'Smoking MacNeils' become butt of jokes at home, abroad
Published Thursday, February 7, 2013 8:51AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 7, 2013 9:32AM EST
The Cape Breton family at the centre of an in-flight brouhaha that delayed their fellow travellers and cut their own holiday plans short has become the butt of jokes around the world, leaving many locals worried the incident has left everyone on the island looking bad.
David MacNeil, David MacNeil Jr. and Donna MacNeil were detained last Friday, after arguments erupted when the family got out of thier seats while the seatbelt light was on aboard a Sunwing flight to the Dominican Republic, and were allegedly smoking in the bathroom.
One report alleged that MacNeil Sr. told one of the flight attendants who ordered him out of the bathroom: "You f---ing ass----, I just pissed all over the floor.”
The resulting confrontation with the crew and other passengers forced an unscheduled stopover in Bermuda, where the trio were formally charged.
David MacNeil pleaded guilty to behaving in a disorderly manner, Darlene MacNeil pleaded guilty to disobeying lawful commands of a flight crew, while 22-year-old son David Jr. had the charges against him dismissed. The elder MacNeils each paid a $500 fine.
News of the brazen incident had tongues wagging across Canada and elsewhere, with many wondering how any airline passenger in this day and age could not know that it’s long-been forbidden to smoke aboard airliners.
Celebrity gossip website PerezHilton.com had fun with the affair, describing the incident and then offering this advice: “Learn from the MacNeils, kids. Don't smoke! Don't pee on floors!”
The Gawker website also poked fun at the MacNeils, calling them a “belligerent Canadian family” in their headline. They seemed amused as well that the MacNeils were from a town called Mabou, and live off of Route 19.
“So future travellers considered yourself warned: Stay away from Route 19 in Obscure, Canada,” Gawker mocked.
Even in Cape Breton itself, the MacNeils have been the butt of jokes, with two Sydney disc jockeys using the saga of the “Smoking MacNeils” as fodder for their morning show. DJ Nikki Sullivan says it’s just for a little fun.
“Playing up a caricature of a type of Cape Bretoner that we all know is not what all of Cape Breton is,” she told CTV Atlantic.
Production engineer Donnie Green says it’s just a funny news story. “And it’s localized, so we’re kind of playing off that,” he said.
But with all the snickers and parodies, some worry the incident is painting Cape Bretoners in an unfair light.
“We ourselves look at it as just one family, but others might look at it and say, ‘That’s the way Cape Bretoners are,’” says Sydney resident Don Thompson.
Others are rolling with the joke.
“We all have to laugh at ourselves. We all make mistakes for certain things, so it doesn’t hurt to have a laugh,” says another Sydney resident Coreen Matheson.
Radio hosts Green and Sullivan say with the viral world being as fickle as it is, they predict the talk will quiet down soon.
“We all move on to the next news story,” Green aid. “We’ll have fun with it while it lasts.”
With a report from CTV Atlantic's Ryan MacDonald