Update: It was revealed on Dec. 3 that the entire Twitter episode between Gale and "Diane" was a hoax. As ABC News reported, Gale tweeted a picture purporting to reveal Diane's identity; the picture was of an empty chair. He signed off with: "I conclude by saying hopefully a few people got a few laughs over a slow Thanksgiving weekend."
This past U.S. Thanksgiving weekend, Elan Gale, a producer for the Bachelor TV show, starred in his own reality Twitter blockbuster when he found himself seated on a plane near a stranger named “Diane.” When the plane was delayed, Diane, as Gale called her, began taking it out on the flight staff. Gale decided (what else?) to detail the whole incident – including his interventions – live on Twitter. After all, it’s not like he had anything else to do.
One proffered drink, a couple profane insults, three notes passed back and forth, dozens of hilarious tweets and one game-ending face slap later, Gale is either the hero who took down a cranky dragon lady, or a mysogynist who bullied a middle-aged woman wearing a surgical mask on an airplane.
Now, there’s an unconfirmed online comment from a relative, claiming that “Auntie Diane” has terminal lung cancer.
There has to be some mannerly lessons in there somewhere, especially since many of us will also soon be hopping planes to try to see family during a Canadian winter – the key ingredient for all-too-human altercations if ever there was one.
1. It may be a good way to pass the time, but tweeting about the jerk in your midst will not make him act better (and will likely make you act worse.) No doubt it made Gale feel better once he fired off that first sarcastic “praying for her” tweet about his fellow passenger. But then he couldn’t stop. Does knowing our bad behaviour could be widely disseminated actually make people, in the heat of the moment, behave better?
2. Offer a comforting drink, leave off the snark. Gale’s solution was to send a glass of wine to Diane, who was protesting having to spend Thanksgiving with strangers. That was thoughtful. But then he had to go and write a note on the coaster, signing off with: “Hopefully, if you drink it you won’t be able to use you mouth to talk!” No, no, no, no. Just no. (Of course, if he had offered a glass of wine, with a kind word, and Diane had calmed down and apologized, well, no one would have retweeted that!)
3. Sometimes, the bigger person watches the airplane movie (or leaves the table, walks the dog, pretends to fall asleep). Once Gale started stalking Diane – leaving vodka bottles on her airplane tray, snapping a picture of her row seat, muttering “I’ll be back” as he walked by – the story was starting to feel a lot less heroic and a lot more creepy. You know you’re in danger of crossing a line when, in this context, you tweet “this means war.”
4. Keep your body parts out of it. In response to the donated alcohol, Diane fired back her own missive: “You are an awful person with no compassion. I’m sorry for your family that they should have to deal with it.” Not nice, it’s true. But, as the online comments showed, Gale was in serious danger of becoming the real villain here (and not the kind you love to hate) when he dropped off his written response, including this line: “I hate you very much.” And then followed up with an obscenity. Really?
5. Everybody is dealing with crap. So come on, people, gently does it. A note has since gone up online, allegedly from one of Diane’s relatives, coming to her defence. It said that she was travelling to see her family for one last Thanksgiving because she has terminal cancer. If that is true, it is very sad. Who among us wouldn’t crack up a little when trapped on an airplane under those circumstances? If it’s a fabrication, then maybe it’s a good time to be reminded that bad behaviour often has a back story that has nothing to do with us, and might call for a little compassion. But having a serious illness is not an excuse for bad behaviour. Just like being trapped on a plane with a grump is no excuse for swinging below the belt, literally.
How did it all end? “Well, “Diane,” just slapped me,” Gale tweeted. The (high-school) note-sending, documented on Twitter, escalated to Diane threatening to speak to the authorities about his “inappropriate” comment, and Gale firing back a tweaked version of the same insult. When he got off the plane, Diane was waiting, with her open palm.
According to Gale’s tweets (Twitter only has his version of events to date), airport staff offered to call the police. He declined, and gave her one last note, urging her go on Twitter to read their shared drama in detail. “Maybe next time you’ll be nice to people who are just trying to help,” he wrote.
He must have been referring to the flight crew. Because, let’s be honest, Gale’s assistance mostly amounted to poking someone having a really rotten day (with a little too much glee), and then “helping” himself to a hefty serving of Twitter fame.
There’s probably a lesson there, too, about time, and how we spend it.