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There are eight million stories in the naked city, as an old television show used to say. A United Airlines pilot was arrested for being one of them.
It’s an embarrassing, mildly tawdry tale–but when you dig into the reasons behind United Airlines Capt. Andrew Collins’s arrest, you just might find you have some sympathy.
And, you might also find yourself wondering just what life is like for pilots these days.
First the story. Collins, 54, has been with United Airlines for 22 years. As he told The Denver Post, last September he was up for about 30 hours straight, flying around the country and being diverted because of thunderstorms.
He arrived finally in Denver, and checked into the Westin Hotel at the airport.
The next morning, he woke up around 10:30 a.m., and walked around his room, getting ready to take a shower. At one point he stood in front of the 10th floor window of his hotel room for more than 20 minutes while he talked on the phone.
Key detail: He was stark naked. Remember, he was alone in his hotel room, as he tells it, not expecting to see anyone, or to be seen.
But then things took a turn for the worse: a knock at the door, cops barging in with their guns drawn. Collins wound up in handcuffs and carted off to an airport jail, where he was charged with indecent exposure.
The problem, as he tells it, is that he didn’t realize the window he was standing in front of was transparent on both sides, or that anyone else was had a line of sight that would let them see him. Apparently, he was wrong.
“We’re not disputing the fact that I was standing nude in front of the hotel window,” Collins told the Post about the Sept. 20 incident. But he added, “Some witnesses said I was dancing, gyrating and waving. I’m completely innocent. It’s really unfortunate that it happened at all.”
Collins’s lawyer later went to the same room Collins stayed in at the Westin to investigate. And he says he concluded it’s totally reasonable for Collins not to have realized that anyone could see him while he was standing in front of the window.
“The concourse windows are tinted green and are opaque and reflective,” the attorney, Craig Silverman, told the Post. From the hotel room, he said, “It’s like looking at a green wall or a green mirror.”
It’s a misdemeanor case, and Collins has been “removed from his duties pending an internal review,” a United Airlines spokesperson told me. Of course, he has the presumption of innocence under our justice system.
Collins doesn’t quite blame what happened on the fact that he’d allegedly been up for 30 hours straight, but this story doesn’t exactly make it seem like flying for United is any kind of glamorous, high-reward job.
Bounced around the country, up a day and a half, stuck in a hotel room waiting for your next flight–only to wind up humiliated and facing legal jeopardy. He’s the head of his local union shop and was running for the national presidency when this all happened. That opportunity went out the window (sorry).
Meanwhile, airlines say they’re going to be short of pilots in the coming years, as younger people simply aren’t enamored of flying the way their predecessors were. Stories like what happened to Collins don’t make it easier.
He’s due in court Dec. 5. His lawyer hopes he can get the whole thing dismissed.
Americans could be forgiven for becoming numb to the swarm of stories reporting gun massacres. In the last five years, ordinary Americans have been murdered in mass shootings in a synagogue, in churches, at elementary and high schools, at a nightclub, at a bar, at a music festival, at a center for people with developmental disabilities, among countless others. After a shooting in Isla Vista, California, in 2014, The Onion wrote, “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”
The Onion got it right—at least for the “only nation” bit. The US is the only country where this keeps happening. And the US also claims the dubious distinction of being the only rich nation to see so many deaths from firearms, as the chart below shows. (We kill ourselves even more than we kill each other: Worldwide, the US ranks second only to Greenland in the rate of suicides by firearm; when you remove suicides from the equation, the US falls to number 28 worldwide for deaths from firearms, both from violent acts and accidents. But even subtracting suicides, the US’s death rate from guns remains far ahead of every single European nation and nearly every Asian one.)
Most countries that see high rates of gun violence are also economically depressed; El Salvador, for example, which claims the world’s highest rate of deaths from gun violence, has a per capita GDP of around $ 4,000—roughly 7 percent of the earnings per citizen in the US. The chart below shows that, generally, it’s the poorer countries that see high rates of violence, while rich countries—Luxembourg tops the list—tend to lose very few residents to gunfire. The US, again, stands alone for having a relatively high GDP per capita (number 8 worldwide) and a high level of gun violence (number 12 worldwide).
Rich countries that see virtually no deaths from firearms include Japan, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and South Korea, according to data from the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Global Burden of Disease survey.
Unsurprisingly, firearm deaths are correlated with firearm proliferation. American companies manufacture millions of guns each year and import many more. Domestic firearm manufacturing increased dramatically during President Barack Obama’s first term, in part because of fears that, after eight years of a Republican White House, a pro-gun-control president would take away citizens’ weapons.
That didn’t happen. By 2017 the number of handguns, shotguns, and rifles available in the United States was nearly three times higher than it was two decades earlier, according to the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Today, the US boasts more firearms than residents.
Canada, for its part, may have a lot of guns as well, as the chart below shows, but its citizens don’t often die from gunfire; the country ranks 72nd in the world for deaths from firearms. Despite having one firearm per every three Canadians, the country’s death rate from gun violence is about one-tenth that of the US (though still four times that of the UK). While mass shootings have been on the rise in Canada, only 223 Canadians died from firearm violence in 2016, compared with more than 14,000 in the US. Prospective gun buyers in Canada must pass a reference check, background check, and a gun-safety course before receiving a firearm license; the country also imposes a 28-day waiting period for new gun licensees. The AR-15 rifle—which was used to kill high school students in Parkland, Florida, moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado, and worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue, among many others—is a “restricted” firearm in Canada, meaning owners must pass an additional test and obtain a special license.
If Barack Obama had succeeded in passing stronger gun laws, would it have helped save lives? Maybe. On a state-by-state basis, there’s a general correlation between stronger gun laws and lower rates of firearm deaths. A May 2018 paper in JAMA Internal Medicine that sought to evaluate whether strong gun laws resulted in fewer deaths concluded, “Strengthening state firearm policies may prevent firearm suicide and homicide, with benefits that may extend beyond state lines.” Still, a February 2018 analysis by The New York Times found that most weapons used in mass shootings had been obtained legally.
The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives the states of Alaska and Louisiana a failing grade for their gun-safety laws; those states also claim the nation’s highest per capita rate of deaths from firearms. Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey all receive higher marks for their laws and have comparatively lower death rates from guns.
But as long as it’s easy for firearms to be transported from, say, a gun-friendly state (like Nevada) to a state with strong gun laws (like California), as long as lawmakers fail to enact strong policies to restrict sales to people with mental illnesses or a history of violence, as long politicians continue to take money from the gun industry, as long as the gun lobby continues to pressure medical doctors to stop advocating for their patients with bullet wounds, and as long as a box of ammunition for an AR-15 rifle costs $ 20 for 50 rounds, the shootings will no doubt continue.
More Great WIRED Stories
Here is a personality test for leaders: those who create products, services, and businesses, those who manage teams big and small, and those who have to be agile thinkers to face complex challenges. Read through the four groups below–Revolutionary, Evolutionary, Traditional, and Reactionary–and see where you fit in as a leader. Then think about your team. And then your organization. Where do they fit in too? And how can you collectively achieve the change and innovation needed?
I have personally a soft spot for Revolutionaries, because dedication to innovation is thrilling, makes you feel like you’re living at the cutting edge and serving a bigger purpose. I have also learned how quickly scales can change and top organizations and their leaders can get burnt out and retreat to the safety of incremental change. Inversely, Evolutionaries can become Revolutionaries; and Naysayers can become the best advocates for disruption once they see the value of being a Revolutionary.
Being at the service of people, solving problems for others, making someone’s life better, more joyful or easier–which is what innovation is about–is not a talent that only a few can attain. Neither is it a static skill that, once acquired, stays with you. It is an organic set of skills, tools, and processes you decide to have, practice and keep. In other words, it is inclusive and accessible if you know where you are now and where you want to be in the future, which is where this quiz comes in handy.
What is your current innovation personality? What personality do you aspire to be?
Different sources call you different things–A Reinventor, Disruptor, Provocateur, Innovator. You revolutionize the way something is done. You are a design thinker. In other words, you think like a designer. Positive, open-minded and curious, you are energized by new ideas. You see change as an opportunity, not as a challenge. You use design tools and an iterative process to solve problems. Getting close to your customer is fundamental to your thinking. Only then can you make sure you ask the right questions. To that end, you use co-design with customers. Journey mapping helps you to uncover your hidden customer needs, and fast prototyping allows you to experiment with solutions. You are not afraid of constraints and know how to use them to your advantage.
“The Reinventors, making up 27 percent of the total, are the standouts. They report that they outperformed their peers in both revenue growth and profitability over the past three years, and led as well in innovation.” IBM Global CEO study on Digital Reinvention
Synonyms: Reinventor, Disruptor, Provocateur, Innovator.
You are a change agent of the cautious kind. You are comfortable with incremental change. You might be a recovering Revolutionary who got hit by market forces and lost some of your courage and daring to be the first. Or you have the ambition to become a Revolutionary and are gathering experience. As David Peterson, Director of Leadership Development & Executive Coaching at Google would say, you need to sub-optimize and be less perfect to experiment more and adapt to constant change with more agility. You want to think like a designer, but you may not have the right tools and process. You need to get out of your comfort zone and get up close and intimate with your customers. Experimenting more, and more quickly, breaking internal silos to create cross-functional teams and co-designing with your customers to include them in ideation will push you to the Revolutionary group.
According to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a healthy dose of prudence is not bad for innovation. “Contrary to what many people think, successful innovators are more organized, cautious, and risk-averse than the general population.”
Synonyms: Practitioner (coined by IBM). Pragmatic.
Your one dominant characteristic is that you feel like your solution is fine just the way it is. When asked if your users are happy, you will say “yes” but deep down you know you’ve grown farther and farther away from your customer. The good news is there are many ways to build empathy and get closer to them. Once you move away from a product-centric mindset to an experience-centered one, improving people’s lives will give you the courage to develop your own unique vision. Your previous successes may hold you back, but what got you here is not helping you get there (if you haven’t, read Marshall Goldsmith’s best-selling book, What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There). Having the vision, strategy and tools to recognize and capture the right opportunities will move you to the Evolutionary group.
Synonyms: Conventional. Aspirational (coined by IBM).
You resist change and have a strong tendency to block new ideas. It is the fear of unknown which makes it easier for you to come up with why something will not work. You are the skeptic. Yet you know that agility and experimentation are key to how organizations are evolving. You will become a great convert to thinking like a designer if you can see its value–making you more agile, customer-centered and comfortable with experimenting.
“Saboteurs. The people and groups who can obstruct or derail the process of searching, evaluating, and purchasing a product or a service.” Alex Osterwalder, Value Proposition Design
Synonyms: Blockers, Resistants, Naysayers, Saboteurs (coined by Alex Osterwalder).
How did you do? Remember knowing who you are and who you aspire to be on the innovation scale is half the battle. The other half is actually practicing it on a daily basis.
Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
I tried to be fair.
I booked flights at more or less the same time, in the same class.
In the case of Delta Air Lines, it was its Delta One Class. In United’s case, it was Business Class.
How similar would they be? Would Delta confirm its reputation as the best and most comfortable of the big airlines? Would United take one look at me and decide I was an undesirable?
The route was San Francisco to New York and back again.
Delta One Means You’re All Alone.
I began with Delta and an early-morning flight.
Delta suffers in San Francisco from having to endure a dingy, desperate Terminal 1. It’s the terminal that time didn’t merely forget, but never liked at all.
At the first coffee place I stopped at, they serve only black coffee. They claimed not to even have milk.
I noticed also that the cabin crew seemed to arrive very shortly before passengers began boarding. Where had they been? Would they have time to prepare themselves?
Yet when I boarded the flight, I had a very pleasant surprise.
My seat was by a window and there was no one seated next to me. Because there was no seat next to me.
In this Boeing 767 configuration, window seats are lone seats with a substantial area to the side for placing your laptop, books, magazines, knitting, emotional support squirrel or whatever you happen to enjoy on a plane.
This is, of course, wonderful if you’re flying alone, as I was. It’s less wonderful if you’re traveling with someone, as neither of you will be able to have a window seat.
You’ll have to sit in the middle.
I’d pre-ordered breakfast, which was a simple, pleasant, cold affair with generous helpings of cheese and fruit.
The service, though, was efficient rather than warm.
The entertainment system offered a large screen and the lie-flat bed was, well, who doesn’t want a lie-flat bed on a cross-country flight? This one was perfectly comfortable.
The flight, though, had one little drawback.
There was a family of three. Dad was right behind me. Mom and highly entitled child were in the middle seats in his row.
Their form of communication involved shouting to each other across the aisle. Yes, they were from New York.
It’s easy to forget that the behavior of just one passenger can affect your flight. The only thing that saved me here was putting on my headphones and watching episode after episode of a wonderfully improbable and suitablly dramatic BBC series called The Split.
The flight was on time. Delta stuck to its promise of getting the bags out quickly. The whole thing was really quite pleasant.
United Airlines. Wait, What Just Happened?
There’d been a little hiccup the day before my flight back home.
United had emailed me to tell me my flight might be delayed by up to 30 hours. The email arrived the night before the flight.
So my biggest concern was whether the flight would be on time.
Arriving at Newark at an ungodly hour, I was met by an extremely pleasant United Airlines check-in agent. Far more friendly, indeed, than the one I’d encountered at Delta.
Yes, she said, the flight was on time.
It did, indeed, board on schedule. Moreover, United’s terminal at Newark is curiously bright and airy place. I confess I rather liked being there.
Yet United’s Business Class isn’t quite Delta One. On this Boeing 777, there were eight seats across the plane.
I was seated next to someone who, if he hadn’t been a decent human, might easily have taken over the whole armrest we shared.
He was a decently large human, you see and the armrest wasn’t too wide.
The proximity was jarring when compared with Delta.
The biggest surprise, though, was the service. The attitude of the Flight Attendants — one woman in particular — was a marked contrast to Delta’s slightly chilly efficiency.
United’s Flight Attendants offered a rare warmth. It was as if they’d just come out of remedial training and had been infused with the need to project humanity.
For first thing in the morning, their attitude came across as genuine.
At one point, the female Flight Attendant saw that I was finished with my New York Times and said, with wit infused: “You haven’t done the crosswords, have you?”
Crosswords? Me? Lord, no. I have enough words in my regular life.
She was relieved, as she was one of those crossword people and really needed my paper.
This was my biggest and most pleasant surprise.
From check-in to in-flight, United’s personnel exuded far greater warmth than Delta’s. It made the experience just that little bit more pleasant.
In customer service, it’s always the little things.
Roughly how many plane crashes do you estimate, based on some statistics, there have been in total? This question was originally answered on Quora by Tom Farrier.
Bandai has announced that it will be releasing a new Dougram toy as part of its Hi-Metal R range next February.