Airplane Etiquette

by Meredith on October 22, 2012

Last week I was in Las Vegas.

In case you missed it, these things happened:

I was so stressed out about having to present twice at the conference. Standing in front a room full of your peers and presenting is extremely nerve racking. I don’t even know how to describe it. I was stone sober, so it wasn’t even like singing karaoke to a crowded bar.

Sure, I have presented this stuff before and given lessons to my friends, but this conference was full of techy HR people, and I was there to speak their language. I wanted to run the second I got there and realized who else showed up.

So I dropped the word “vagina” during the first ten minutes of the first session and won the crowd over. Seriously, that word could have gone one way or the other. Thankfully, it worked out for me and they found me adorable.

On Wednesday night, I drank myself into oblivion. The nerves had subsided, and I was on Cloud 9. I really think I am one of those people who performs better under extreme pressure.

I left Vegas feeling like this (because I had three hours of sleep):

Which brings me to the problem. You can clearly see I look like I’m going to puke at any moment, right?

So it didn’t help that I was sat on the plane next to some guy choking on his snot. You know that noise men make when they are trying to pull a loogie out of their throats and spit it? This guy did that the entire trip, but he never spit it out. He just kept snorting up the snot.

*pukes*

I am back on an airplane to Vegas as I type this today (with our General Manager for the Digital Dealer Conference), and he is a perfect plane buddy. He isn’t grossing me out with snot balls, he is watching a movie quietly as I write this, and he didn’t make us late.

My Delta Skymiles tally shows that this trip will put me over 18,000 this year with their airline alone. As someone who clearly travels a lot, I would like to make a list of airplane annoyances. This way, if you don’t travel much, you know what NOT to do on an airplane. I’ve enlisted the help of some frequent flyer friends.

1. DO NOT TAKE BOTH ARMRESTS

Look, I get it. You want to be comfortable on the plane. And you can do that, but do you know who is getting fucked every single time? The dude in the middle seat. If the guy by the aisle takes both armrests, and the guy by the window takes both armrests, the guy in the middle gets nothing.

This is not hard.

Guy by the window, you get the window armrest. Guy by the aisle, you get the aisle armrest. These are givens.

Now, it’s my opinion that the middle guy gets both of his armrests since it sucks to be in the middle. However, my co-worker Matt, disagrees. He says the middle guy gets halfsies of each armrest. Which? No. I would rather trade a quick sexual favor for that armrest than touch arms with a stranger for four hours.

Anyway, someone is going to get two armrests because that’s how Armrest Math works. Just don’t be the jerk that takes all the armrests from the middle guy.

2. DO NOT FIGHT WITH THE FLIGHT ATTENDANTS

The craziest thing I’ve seen happen on a plane, was a dude who was belligerent with the flight attendants before take-off. He was on the previous flight, and he thought he’d left his folder on the plane. So he just walked back on that plane and started hollering.

Um.

That’s SCARY.

I’m pretty sure he ended up arrested.

But I also see a fare share of people treating the flight attendants like crap.

Look, these people are here to assist the cabin from point A to point B. They are not here to bring you 500 mixed drinks and then have to deal with you while you’re hammered. This isn’t a bar. Oh, and if they ran out of sandwiches before they got to you? Oh. Well. Deal with this and order something else. They can’t just pull a sandwich out of their butt and feed it to you (although I am sure they’d like to give you a butt sandwich if they could). Are you cold? Tell them nicely. I’ll bet they track down a blanket for you.

Just don’t be a dick.

3. DO NOT EAT STINKY FOOD

Some people have motion sickness. Stinky food does not go well with motion sickness. Be sensitive to this.

Plus, stinky food stinks up the whole plane. It’s not like you can open a window and air the place out.

4. DO NOT POOP IN THE BATHROOM

Again, the air is recycled. Only poop in the plane bathroom if you absolutely cannot hold it any longer. Or if you’re farting uncontrollably. Or if you’re a nervous pooper.

Otherwise, poop before you leave the airport.

5. DO NOT PUT YOUR CARRY-ON IN THE FRONT OVERHEAD BIN WHEN YOU’RE SITTING IN THE BACK

I’ve never understood the people who get on the plane, have seats in the back of the plane, yet throw their carry-on over seats rows in front of theirs. Dude, take your crap and put it in the overhead bin above your ticketed row.

When you don’t do this, you mess up the entire flow.

Now, the person whose overhead bin you’ve jacked, can’t get their carry-on ready to go when they get off the plane. And they have to walk around to find it if they need something during the flight. And now, they are leaning over other people, not the people they are traveling with, trying not to put their armpit in a stranger’s face. And after that, the poor person who has had their bin jacked, stresses the entire flight since they are no longer close to their carry-on. What if someone takes their carry-on by accident when de-boarding?!

Stop messing up the overhead mojo! Three carry-ons will fit in each one! I promise!

6. DO NOT PLAY MOVIES, GAMES, OR MUSIC WITHOUT HEADPHONES

This feels like common sense, but it’s not.

I don’t want to hear your score add up every time you hit a bonus round. I don’t want to listen to the music you’re listening to. I don’t want to watch your movie with you.

Put on your headphones.

7. DO NOT LET YOUR WEIRD KID STARE OVER THE BACK OF HIS SEAT AT ME THE ENTIRE FLIGHT

I think I have a friendly face or something. Little kids seem drawn to it.

Yeah, I’ll be nice to your child for about a half-hour. After that, you need to wrangle her in, and make her face forward. She’s creeping me out, and my fake smile has faded.

8. DO NOT LOOK AT MY COMPUTER SCREEN, iPAD, OR PHONE

Hey, you! Eyes on your own stuff!

I write on flights. I spend $12 on wifi, and I write away. I cannot write with someone watching me write. This is my craft, not yours.

Most likely, I am Facebooking and tweeting about you, so it’s rude of you to watch me talk about you behind your back.

9. DO NOT CHEW YOUR GUM LIKE IT’S THE LAST PIECE OF GUM ON EARTH

I am guilty of this. But I asked around, and chewing noises bother people.

Chew lightly.

I guess it goes up there with not making snot noises the entire flight.

10. DO NOT PUT YOUR SEAT BACK

This one is controversial, but I’m just going to say it.

When you put your seat back, I cannot type on my laptop. And if I cannot type on my laptop, I cannot work on the plane. And if I cannot work on the plane, I just wasted $12 on wifi and my valuable time.

I hear there is a trick for this. If you shove a water bottle between the tray table and the seat, the person in front of you cannot lean back. They assume their seat is broken. I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m going to.

If it’s nighttime, you can lean your seat back. But during the day? People are really working on planes. Especially people who travel a lot.

 A special thanks goes out to everyone who contributed ideas for this post: Matt from Work, Derek from Work, Kathy from Twitter, Alice Clayton from Twitter, Lisa from Twitter, Lauren from Twitter, and Tonya from Twitter.

So tell me, what bothers you on an airplane? Do you agree with this list? Or did it make you mad?

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelsey

If I pull out a book, a computer, an iPod, iPad, magazine, nail clippers or anything that might somehow entertain me throughout the flight, that is my indication to you that I DO NOT want to talk to you, stranger from Milwaukee that I will never see again. I especially don’t want to hear about how you almost died, are a recovering alcoholic, or look at pictures of your grandkids.

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Meredith

OMFG! YES!

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Connie

Also, and this is HUGE for me, it is possible to stand up without pulling on the seat in front of you. I promise you, it is possible. I am not in good physical shape and I can do it. DON’T TOUCH THE SEAT IN FRONT OF YOU.

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Meredith

Yes, DO NOT PULL ON MY SEAT OR TOUCH MY HAIR. EVER.

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Jessica

Meredith, this made me LOL. I agree on almost everyone of them. Except for the chair. Only because I always break night before a flight – because I procrastinate – so by the time I get on the plane I’m ready to knock the HELL out….but this gives me a different perspective, next time I will look to see if the person behind me has a laptop out!! Overall, I agree with all of them. You missed “runny nose.” I understand sneezing, but I can’t understand why a person won’t grab a tissue and blow their nose.

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Meredith

No, dude. I addressed snot before the list even began. STOP SUCKING ON YOUR SNOT.

*pukes*

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April

If I do not initiate conversation with you, do NOT try to engage me in said conversation…..and please wear deodorant…..

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Meredith

Always, always, never stink. Done.

And I agree. It’s an eye contact thing that should be well gaged for the first 20 minutes.

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Daisy

Ha! If I can’t recline my seat back, I get up, use the restroom, look for a waterbottle/iPad and then request the person remove it so I can recline my seat. I paid for a seat that reclines, or I paid to get an earlier boarding pass so I could select a seat in a row that reclines. I firmly believe if you need the leg room or typing room you should either pay more for an emergency row/bulkhead/business class seat or request early boarding (some airlines allow people over 6’4 to pre board) because I? Paid for a seat that reclines and I plan on doing so.

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Daisy

But I will say the rest of your list is spot on. I probably should have led with that. Stinky food is the worst- almost as bad as nauseating perfume or people who PAINT THEIR FINGERNAILS MID-FLIGHT.

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Meredith

Painting nails? I. Would. Freak.

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Sassy Stew

I have had people TREATING THEIR WARTS on my flights. Yup, Compound-W and all.

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Meredith

Dis. A. Gree.

(but still madly in love with you)

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disneykatrina

I so agree about the reclining seats. When you recline your seat – you are now in my lap. And even if I am not working on a laptop, I don’t want anyone putting their seat in my spot!

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Meredith

Yes, get your head out of my lap. This isn’t a strip club.

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Ashley m

I have one serious thing to add: FOOT SPACE. For the love of God, KEEP YOUR FEET AND PERSONAL BELONGINGS UNDER THE SEAT IN FRONT OF YOU.

On my last flight, which was over 5 hours, my seat mate was a little drunk and very sleepy. Guess where he kept putting his BARE, SWEATY FEET? Yes, on top of my own feet. I wanted to punch his stupid face the entire flight.

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michelle

eeeeew!

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Tawny

I agree with everything on this list. I used to travel a ton and then life happened. Getting ready to fly for the babymoon in December and you just reminded me of all that great things I get to witness on my 6 hour flight.

Lol.

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Meredith

Eek! Six hours? Anything over four is just awful. I get restless.

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Tawny

Cost of living on the East Coast – anything fun and worth it, is at least 4-6 hours away. : )

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AmyK

The worst is when you are in the middle seat and the guy next to you decides to take a snooze. If the snoring wasn’t enough and he took both arm rests. Then, to make matters worse as he fell deeper and deeper into his blissful sleep his body ever so slightly moved closer and closer to mine. He practically put his head on my shoulder. EW!!!! I was stuck in the middle with no place to go. I spent the flight waking the guy up. He’d shift, but moment later he was right back at it. Excuse me this is NOT your bed and I am NOT your pillow!

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Meredith

YUCK!

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Jessica

I would be your bestest plane buddy! I agree with all those things. Plus – I am a plane sleeper. I always request the window seat. I then take my jacket/ sweater and crunch it up to form a pillow against the window, then kinda tilt on one butt cheek. I use zero arm rests, engage in no conversation and do not need to get up and make anyone move 400 times to use the bathroom.

#5 is my pet peeve when flying. Do you think you’ll get off the plane faster if your stuff is in the front? NO!! You’ll make the whole deplaning process slower because the people in the front now need to fight their way back to the plane to get their stuff before they can get off. And boarding gets slower for the same reason. Personally, I’m usually the last off the plane because 1) I’m sitting by the window and no one is begging to get around me, 2) I’m still groggy from my awesome nap, and 3) it’s not worth the fight with all the other overhead bin jerks to get off the plane 2 minutes faster.

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Jessica

Oh, and I’ll add this: When your kid does turn around and stops creepily staring at Meredith, please do not allow them to kick my seat repeatedly.

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Erin

Jessica, that’s me, too, all the way. Unless I have an amazing book that I can’t put down, I am snoozing all the way. I have a neck pillow shaped like a pig. It’s brilliant.

(And Meredith, I never recline when I sleep – I sleep better when my chair is in the full upright position. And then the flight attendant won’t wake me up to tell me to put my seat up.)

And ditto on the kid kicking my seat! That’s my biggest pet peeve. I somehow always end up with the antsy kid sitting behind me.

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Danielle

I agree with your entire list and my last trip (to Vegas as well) in August I wanted to KILL the woman across the aisle from us. She was playing some annoying game on her iPad and had the volume on full blast. I had headphones on watching a movie and I could still hear her playing the game. I kept looking around like “someone else has to be annoyed by this” and noticed practically everyone else was doing the same. The flight attendant finally asked her to turn it off, which I was ever so grateful for.

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Erica

I really hate when people don’t wait their turn. So yes we landed and we can get off this plane…but sit your ass down until your row is reached. Don’t jump up and stand there all fidgety with your butt in my face because you are trying to get your carry on, cut in front of everyone, and run off.

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Nanette

YES! THIS! On our two flights yesterday, my 4-yr-old wanted to know why we weren’t getting off the plane yet. I purposely told her, loud enough for the people who had bum-rushed from rows and rows behind us, that it wasn’t our turn yet, we should wait nicely for our turn to exit our row. Passive aggressive, yes, but you could sense their sudden uncomfortableness for their asshat-ness.

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Jessica

You should address the hilarity of watching people RUSH to get on the plane that isn’t going anywhere. I’ve seen people fight over who’s going to get on first. And I still don’t understand why first class gets on first. Who wants to sit and watch the people sitting in coach stand in the aisle while they wait to be seated. They should seat the back first and work the way up. It just makes sense! Lol

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Erica

Yes! Clearly they can organize boarding because there are groups so why not group the last rows in first and then the middle. I can’t understand for the life of me why they do it that way. I agree if I was sitting in first class I wouldn’t want to be there why people were getting their crap by me. Plus that is just MORE time you are sitting on a plane instead of peeing, walking around, or drinking beer. :)

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Lauren

I agree with most things on the list – I suggested the annoying movie watchers/game players without headphones on Twitter. It’s actually an FAA regulation – if you have anything that makes noise, you have to wear headphones. I have asked the flight attendants to enforce this before. Not only is it incredibly rude and annoying, it’s also against the law!

Snot snorters are the WORST. I always want to offer them a tissue. Same with excessive throat clear-ers. Go to the restroom and take care of your situation!!

I am taking Daisy’s side on the seat reclining. I travel 2-3x per week for work. I get my best sleep on the plane (no matter the time of day). I am typically driving to a middle-of-nowhere city when I arrive late, so I need to rest on the plane. Most seats don’t recline too far back these days (Southwest and United are my frequent airlines). Exit row seats are the best because the seats in front of you do not recline, so you have the most leg room AND no one is leaning back into you.

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Meredith

Oh! Sorry, Lauren, I thought I had everyone. I’ll add you to the list of helpers up there!

And boooooo on the seat recline.

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Mackenzie

Funny story: When I was a kid my dad worked for the airline so we flew alot(like 2 weekends out of the month). We always got split up because we were just taking whatever seats weren’t filled (this one back when airlines didn’t chronically overbook). I always fell asleep immediately and my mom would have to track me down to make sure I wasn’t drooling on someone’s business suit. If people had twitter back then, I would have been a running hashtag, I imagine.

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Sassy Stew

HAHAA!! love it

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Meredith

Hahaha!

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Kana

You raise some great points, and I’d second them all — but honestly, I’m so traumatized by the inordinate number of inexhaustible screaming babies I’ve been forced to experience that all I want out of any flight is NOT BABIES. I will talk to the snorker, I will breathe into my shirtsleeve until the poo smell fades. I will do anything in exchange for no humans under the age of 7 being anywhere near me. I spent a lot of time in my early childhood on planes (http://raginanchor.blogspot.com/2011/03/childhood-in-our-friendly-skies.html) and the way other young humans seem to lose their minds on airplanes still blows me away. And I only travel during the holidays, when the airlines are naturally at their most baby-licious. Dear Santa, I have been very good this year – please please PLEASE no furious infants on my holiday trip home, please please please…

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Chaquitta

Agreed! I love babies, but in all honestly, I would pay extra for a childless flight.

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Chaquitta

I agree with everything, especially the seat reclining! When I travel, it seems like any seat I end up in is always behind a seat that reclines back further than most La-Z-Boy recliners. And if the person is tall, I spend an entire flight with the top of their head in my face…and I HATE IT! (Fun Fact: If they are especially rude and I feel like returning the favor, I may or may not intentionally breath heavily, fake cough, or make snot sucking noises to try and gross out/annoy them enough to raise their seat.) Anyway, it’s even more aggravating when food is being served. I ALWAYS end up behind the person who doesn’t raise their seat when asked by the flight attendants or they wait until after they pass and lower the seat again…very frustrating. Daisy has a point, you pay for a seat that reclines, so you should be able to do so, but I wish people would be more mindful of the fact that it is already a very small cramped space AND there is a person behind them. I paid for the flight too, and I don’t want to spend the entire time uncomfortable, stopping flight attendants to tell the person in front of me how to be courteous, or being an asshole in return when that doesn’t work.

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Sassy Stew

LOL @ #7. Bwahahahaaaa

I do this for a living, including ranting about it — and 7 is BRILL!! Can’t. Stop. Laughing.
Fab post!

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Michelle

I fly a LOT (your 18k comment made me laugh – I can fly that in a month….), and I agree with everything except the seat reclining. That said, I am always very mindful when I do recline – for short flights, I don’t bother, for long flights, I just recline a little bit to take the edge off, and I do get annoyed when people in front of me recline fully. But it’s their right, so I don’t feel that it’s anything I can complain about, it’s just annoying. That said, if it’s truly an issue for you, get a seat in the exit rows where the seats don’t recline. Problem solved. :)

My biggest beef generally is dealing with folks in security who apparently haven’t flown in 30 years and have no idea what they are supposed to do. I want an airport or at least a terminal dedicated to business fliers who know how to MOVE through that line with serious efficiency!

I don’t generally see the problems you specifically mentioned other than the taking of overhead space in areas no where near their seat. I think this is a benefit of premier seating which is typically business travelers who fly so much they live and breathe proper etiquette? Dunno. But I probably just jinxed myself and will end up with a smelly, armrest hogging, game playing, chatty gum chewer as my seat mate next week! :)

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Meredith

18K just on Delta. But I probably fly once a month. So often, but not as often as you.

OMG! YES on the airport security. Please take your laptop out of your bag and put it another bin. Throw away your bottled water. You can get a new one on the other side. Take your belt off. Stand by those bins until the machine sucks them through. Be nice if you get flagged for a pat down.

I want premier business seating. Jealous.

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Michelle

I do everything I can to fly on one carrier to rack up the miles….. The downside? When I have to fly a different carrier, I’m totally and completely spoiled and can’t deal. At all. A total spoiled brat. “What is that? You want me to wait in a line? Are you serious? Really???? But ….. it’s ME! I don’t wait in LINES!!!!!” LOL.

What drives me the most batshit crazy is even when reminded, for the 12th time, that they need to empty their pockets, some dude will leave his wallet in his back pocket and then stand there dumbfounded when the security agent specifically asks him to take it out and put it through the machine. It’s like they suddenly don’t understand English (and I’m not being insensitive – these are most definitely native English speakers!) and just stand there, not moving for EVER. OY.

Some of the TSA rules are insane though – my last flight I had to wait a crazy long time in line so the agents could get a group of 4 elderly people through security, all in wheelchairs. They made them all stand up, and stand in the new fancy machines – where you have to stand still for 10 seconds – there was no standing still happening, I thought a few of them were going to topple right over. It was ridiculous that Grandpa was put through that – just pat them down separately, in a totally separate line for gosh sake!!!!

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Kenny

what kind of sexual favor?

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Meredith

Blowies? But super quick ones.

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Kenny

Have you ever given a blowie??
…there is no such thing as a super quick one….still worth the trade off though

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Jennifer

Butt sandwich made me snot water into my nose. Also something you don’t want to hear on a plane.

You are dead on with no. 10. What does that recline really get you anyway? The right to annoy the hell out of the claustrophobic person behind you?

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AngieM.

YES to all of these!! especially the reclining seat one, but if you’re going to recline your seat because “damn it i paid X amount of $$’s and it’s MY right to do so!!!” at least let me know ahead of time before you spill my drink in all over me…OR i happened to be leaning forward to grab something from my purse and now i’m stuck because you’re seat is on my back… jerk off.!

OH..also if you’re traveling with little ones and he’s kicked my sit about 9830834056834 million times, please tell him to effin stop!!

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Mike Carroll

You missed one of my personal pet peeves. The traveling party that for whatever reason couldn’t all sit together so the person inside of you carries on a conversation with the person sitting across the aisle or two rows back from you. Dude, I really do care that you think Rick from accounting is a total @sshole or that your boss is trying to get into the pants of Sally the receptionist.

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michelle

How about, ‘If you’re sick, wear a mask and the same goes for your child’? I usually catch something on planes and now I wear a mask. One time I was seated next to someone who coughed the whole way and didn’t cover their mouth. I spent the whole flight in a ball under my trench coat wondering why I felt like the rude one. And really, people should always wear a mask when their sick in public and use hand sanitizer before touching everything. Not to is akin to assault/negligence.

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Susan

I had this happen once.
I sat near an attorney who after he reviewed each document ripped it to shreds – and this was late at night, or when people wanted to sleep.
You can’t make this up.
Unbelievable.

PS – my backup is when people drink/eat too much and begin burping and you can smell what they ate/drank.

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