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The terrorists have won

March 24, 2010

Dear Miss Manners,

I recently found myself in a situation and would like your opinion on the proper course of action.

I checked in for the first leg of my flight to Tucson, Newark to Phoenix. The automatic check-in kiosk told me that I would be sitting in the middle seat of the row. I was under the impression that I had reserved a window seat and tried to change my assignment, but to no avail, as this was a full flight. I was not terribly worried, as I’ve flown in the middle seat many times and it has not been too uncomfortable. I would have preferred the window for the 5 hour flight, but after staying up the entire night previous to my 6:30 a.m. flight, I was just happy to be able to sit down and sleep.

An hour later I boarded the plane, took my seat, and waited for my row mates. The entire plane filled up around me and I hoped beyond hope that there wouldn’t be anyone else next to me. The crew was just about to close the doors when two thirty-something women came rushing down they aisle, talking a mile a minute. They pointed at my row. Sigh.

They clearly knew each other, as they were gabbing excitedly about their trip to Hawaii. I asked them if they’d like to sit together. The one in the window seat, already seated, looked put out and said, “No, I prefer the window.” I looked at the one about to sit in the aisle seat. “No, no, it’s OK,” she said. I shrugged and sat back down.

As I pulled out my magazine, the one in the aisle (whom I later learned was Lori–names have NOT been changed for anyone’s protection) turned around and snapped at the man behind her, “You know, that was really rude what you just did there. You could have just not pulled the strap and let it go. That was so rude of you!”

At the time I had no idea what the guy had done, but later I saw a strap hanging down from under the seat in front of me. I deduce that maybe as he was putting his bag under Lori’s seat it pulled the strap or he pulled it, thinking it was attached to his bag, and it did something unpleasant to her seat cushion. Either way, an innocent mistake, not worth getting snippy over.

Both of the women were munching on yogurt cups. “You know, Tish, this yogurt is soooo good,” Lori said.

“It is, Lori! I haven’t ever had yogurt this good. I don’t eat it that much. But when I do I put granola in it,” said Tish.

“I get that European granola they have. What’s it called? Moo-slicks? Or something like that. It’s so yummy!” said Lori.

“Oh yes, it’s yummy. My boys like that with soy milk.”

“Mmm, I don’t think I like soy milk. I prefer 2% even though I know I should drink skim. But my husband likes 2% too.”

I clenched my fists around my magazine and felt my shoulders tighten at their inane banter on either side of me. They continued to talk about milk, every iPod they’d ever owned, and their kids and husbands for the next ten minutes until Tish changed the subject.

“Lori, you are so brave for standing up to that guy behind you,” Tish said.

“I know! I just hate it when people are rude. They need to be told when it happens,” said Lori.

“I couldn’t ever do something like that. You are so inspiring!” said Tish.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I spoke up. “Yes, Lori, you are so inspiring. In fact, you’ve inspired me to say something to you. You are both being incredibly rude by talking over me here in the middle when I’ve already offered to change seats with one of you so you can sit together. Do you wanna switch seats? Because this just isn’t right, you need to be sitting together.”

Lori blinked at me from behind her wire-rimmed glasses. “Oh, really? You think we’re being rude?”

“Yes! I’m telling you, it’s not proper etiquette to talk over someone sitting between you two.”

“Well, Tish already said she wants the window and I don’t want to move because I’m going to get up a lot to use the bathroom and such, and I don’t want to make you get up and bother you.”

“Oh no, the bothering has already been DONE. It’s too late for that. Now switch seats with me.”

Lori sniffed. “I’m not switching to the middle.” She got up and looked for a flight attendant, who was standing a few rows back. I could hear her ask if they could find me another seat. As if some other poor sap would gladly switch seats to be talked over. She came back, unsuccessful.

I seethed. Nobody said anything for the next few minutes. Tish worked a Sudoku puzzle by the window. I tried to read my magazine but wasn’t really understanding the words before my eyes. Lori read her book. We took off and were airborne when Tish pulled out a piece of notebook paper, scribbled something on it, folded it in half and passed it to Lori right in front of my face. Lori opened it and they both giggled.

“REALLY?” I said. “Really? Are we in high school now? You’re passing notes? You need to switch seats with me NOW.”

I struggled to keep my hands from wrapping themselves around Lori’s neck as she did her innocent little blinking act at me again. “So we’re supposed to not talk at all for the next 5 hours?” She said.

“If you’re going to keep talking over me and passing notes over me, then NO.” I said. “Switch seats with me, and that doesn’t have to happen. I can’t believe you don’t see how rude you’re being! It’s an easy fix–switch seats and you can talk all you want! Otherwise, shut up!” I looked at Tish. “Do you wanna switch now?” She shrank closer to the window and shook her head. I looked back at Lori. “You?”

“I’m not switching,” Lori said.

I glared at her and put my iPod headphones in. Even with the volume turned up all the way I could still hear them, and it didn’t stop Lori from pulling out a giant bag of pretzels, which they passed back and forth. It also didn’t stop me from thinking murderous thoughts. I had been very careful not to say anything that could be construed as a threat, given the paranoia people exhibit on planes nowadays. One wrong word and the plane would be diverted and I’d find myself on a terrorist watch list. Otherwise, I would have punched them both in the face and told them to go f**k themselves. Contrary to the stereotype of derby girls, I am not a violent person at all and this is the first time that a stranger had ever incited me to seriously contemplate such an action.

Further into the flight, Tish fell asleep and snored loud enough for me to hear over my iPod. She also took up the armrest and twitched every few minutes, elbowing me. I clenched my teeth and tried to nap. Failing miserably, I decided to drink as much water as possible so that I’d have to get up and annoy Lori. She was not true to her word, she only got up once (twice, if you count when she talked to the flight attendant at the beginning of the flight). I managed to drink enough to make me get up and pee twice. I thought about feigning airsickness and vomiting in her lap. But I really hate throwing up.

Tish later woke up and they picked right back up where they left off, passing the pretzels and yammering away about nothing. At this point I was too exhausted to trust my mouth if I opened it, so I simply stared at the seat in front of me and tried to let music calm me down. It didn’t work.

Finally, the plane started on its descent. I had to turn off my iPod. I glared straight ahead, not reading, not doing anything but being clearly pissed off.

“Are you from Tucson?” Tish said to me.

Oh no, you are NOT trying to be friendly with me now, I thought. “No, I’m not.” I growled. She looked away and didn’t talk to me again. We landed and I retrieved my skate bag from the overhead bin and exited, Lori and Tish right behind me. I checked the departures board for my connecting flight, and they were still right behind me.

“I don’t see any flights to Hawaii,” one said.

“Oh my god, oh my god, did we get on the wrong flight? What if there are no flights to Hawaii today?” The other said.

A man next to them told them to check their tickets.

“Oh, they’re for Oahu! That’s in Hawaii, right?” They laughed.

“I hope your plane crashes,” I said under my breath as I walked away.

So, Miss Manners, that is the story of my flight from Hades. Tell me, did I handle this correctly?


Gentle Reader,

No. You should have punched them both in the face.

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