Airplane Etiquette

It’s no secret that I hate flying, and that’s something I’ve done quite a bit of lately.

I was recently on my way to Indianapolis for Thanksgiving, and I was excited when my seat got upgraded.  Free drinks and extra leg room make any flight better.

I was happy to have an aisle seat, and the older couple sitting next to me gave me a nice smile and nod when I sat down.

“Good,” I thought, “No crazy conversation, just the right level of interaction.”

I feel strongly that it’s nice to acknowledge the person sitting next to me on the plane, but I also don’t want to engage that person in a conversation for five hours.  Finding the line can be tricky, but basically, have some manners and don’t be a crazy person.

After a few hours (and a few drinks) I got up to use the restroom and stretch my legs.  

When I came back, the man sitting next to me was gone (presumably to the restroom as well), but both his laptop and his book were on my seat.

I don’t know why this bothered me so much, but between him and his wife, they had ⅔ of the space in our row.  Was it really necessary for him to take over my seat too?

I cleared my throat and told his wife that I was going to move all of his belongings to his seat, if she didn’t mind.

“Oh of course,” she said, grabbing his laptop and assisting me in moving his things over.

When he came back and sat down, he continued to sip on his cocktail loudly, smacking his lips together for about five seconds after each sip.  I didn’t know how I was going to make the next two hours of this flight.

He then proceeded to get out a legal pad and draw a circle on it.

I know I need to mind my own business, but when I saw him drawing and not writing something, I was intrigued and couldn’t look away.

Then I saw him write the number 465 in the middle and hold it up to his wife.

“This is how 465 looks.  You see? It’s a circle,” he explained to her as I watched with wide eyes, not able to look away.  He was describing the beltway in Indianapolis. “So you see you get on at different points, and it takes you around.”

He was explaining a circle to her.  A circle. Like she’d never seen this shape before.

I get that maybe she didn’t know how 465 worked if they were from out of town.  But surely he could have just explained it to her in a less demeaning way. Or assume that she understood how a fucking circle worked without drawing a picture of it.

I wanted to write her a note and pass it to her saying “Blink three times if you need help.”  

In my mind it was grounds for divorce.

But she looked at him and said, “Oh thanks honey.  I see.”

I died a little on the inside and he got back to obnoxiously sipping his drink again.

I figured the plane ride back to Seattle couldn’t possibly be as bad.

It was a full flight.  We were delayed over two hours, and I wouldn’t be back in Seattle until midnight.

I was sitting toward the back like the true life peasant that I am, but happy to have my aisle seat.  That’s when the woman who was sitting in the middle seat next to me walked up and announced that she was glad that me and the girl sitting in the window seat weren’t obese because that would have made for a long flight.

I opened my book, a clear sign that I would be reading on this flight, taking myself out of the conversation.

The girl sitting by the window took over, asking the middle seater where she was from and seeming chatty, before stating, “I know being in the middle seat is rough.  So if you fall asleep on my shoulder that’s totally ok. I won’t mind at all.”

I looked up from my book to stare at her as clearly she must be joking.  She had a very serious look on her face.

“Pyschopath.”  I thought to myself, getting back to my book only to have the woman in the middle turn to me and ask a million questions about what I was reading.

About an hour later, I put my headphones in, as clearly reading a book was not going to get me peace.  I glared over at the window seat woman, who was snoozing away soundly on her tray.

Was that the most psycho thing someone has said on a plane?  Or was she a genius, knowing that openly offering for a stranger to sleep on your shoulder makes them not speak to you and leave you to yourself for the rest of the flight?

It was a risky move if that was the case.  Because what if the middle seater would have taken her up on it?

I’m still on the fence whether this woman was crazy or a complete genius, but the line between the two is thin.  

Once we arrived, the middle seater asked me if I could help her find baggage claim, so I walked her to the carousel and said, “OK, see you later.”

“Probably not,” she said.  And I just looked at her blankly.  It was after midnight, I was about over being nice and taking part in the conversation we’d had over the past five hours.  

Sure I would never see her again.  It was just something people said.

I turned and walked out the door.  The way I saw it, I was now off of the flight and had gotten her to the baggage carousel, so airplane etiquette was no longer applicable.


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