Remaining calm in an angry world: How some Floridians cope

Flight attendant Pamela Lyn Nokes defused what could have been a violent in-fight situation.
Photo submitted

Special to the Outlook

“I think if anybody had said one more thing to him, he was looking for a fight,” said Pamela Lyn Nokes, a flight attendant from Tallahassee.

Nokes explained that it was the last flight of what had been a very long day. She was exhausted. She could see that the 65-year-old passenger’s body language clearly indicated he just wanted to be left alone. 

Because of his unruly behavior, the Captain had notified the ground crew of the situation. Law enforcement would be waiting. “He’s going to jail tonight!” worried Nokes.

Nokes let the passenger vent and tried to calm him. “And that’s when (the passenger) started going at me, pointing his finger and everything,” she recalled. “He said some words. They weren’t nice.” 

Nokes sat down next to the irate passenger, introduced herself and asked his name. She listened patiently as the passenger explained that he had been rerouted, causing a six-hour delay in his trip, resulting in other problems.

He “just had a horrible day, and when you have a horrible day, you can do things you regret. He is going to regret this tomorrow,” Nokes thought. “I really did not want him to have to go to jail when we landed.”

Frontline workers, airline personnel, educators and others can attest to a trend of increased aggression, even becoming targets. 

After a year of pandemic isolation, Tampa resident Gary Bagwell emerged to finally enjoy a “luxury” he longed for — a haircut. Sitting in the chair for the first time in 18 months, he relaxed and settled in for a little pampering. 

When his barber asked a fellow stylist to make change for a $20 bill Bagwell was paying with, the burly co-worker reacted with a barrage of stinging expletives and repeatedly punched the barber, once in the face then 10 blows to his head. 

In an instant, the peace that Bagwell hoped for turned to panic. 

“I’ve never seen such bizarre behavior in my life,” said Bagwell. “I think people today are much more on edge.”

Whether victim or observer, an encounter with aggressive or angry behavior can catch anyone off guard. Experts say remaining calm is key to ensuring that a precarious situation doesn’t escalate. Anger management expert Ryan Martin’s advice in Psychology Today was, “Stay calm, stay safe, and don’t make it worse.”

Bagwell agrees. 

“Inserting myself into a volatile situation like this would only make matters worse,” he said, citing practical advice he was grateful to have recalled from his congregation meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

Nokes, mentioned earlier, credits regular Bible reading and prayer with helping her cope with “travel anxiety.” Because of her calm and patient approach with the passenger, the situation ended well. Nokes explained that “by the end of the conversation, he was nodding and thankful.” As the man left the plane, instead of being escorted off to jail, he had a smile and arm pump for Nokes.

Many have found that resources from, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, were particularly useful in dealing with stress, controlling their anger and remaining calm rather than becoming provoked.