Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ask Angie: Stuck in the Middle with You

Recently, I was in the middle seat on an airplane and the people on either side of me proceeded to have a conversation over me. It totally sucked. They were both leaning in and smashing me like the middle of an Oreo cookie. I couldn’t relax or read. I just suffered in silence and every once in a while tried to reclaim my physical space. What would you have done?

Well, I have actually been in the situation so I can relate. Before I tell you what I actually did, let me tell you what I wanted to do:

- Every time one of them leaned, moved so I was blocking their view.

- Conduct a whispered play by play as if they were a golf match and I was that guy who makes comments.. “Oooh window seat just reaffirmed what aisle had to say. Someone has been reading their communication 101. We’ll have to see if this continues throughout the rest of the flight or if he is just a one hit wonder.”

- Repeat over and over “Please stop touching me. Please stop touching me. Please stop touching me.”

- Got up. Then stood in the aisle and forced the aisle person to move to the middle. “Listen here missy, I’ve had enough of your rude talkin’. You will either move into that middle seat or you will shut your pie hole for the rest of this flight. You hear me?”

- Explain it would be much more fun if the three of you played telephone.

- Write out super secret code words (like “the” & “and”) a la Pee Wee Herman and when they said one, yell, clap and unfold the paper. “Look you said the secret word. Yippee!!! This is so fun. Go again.”

But here’s what I actually did. I tolerate some level of chit chat prior to take-off. Once it became clear the conversation was going to continue despite the dimmed lighting, I asked if one of them wanted to switch seats. They both said no. The conversation continued so I asked again, “Are you sure you don’t want to switch seats?” At that point, luckily, a light clicked on and they realized that their behavior may possibly be super annoying. They said “we’ll quit.” And they did.

I’ve also had success in making it clear I am listening – chuckling when one of them says something funny or agreeing with a previous comment. This can also help break people out of their cocoon. It’s amazing how people pay no attention to the fact that other people may be listening. Once I even took notes when two suit-wearers started discussing stocks. They quieted down when I asked how to spell on of the companies they were discussing.

What about you? How have you dealt with annoying seat mates?

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