Thursday, April 12, 2012

How Not to be a Jerk on a Plane (or You Are Not Special)

I talk a lot about travel on here. That's because I spend a good chunk of my time these days waiting for, boarding, sitting on, and disembarking planes. It's not so bad- I actually spend less time commuting now than I did when I was working in town. Due to the frequency of my travels, I've seen my fair share of jerks and idiots. It seems that proximity to an aircraft brings out that side of people. If you don't want to fall prey to these urges, here are some tips:

1) You are not special: Don't take up overhead storage with your jacket or small bag until all the roller bags are stowed. Oh my lordy - this is my biggest pet peeve by far. So here's the thing... some genius at the airlines decided to start charging to check bags. Okay, fine. They are a business and that's their prerogative. However, they did not increase the overhead bin storage when they made that decision. Which means that plane boarding is now a bloodbath of space scrambling for everyone who is trying to carry on their bag. Things get ugly quick. Especially when the slowly forming mob realizes that some oblivious passenger has put their bag in horizontally and stuffed their jacket in next to it. We paid the same amount of money that you did to be on this flight. Why do you get to take up 2x as much space as everyone else on this plane? Answer: you don't. Spare yourself the embarrassment of the flight attendants calling you out and just hold the thing in your lap until everyone's bag is stowed. It's the sand and stone thing - you gotta put the big stuff in first and then the small stuff will fit in around. Also - you only get to put one bag in the bin. Suck it up and put the other one under the seat in front of you. I, for one, will shamelessly call you out on it if you don't.

2) You are not special: Don't be rude to someone reclaiming their assigned seat that you were trying to take over. We all want to "self-upgrade" to a better seat. It's cool. I get it. But you can't get mad when the correct seat holder shows up. And you really can't get accusative and demand to see the correct seat holder's ticket as proof that they in fact have the right to oust you from your ill-gotten gain. And then you really, really can't be rude and pouty the rest of the flight to the person who made you move. Sorry, buddy, but if you don't pay for it, you can't have it.

3) You are not special: Don't be surprised, angry, or loud when they are serving Pepsi instead of Coke. I understand this frustration - I am a Coke girl myself (I think it's a Southern requirement, yes?), but some airlines have negotiated deals with Pepsi. This is your cross to bear, I'm afraid, and getting mean with the flight attendant won't make that Sierra Mist magically change into Sprite. If it's that important to you, all of my United flights have Coke products, so book with them.

4) You are not special: Don't lean your seat all the way back. I think a lot of people don't really see this as a problem. I probably wouldn't either, if not for 2 experiences. First, Tim runs a tight ship and he would never let me put my seat back when I was little. Pops thought it was rude, so I never grew up expecting to be able to do that. Second, on my first trip to Italy, I had the misfortune to be seated in the very last row, in the middle section, in the middle seat. Next to 2 sweaty European businessmen. In front of the 4 toilets. (yes, you can imagine how delightful this flight was). Now, to paint the picture for you, by sitting directly in front of the bathrooms, I had zero ability to lean my seat back. The children in front of me, however, did have this ability and their parents did nothing to stop them from doing so - all the way back. It was 8 hours of being pinned to my tiny seat with no course for escape. Lesson learned? If everyone on the plan leans back, a few people are going to have truly miserable flight experiences. Stop the cycle, lean back a little bit if you must, and try to think about the poor person in the back of the plane.

5) You are not special: Don't charge up the aisle past the people in front of you to deplane. This is America. We queue up, like our Northern European ancestors of yore. Wait your turn. (I'll give a pass on international flights where this may not be the custom... God help you if you're in a free-for-all to get off the plane. That's a stampede waiting to happen)

6) You are not special: Don't crank your music up so load that everyone around you has to listen to it. I like Rhianna and the whole spectrum of rappists as much as the next person. Do I want to hear you jamming out to "Super Bass" at 7am? Not so much. Please adjust your volume accordingly.

7) You are not special: Do behave like a polite, human-raised adult, no matter how frustrated or uncomfortable you are. I have to remind myself of this every time I'm in the airport. Let's be honest - the air travel experience is about the same as the cross-country bus travel experience these days, except you don't have to strip down and get exposed to radiation to be able to board a Greyhound. We all are unhappy and tired by the time we get to our planes. But we're all in the same boat (or plane, really, I guess) and we all have a choice to make. We can be bitchy and rude, or we can collectively choose to put our big girl panties on and act like adults. I don't always succeed; however, I really try to remind myself of this whenever I'm getting prodded or inconvenienced.

As a final point, this is a super interesting article about what TSA could do better.

What annoying habit do you wish people would lay off when they are traveling? 


  1. Inconsiderate ingrates who disregard the recycled air and eat smelly i.e. SUPER onion-y and/or garlic-y food on the plane. I love onions/garlic OFF the plane. Seriously. Do your fellow passengers a favor and eat before/after the trip. Thanks! :)

    1. McDonald's patrons are definitely the worst offenders in this category! I feel like there should be a provision for the incognito air marshals to boot them out of the plane if they insist on finishing it...

  2. OH. GIRL. I feel rude for even letting this one get to me, but I am repulsed by people [read: men] who repeatedly try to talk to me when I fly solo (after much brow furrowing and abrupt and rude answers on my part). Not cool. I am usually friendly, but on a 5 am flight I am in no mood to canoodle with a 50 year old man about why I'm traveling.

    1. Speak a word, sister - it's especially awkward when you're trying to read a book and they keep interrupting. I'm like, dude, can you see I'm trying to read here?!