Alice MacGillivray

Supporting Leadership & Knowledge Work Across Boundaries

Assumptions about Assumptions

I had an interesting airport experience yesterday. Realizing I was flyng with a U.S. based airline, I planned ahead to take advantage of oversold flight perks. Wouldn’t it be great to have a free flight for a writing session with the co-author of a book we’re hoping to write this year! So my plan was in place, and I walked to the counter during the announcement that asked if one person would delay their flight.

I arrived first, and a tall man arrived on my heels (close enough that we might be interpreted as a couple). The United agent hung up to phone and asked the man if we were together. I replied that we weren’t but we’d come for the same purpose. The agent maintained eye contact with the man and arranged for his free flight. I was as curious as I was irritated. As I walked away from the counter, a woman standing close enough to have watched the scene unfold gave me a knowing smile. I said, “I guess I wasn’t tall enough” and she laughed.

After the passenger and agent had completed their conversation I went back to the counter and said “For future reference, I wanted to let you know that I was the first to arrive at the counter.” The agent looked a bit flustered and said “Well, he might get on this flight anyway.” I wondered if he had spent his career working for tall white males and reiterated that I was mentioning this as something to think about in the future. I wonder if he heard anything other than a gentle complaint? How many boundaries was I trying to cross, and did I cross any of them?

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1 Comment»

  jennymackness wrote @

Hello Alice,

I can completely relate to your story. My husband is disabled and often uses a wheelchair to get about. If we are travelling together at an airport he always carries the passports tickets etc. as he is much better organised than me! It is amazing how often I am automatically asked for the passports and tickets and then even when my husband hands them over and they have been dealt with, they are returned to me, straight over the top of his head. People act as if person in wheelchair = no brain or mental capacity!

After so many years of this (we have been married for 40+) I no longer try to cross the boundaries. It’s not possible to teach someone who is at not at the right stage of readiness. Or is that my assumption?

Jenny


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