! I've never spoken to someone more manipulative with their words, expressions, and tones of voice.

James said...

That is profoundly disgusting. It seems very likely she had suffered a child being taken from her and decided to subject you to her pent up wrath.

I have had to deal with that kind of random, unprovoked abuse before, albeit not about adoption, and know that it catches you on the back foot, so to speak. The usual defence mechanisms fail spectacularly.

It may be difficult dealing with this now, and you're probably full of '... That's what I *should* have said', but it would have been much, much worse if you'd given her the pleasure of a more passionate reaction. Some people thrive on conflict.

Had it been me, I would have snapped very early on and honestly don't like to think what I would have done to her.

Brady said...

I can't believe the nerve of some people! This is the second time I have heard of someone getting harassed like this after adopting. The first time I heard this was a mother who had her children taken away from her by CPS. They obviously found a reason or they wouldn't have taken them away. So, she was bitter towards ANYONE that had adopted children because she only saw her side. I am betting that this lady likely sufferred similar situation. It doesn't excuse her behavior in the least. Does she really think that children are better off abandoned in orphanages that are too underpaid to take care of the children properly? Or do they belong with biological parents that cannot take care of them properly, whether it be due to lack of money, experience(age), drugs, etc? Ena I think what you have done is noble. You have given your son a loving home and opportunities that he wouldn't have normally gotten. Some people are just too stupid to look at the bigger situation. Oh and kudos to you for holding it together. I might have had to get nasty.

Anonymous said...

what a f**king b***h!? I'm sorry for the harsh words, but such people should have their own flights...i'm proud of you getting through it and admire your patience - i'd explode in her face without question and who knows what she would have done in return..

Hope you're well after this horrifying experience.


Ine said...

I am in shock!

I think I would have reacted the same way as you, not knowing what to say to "disarm" her, but still wanting to convince her that she is deeply mistaking. Didn't anyone around you step in? Or even talk to you after? If I had been a witness to something like this I would definitely have wanted to show my support to those beeing attacked by this crazy woman, and tell them that everyone around them can see who is the bad person. I feel so sorry for you for having to deal with this horrific woman, I can just imagine how you felt. Thank God William is so little that he didn't understand anything this woman said!

Colleen said...

Thanks for the comment James. I kind of wish that I was the sort of person that snapped early on in these situations though.:)
Brady, so so nice that you stopped by! Thanks a lot for your encouraging words, they are much appreciated.
Hi Mats, thanks, yeah I survived anyway. Not only should people like that have their own flights but they should also have their own straight jackets and muzzles.;)
Ine, I am so thankful too that William had no clue as to the madness going on around him! Can you imagine if a child could understand all that?! Ugh! After it happened, a girl behind me leaned over and was incredibly encouraging and supportive and I appreciated that so much because the whole incident makes you feel kind of degraded somehow, you know? So yes, someone did show a lot of kindness afterward which was much appreciated. She really encouraged me not to see it as a wholly negative incident but to think that it makes me stronger and teaches me how to stand up to people like that. (By the way, I'm off FB for awhile again, I have such a love-hate relationship with it.:)

Janet said...

Oh Colleen I'm so sorry you had to go through that!

My thoughts, as I was reading your entry, was that the words she used were words of hurt. She has most probably been hurt by adoptions, either loosing a child, not being able to have one or something to that effect. My question to her would have been "Why don't you tell me your story?" But honestly though I think you handled it quite well. If I could come over and give you a BIG hug I would :o)

There is so much hate, anger and hurt in this world it's incredible so when people see a nice family that seems to have it all together (what family does?) they attack. They attack what they want and desire. Anger, in this case, becomes a coping mechanism. She obviously saw something threatening to her emotional life in you guys. What I think is kind of funny is when she said:

"Well let me just tell you one thing before I sit down and that is that there is no one, absolutely no one on this plane who cares at all about you and what you've done. Alright? No one cares."

To which my answer would have been, "Well obviously you do!"

I love you Colleen! Keep strong girl! I'm sorry you had to go through that xxx

Felisol said...

Hello, Collen,
Thank you for visiting.
How strange God is today.
Leading a young woman from Manitoba, where my BBF(best blog friend) grew up, over to my site. Funny thing is, we are both living in the same county, Rogaland. I assure you, Northen Light can be seen here,especially in cold, clear winter nights.You have something special to look forward too!

Young William will grow up and be a blessed child, he has parents who love him and will go far to protect him.
Problems on planes is, that there is no where to hide. Next time, use the buzzer and make the stewardess remove unwanted company.
They are trained to handle these situations.
I fear the woman from the plain must be psychically disturbed. No use in trying to reason with her.

I sure hope you have settled well down in Rogaland. They say people can be hard to get to know here. We, alas, are not that open and social as the Canadians.
The summer has been cold and there's nothing I can do about that either. The good Lord decides what weather we shall have.
Today it's raining and that is good for our garden,the flowers have almost been walking by themselves to the water tap to have something to drink.
Please come back and let me know how things are working out.
I pray for the best.
My daughter, Serina 22, is sending her loves as well.
From Felisol

Crown of Beauty said...

This is such a clear violation of and demonic intrusion of your boundaries.

I am amazed that you were able to remain decent and civil for a whole hour, and even after that, answering her questions like you were under interrogation for a crime or something!

She must have spotted you and Per and the little one from the predeparture lounge, and couldn't restrain herself.

I feel a strange anger inside for this clear violation of your personal rights. You were entitled to enjoy the first leg of your journey back to your homeland...and here she was pouring poison disguised as sweet morsels...can't help associating her with the evil queen offering Snow White a poisoned apple!

Colleen, I believe you and Per should pray for God to cleanse you and him and the child from any dark spiritual defilement from this strange woman. Sounds to me like she was a secret agent of the kingdom of darkness sent on a special mission to attack you.

If you want, I can email you a special prayer we do for people exposed to such circumstances.


Mariannes blogg said...

Engelsken min er virkelig ikke sterk nok til å skrive noe særlig. (nå, norsken min er ikke så god heller skriftlig...;))
Men jeg er lei for at dere måtte oppleve dette.
Jeg tror bare vi må være litt forberedt på sånne situasjoner,selvom jeg synes denne var horribel!
Jeg har selv ikke opplevd noe virkelig ille, men tar heller ikke igjen, men sier vi er utrolig heldige som får være mamma og pappa og takker Gud for ham hver dag:))
Resten får være opp til dem og en gang måtte forklare;))
Varm kveldshilsen fra midnattsolen og Nordlysets landsdel;)

Diana said...

Wow, that was just beyond rude! I'm so sorry this happened to you. It sounds like she is the type of person who likes to feed off of others.

Jackie said...

I popped over from Lidg's site to meet you and OMG, I just can't believe the behavior of the woman on the plane!!!.....The whole incident is bazaar!! Obviously she is a very disturbed individual whose motive was to steel your joy and rob you of your peace!! Don't let her disfunction take you "there"!

BUT, oh how wonderful to have adopted a precious boy as your own!! What a blessing!!

Blessed by your blog and following along now. Hope you'll stop by my place sometime for a visit!!

Sweet Blessings!

Olga Marie said...

WHAT A BI***!!!!

Colleen said...

Dearest Janet, I would accept a great big hug from you any day! I did try to ask her questions (There was a wealth of conversation I couldn't write about here, I had to narrow it down to the bare bones of crazy) but she refused to answer them. Otherwise it would have been a good move for sure. Love ya.

Felisol, thank you for your lovely comment! How interesting we both live in the same beautiful county...what a small world!:) I look forward to a clear cold night and northern lights then! I have settled down pretty well here, thank you for asking and caring! There are many lovely and friendly people here too but of course there are times I miss Canada! I look forward to reading more on your blog...see you there soon.:)

Lidj, thank you for your concern and support. I agree with you and would be very interested if you would like to email the prayer you mentioned. I can give you my email later. Thank you again for your kind words!

Marianne, takk for hyggelig kommentar! Du har det rett i at vi skulle prøve å forberede seg på situasjoner som det. Håper at du få en kjempe fin dag og kos dere i "midnattsolen og Nordlysets landsdel;)" sounds so gorgeous where you live!:)

Diana I think you're right. Thanks for the comment!

Jackie, I appreciate you dropping by, you are welcome any time! And thanks for the congratulations, we are very happy and feel really blessed to have William!

Olga Marie, thank you! She most definitely sounds crazy doesn't she?:) It was one crazy flight!! Have a great day!

Mariannes blogg said...

It is really gorgeous in Northern Norway, and the people here are so great! Warm and including, and you can visit everyone without invitation!! :)) The coffee is always ready:)
(I'm from Moss near Oslo, and I do notise a difference...)
But sometimes I miss more people and maybe a bigger city??
(prøvde meg på Engelsk her du;))

Colleen said...

Marianne, you English is wonderful, far better than my Norwegian!:) Where you live now sounds amazing, I love friendly and inclusive neighborhoods! I'm going to remember that the coffee is always on and maybe someday if we are ever lucky enough to head up north I'll let you know and we can have a nice visit!

Mariannes blogg said...

That sounds great!!
(and I do make a eatable Pavlova cake;))

catholicofthule said...

What a horrible experience this must have been. It sounds like this lady must be struggling with some form of mental illness or serious psychological difficulty whatever its cause. Well, I nearly hope so, because that appears to be the only benign explanation for this kind of behaviour and for her strange interpretation of facts and events about which she has absolutely no information.

Colleen said...

Thank you for your insight Kirsten. It was a horrible experience but actually writing about it here and getting so much support and words of wisdom and advice from so many caring friends has really enabled me to let the whole thing go and be at peace about it in a way I wasn't able to be before so I am thankful for that.

Cheyenne said...

This is making me feel sick to my stomach. Literally nauseated.

Now I sort of feel like my throat has a big lump in it...

Colleen, you are such a beautiful and good can only imagine this lady was drunk...mentally ill? Had a bad adoption experience? Gosh, a stark raving lunatic?

Lady, I wish you were here at my kitchen table and could be drinking coffee together. Tim Horton's coffee.

Your family is gorgeous and you are such an amazing mom.

Blessings to you and your family.

Shell said...

This is a whole lot of crazy. Wow. Just wow. What on earth was wrong with her?

Mary333 said...

That is the most bizarre story I've ever heard! Talk about someone speaking with a forked tongue! I'm sorry you had to go through something like that. I suspect that this woman has some very deep emotional problems.