Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Douchbagery of Airline Passengers

Aside from people who are so Type-B that nothing pierces their iron-clad visage of letting the good times roll, most of us get annoyed by mundane things. I'm an urban planner, so for me it's often large lot zoning. We know that large lot zoning increases vehicle miles traveled (because you can't walk to anything) and home energy use (because the homes are larger and require more energy to heat and cool). Yet this is a slow march of a battle, because people who enjoy these homes can easily hide behind property rights and the free market, and feign ignorance (or legitimately not care or believe) about their little contribution to environmental problems. I prefer to believe that these people also drive SUVs, because that annoys me too. But again, it's a slow march. But on airplanes? No, that douchbaggery lacks the plausible deniability of the standard stock suburban consumerism. I will explain. 

Take this guy sitting in front of me as I type this. He knows full well that in reclining his seat, he is reclining into my seating space. With his seat up, I have approximately 24 inches between the back of his head rest and the front of mine. With his seat reclined, I have 21 inches (I measured) and he has 27 inches between the front of his head rest and the back of the one in front of him, creating a difference of 6 inches, or 34%. Setting up a laptop on my tray would be out of the question. In fact, my slim iPad barely fits. 

There is no free market here. There is only the ability to consume more at someone else's expense with the ability to do so without verbally acknowledging it or making eye contact. And that's douchbaggery. 

I saw a list recently of the top 10 passenger complaints. The top item on the list was unruly children. This has almost never bothered me. Maybe it's because I have small children and I sympathize with the parents, who are likely exhausted and miserable. Other complaints included the chatty Cathy's, the overhead bin hogs, and the frequent-pee passengers. These things can be unpleasant, but I was really surprised to find many of them ranking above the seat recliner. 

The other thing I find truly obnoxious is not the Chatty Cathy sitting next to me, but the one behind me. Once on a flight from Salt Lake to St. Louis I sat in front of a man who spent the entire 4 hour flight talking about his life in Thailand. This included not short segments about his cat and its hilarious antics. It also included intensely detailed information about the provisions of his employment vis-a-vis travel. Since he taught English abroad, his employer would pay twice a year for a ticket to and from the United States. And boy, didn't that open up a lot of opportunities for him! And the cat. Who hated to be away from him, his daughter, and his fiancee. These people would be much less annoying if you had the opportunity to make eye contact, or provide the common social cues that you're not interested in their conversation. In this particular case, I even turned around a few times to glare, but to no avail. The hilarious cat,  and the tales of amazing food discoveries went on, and on, and on. 

These people are on a level with the young men (inevitably) who sit behind my young children on a plane and discuss their frat parties in lurid detail. Or their habits regarding bong maintenance. Or lengthy discussions on political views that involves the work "fuck" as frequently as possible, to let their new seatmate bff's know that they are both informed AND edgy. 

I once sat across the aisle from a woman in her mid-60s. On the round side, with hair that had taken some doing--not bouffant style, but curled and sprayed. She wore a sweater set and ironed pants. I watched her eat her lunch, which contained some sort of sandwich and potato chips, and she chatted with her seatmates. Some time after her lunch, she neatly folded her napkin and stowed her trash until the flight attendant could come by. She stood up in the aisle, as if to stretch, turned to face her seat mates so as to continue chatting with them as she stretched, and dispensed with the most toxic SBD in history. She stood a few moments, doing light calisthenics to complete the charade, and then simply returned to her seat. My brother says I'm a 4-star grudge holder, likely for the fact that I bother to remember incidents like this for long periods of time. I don't think so, though. I think it was just a heinous act against humanity that couldn't possibly fade from memory during this lifetime. 

So that's it on my rant on the douchbaggery of airline passengers. I have to admit, I'm feeling better about this asshole in front of me. When do we land? 

[Note: I wrote this in December 2013, while on a flight probably for work. I rediscovered this on my iPad while on a recent trip, and decided it needed to be set free into the world.]

1 comment:

Elle said...

And it is hilarious. Honestly have no stories to top any of yours, but will say that people who talk too loud behind me drive me nuts... and I am usually lucky enough NOT to have the guy in front of me reclining...

My husband, now, that is another story. He always wants the window seat so that leaves me in the middle when it's 3-wide... I tend to look for flights on planes 2-wide,where he can have the window and I get the aisle, beside him.