What We Can Learn from the "Elan Gale and Diane in 7A" Hoax
On the morning of November 28, The Bachelor producer Elan Gale boarded a US Airways flight from New York City on his way back to Los Angeles via Phoenix. A maker of entertainment on television, Gale couldn't resist the impulse to pull the world into a story of conflict, drama and ultimately, justice.
Gale's fib began with a tweet about his flight being delayed. Soon, he introduced his story's antagonist, a woman who would become known to the world simply as Diane in 7A.
"A woman here is very upset because she has Thanksgiving plans. She is the only one obviously. Praying for her," he wrote. "She's telling the flight attendants that it is Thanksgiving. She wants them to know she wants to have dinner with her family."
Diane, Gale told us, had a connecting flight to Sacramento and was stressed that the delay was going to cause her to miss her connection.
Image by Rudi Riet (Flickr).
The flight attendant listening to Diane told her, "I understand, ma'am. I'm looking forward to seeing my family, too." To this, our antagonist rudely responded, "This isn't about you."
In our times, the number of people who have never seen an adult throw a fit that would put a toddler to shame are few, and at an airport, whether it's a holiday or not, the probability that we will witness such a meltdown increases exponentially. I have seen the longest fuses go nuclear before my eyes under the combined pressures of delays, lost luggage, missed opportunities, and shattered hopes. It's ugly, embarrassing and deeply unpleasant to experience and to witness, but it happens. And it happens to more of us than we'd like to admit.
I didn't pause to question the account unfolding before me because I knew it all too well. Since Thanksgiving, many commenters have questioned whether the events even happened or if Diane even exists. And Gale has now admitted he made up the whole Diane story. But I don't think it matters that we were played. As with any fiction, there is a lot we can learn about what went on between the characters in this story.
"She has been muttering 'about DAMN time,'" Gale posted after he tweeted that he and Diane had been seated for take-off. "I can hear her breathing from five rows back."
Gale decided to send her a glass of wine -- a gesture that might have caused even the angriest person to stop and consider the rest of the world around her. Unfortunately, Gale included a note.
I sent the lady a glass of wine and a note pic.twitter.com/GttnmQI25P
— elan gale (@theyearofelan) November 28, 2013
"Dear Lady in 7A," it read. "It has come to my attention that today is your 'Thanksgiving.' It must be hard not to be with your family! Please accept this glass of wine. It is a gift from me to you. Hopefully if you drink it, you won't be able to use your mouth to talk! Love, Elan."
Diane responded by frantically summoning the flight attendant. Gale too was summoning the flight attendant as well, asking for more alcohol for Diane in 7A. Gale told us that the flight attendant complied, bringing him two small bottles of vodka, but that refused to hand them to the other passenger, who was clearly becoming more upset as a result of Gale's "gestures."
"I'm going to do it," Gale tweeted next. He pretended he was going to the bathroom, but instead stopped and put the small bottles on Diane's tray. She eyed him firmly, breathing through her teeth in absolute disbelief.
The feeling of control over another person's emotional state -- a feeling known to anyone who has ever trolled anyone else on the internet, ever -- washed over Gale. He felt like he was on a roller coaster, "scared and super excited."
Diane wrote an immediate response, telling Gale, "The wine wasn't funny. The vodka wasn't funny. You're an awful person with no compassion. I'm sorry for your family that they should have to deal with you."
"Well I don't know what I'm going to so [sic] next but I've got two hours left on this flight and I'm going to retaliate," Gale wrote. He went on to describe Diane as a woman in her late 40s or early 50s, wearing "mom" jeans and a surgeon's mask over her "idiot" face. He noted he'd photographed her but wouldn't post the image until he was safely on the ground.
What he did post was a photo of the sign indicating her row and seat number, and he tweeted that he made sure that she noticed him taking this photo.
Gale considered putting his next note in his mouth and spitting it on Diane's tray as a means of delivery. We were never told how this note was delivered, but we soon learned its contents as well: "Thank you for your lovely note. The person who lacks compassion is you. We all want to get home particularly the nice men and women who fly your lazy ass around and serve you drinks (you're welcome!). Next time you're in a bad mood, stay home. I hate you very much. Eat my dick."
Once again, Gale tweeted that he heard heavy breathing and no one following the account stopped to wonder whether this might signify a person under an undue amount of stress.
The story didn't end there. In the next act, Diane wrote back, warning Gale she'd contact the authorities about his harassment. The 30-year-old producer engaged in some more name-calling and then there was silence.
Our humble narrator eventually tweeted that upon arriving in Arizona, he'd waited at the gate for Diane to disembark so he could give her yet another note, and that upon deplaning, Diane walked right up to him and slapped him in the face.
We were then told that she was restrained by gate staff and Gale was asked if he wanted to press charges. Our narrator magnanimously said he didn't, but he took pleasure when reporting the response the panicked Diane received when she asked whether she would still make it to Sacramento that day. The answer, of course, was no: she had assaulted another passenger.
The last scene showed Gale handing Diane in 7A one last note, telling her how to find him on Twitter, and issuing warning, "Maybe next time you'll be nice to people who are just trying to help,"
And with that, Gale went to spend Thanksgiving with his mother. For several days, not knowing it was a hoax, the internet discussed this story, with sites from BuzzFeed to Jezebel portraying Gale as some kind of hero, unafraid to stand up against rude people. Links to Gale's final Tumblr post on the incident were passed around, with a lot of nodding to his alleged point: "Be nice."
Again, I don't think it matters whether this event happened or not. Our reactions are telling. When the tweeting started, Gale had fewer than 60,000 followers on Twitter. Today, he has over 176,000. That's a lot of people rallying behind "be nice."