On a recent overnight flight, a passenger became enraged that the woman in front of him wouldn’t turn off her overhead light. He went to the flight attendants and complained, and when they said she had a right to have her light on he proceeded to shout expletives. Then he threatened to kick her seat to annoy her for the rest of the flight. Wow. Read the whole story from USA Today.
Obviously this guy is not the norm. But it brings up an interesting point. Part of the deal with being in a relatively small, confined space with hundreds of other people is, well, you have to share your space. In coach, you get a rather small space to yourself, and are super close to your neighbor. So where does your space begin and someone else’s space end?
The easy answer is that you try to stay in your own physical space as much as possible, minimizing physical contact. But what about visual space? If you are in the aisle and trying to sleep, what if the person sitting in the window wants the shade open? Then there’s auditory space—a person near you is listening to their headphones at full blast, allowing you to hear every guitar riff. Or my personal fear—when someone around me has a migraine-inducing perfume on. <<shudder>>
In my opinion, part of being a grown up is just dealing with other people not always being polite. Part of being a good traveler is preparing for scenarios such as the ones I mentioned above. For example, I always have my headphones so I can listen to my own music (or white noise), and an eye mask so I can block out light when I want to sleep and others want lights on. The scent thing is a little trickier, but I’ve started making sure I always have tea bags or lip balm that I can smell whenever there is a truly offensive scent around. I’m not the type of person to make a scene, kicking someone’s seat or demanding that they turn off their light. And there’s nothing I can do to change others’ behavior, only my own reaction to it. Of course, I also do my best to be a considerate traveler and not do anything super annoying. In this instance, however, I don’t think the woman passenger, sitting on a plane reading her book, was doing anything wrong. Her light is part of her space, and it is up to the rest of us to make our own (tiny) space a place we can comfortably fly in.
Readers, what do you think? Where does your neighbor’s space end and yours begin? Have you ever seen someone overreact to what another passenger was doing?