I believe in cultural sensitivity. I am all for tolerance and understanding. Compassion may not be my middle name, but it is certainly right up there in my core principles. Bad manners on an airplane however, increasingly drive me to distraction.
I have done a lot of international flying over the years. I’ve flown with goats (really), and in aircraft that should not be allowed to leave the ground. I’ve been in smoke-filled no smoking cabins and endured intolerable meals and unpleasant seat mates too inumerable to recall. At times, I’ve wondered if some of my fellow passengers should really have been allowed to leave the institutions in which they were undoubtedly housed. These are the kind of things one must get used to when flying to exotic locales. I will admit that decades of the worst possible experiences on international flights did not prepare me for the behavior of my seatmate on a recent domestic flight. I cannot bear to describe his actions to you, so I will just have to write to him and hope that he is listening, little good it might do.
Dear Obnoxious and Nauseating,
I’m not certain where you grew up, or what cage you were released from, but I want to let you in on a few secrets that your fellow passengers all seemed to learn at an early age.
You shouldn’t pick your nose, especially up to the second knuckle.
You shouldn’t clean your fingernails with your teeth, or bite your cuticles until they bleed.
You definitely shouldn’t pick your nose, and THEN clean your fingernails with your teeth.
You shouldn’t EVER clean your fingernails with your teeth while your cuticle blood is running down your chin.
You shouldn’t reach your bleeding hand into your shirt to scratch your chest and belly. If you do reach inside, leave whatever it is you find there. If you do pull something out, do NOT flick it across the plane. This goes for the contents of your nose and the cuticles you remove as well. The lady in the aisle seat across from me nearly gagged.
I likely would have killed you when you started digging in your ear, but I was too busy looking for the hidden camera. No sane person in a tie behaves this way in public unless there is acting involved. How wrong I was.
When the flight attendant offers you food, you wait for her to hand it to you. You do NOT reach across in front of your seatmate and hit him in the face with your arm. If by chance your arm flies off on its own and you DO hit your seatmate, you apologize politely, not lean further across to grab at the food. It was only a sandwich in any case, not that you would have been able to taste it around the delicate tastes of fingernail, blood, skin, belly hair and other treasures.
For the sake of other passengers, if not for your own dignity, close your mouth when you eat food. If you must eat with your mouth open, try to use your teeth to chew the food. Your palate and tongue make interesting, if not completely disgusting sounds, but they do not masticate well. Do not drink with your mouth open and full of food, there is a limit to what the human lips can hold without spilling, as you experienced but did not seem to learn. Talking to the flight attendant during this whole process is especially impolite. As your food particles and spittle hit my tray table, shirt sleeve and cheek, I contemplated murder. It was only the knowing apologetic glance of the flight attendant and her silent pleas that I spare your life that kept me from disproving the TSA’s belief that a human being cannot be disemboweled with a plastic spoon. I would have been most happy to show them that they are wrong.
If you cannot speak without profanity, perhaps you should keep your mouth closed. When a six year old is sitting in the seat in front of you, the F-bomb is not an appropriate adjective to describe each successful word you fill in on your crossword puzzle. I know you are sane, because you noticed the look I gave you, the one that said, “the flight attendant isn’t looking now, do you have any idea what I can do to you with this pencil?” You stopped using profanity as decorative embellishments to your monologue.
Perhaps you can’t afford a dry cleaner. I don’t want to know what the stains on your shirt and pants and tie were. You could have at least worn cologne so that other passengers didn’t have to smell you.
When you have to get up to use the facilities (thank you for actually getting up), you shouldn’t climb over your seatmate’s tray and seat. Just ask politely and allow them time to get up so you can pass. Passing gas while passing is right out. Chuckling while passing gas while passing is a coded request for being strangled with a leather belt. Burping on the flight attendant is not cute.
Using your cell phone during the descent is illegal as well as rude. Lying about it being turned off when the flight attendant asks you is childish, bordering on moronic. Again, I know you are sane, because the “I’m going to shove that phone up your fourth point of contact if you don’t turn it off” look I gave you made you realize the error of your ways.
I will not discuss your shoes, or socks or feet. I wish I had only seen one of the three, but there are many things I wish about that flight.
If I ever see you on a flight again, and you haven’t learned some modicum of manners, I shudder to think what will happen.
Tolerant and Patient
There ought to be rules. I mean, really. You all fly from time to time. We can add to the strong suggestions in my letter above and write a guide book/rule book for polite travelers based upon our past experiences.
I know I’ve seen a thing or two in my time, so I’ll start.
1. On long flights, it is okay to remove your shoes. It is NOT okay to remove your pants.
2. It is a toilet, not a water park.
3. The nice people in uniform are flight attendants. They are NOT nannies, garbage collectors or psychologists.
4. Yelling at the purser does not make the plane go faster, nor does it get you your choice of meal.
5. If this is “the fifth flight you’ve been on that the seat has broken,” perhaps the seats are not the problem.
6. If the Captain has to leave the cockpit to talk to you, it probably isn’t because you are a model passenger.
7. Your cell phone should not be in use during take off and landing. Your goats should not be copulating while the plane is in the air.
8. Save the environment when you are alone; shower before you fly, even if it means wasting water. As an additional tip, I would point out that deodorant is not that expensive, even in most developing nations.
9. Altitude does not make you any sexier. Similarly, your blonde seatmate will not be attracted to you simply because you drink more wine. Your inhibitions may be lower sir, but her brain still functions.
10. Do you really want to tell your children you met their mother outside the toilet on a plane? Stop trolling for potential mates near the galley and toilet. You aren’t fooling anyone.