Do you remember your first plane ride? Were you nervous boarding the aircraft? Did you think you would get queasy and a little puke-y? Was it as bad as you expected?
I had the pleasure (add sarcastic tone from this point on) of sitting with a first-time traveller this week.
At first I didn’t know she had never flown before. She was sitting in my seat but I shrugged it off because I figured I would need to make a bathroom run early in the flight so it was easier for me to take the aisle seat. We said hello, as seat mates often do, and that was the end… or so I thought.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed she kept looking at me. I wasn’t sure what to make of it at the time. I couldn’t tell if she recognized me from my books or radio shows or some other platform. I couldn’t tell if she needed to get out of her seat and wanted me to move but was too nervous to say something. It was annoying.
One of the indicators she was a new flyer was the need to take pictures and video of the takeoff. You probably did it on your first flight. I did. Nothing wrong with that. This was another tell to confirm she was a newbie.
She wouldn’t sit still. She flipped through her phone. She put it away. She pulled out a book. She read a page. She put it away. She brought out markers and a colouring book, coloured a few sections then put it away.
At that point we were an hour into the smooth flight. There was no turbulence, there was nothing wrong. The fear of flying, I would assume, had to be over at that point.
“Where ya flying to?” she asked with a southern drawl. I told her I was heading to Canada. Feeling the need to reciprocate, I asked her. She was going to New York. I replied with, “Cool” to sound like I cared but really didn’t.
“Y’all live in Canada?” Sigh. And so it began. A chatty seat mate not letting me enjoy the rest of my flight. If there was one positive it was that it didn’t start from the second I sat down.
“This is my first time flying.” There it is!
She clearly wasn’t aware of airplane etiquette — and that’s fine — but I also didn’t feel the need to be the one to educate her. Why? Because I was in a mood. Like many passengers frustrated by a flight delay and cramped seating and an obnoxious baby screaming a few rows over, I’m not my most talkative with a stranger on a plane.
Most people can take the hint by one-word answers and will eventually give up attempting to chat. There isn’t a conversation happening if only one person is participating. But that’s not airplane common sense, it’s basic conversation sense.
I realize that I sound like a grumpy old man — a curmudgeon, maybe. While I fully appreciate passengers wanting to pass the time and strike up a conversation to meet someone new, they need to feel out the person and determine if they are receptive.
It’s really no different than flirting with someone at a bar. If they aren’t giving you signals that they want to know you, then back off and stop trying. It’s worse on a plane where the person can’t walk away or go anywhere. On a plane you’re basically cornered.
So please have a bit more sensitivity when chatting up your fellow passenger because most people don’t have the balls to be rude in such a confined space. Read the clues of when somebody wants to leave it at a simple smile and a nod hello.