I can be socially awkward, yes, I know that about myself. I do not always follow social norms, and admittedly, I sometimes blatantly disregard them. But travel etiquette I have down. It is like second nature to me... or so I thought.
I have been to 13 airports since December: Kansas City, Chicago, Miami, Tulsa, DFW, Minneapolis, Amsterdam, Accra, Dallas-Love, Lubbock, San Francisco, Phoenix, Milwakee. That sounds pretentious. I hate flying... I mean, I sort of love it. But I would rather drive then fly. And driving I have done as well. I have covered well over half the country this year by highways and byways, canyons and flatlands, oceans and mountains, hippie towns and cow pastures. Traveling is something that I enjoy, and honestly, it is one of the few things that I can consider myself well-informed about.
One can only imagine my shock when I was snubbed on an airplane last night by a 40something, make-up wearing, spray on tan loving, tight pants flaunting, woman drinking her large soda. I flew Southwest, one of the gems of the airline industry, and I was one of that last passengers on the plane. I knew I would inevitably get a middle seat, but I do not really mind that because I'm young and old people need more leg room more than I do.
I scouted my middle seat options. Usually I like to sit between two people with amiable appearances or a couple of old people will suffice. I found two ladies and I politely said, "Excuse me? Is that seat taken?" To my utmost confusion, the soda drinking, soccer mom says, "Umm... bsha... hmmph... no. I guess not." I was appalled. Did she just pull the "sorry, seat's saved" move? So I thought, screw you! I'm sitting next to you to simply to spite you. She could have left it at that. She clearly proved her point, right? No, she had a trump move yet to play. I opened my Steinbeck novel, crossed my legs and tried not to disturb my sensitive neighbor. Not more than 30 seconds later she actually gets up and moves to the back of the plane. I looked around in an even more confused state, and said to the short haired older lady next to me who was quite indifferent to my troubles, "Whoa, I think the lady next to me left. But her drink is still here." Quick hand, huffy woman snabs her drink, gives me a dirty look and huffs off to her new seat. The backpacking hipster behind me who had observed the whole event said, "Whoa. That's weird. Hmm... what's her problem?" Finally, an ally!
Did I look dirty? Was I too hippie? I mean, I don't wear velour jogging suits like her, so obviously I'm not as stylish... but really, why does she care so much? Have we come to the point where sitting next to someone on a plane is an inconvenience? Is personal space so important that we need an extra 2 inches for our 50 minute flight to Kansas City?
Try sitting on the floor of a vehicle with (or ontop of...) 30 other people, several bags of rice and a couple live animals... then talk to me about personal space.
I think that more people need to ignore social norms and personal space. Then maybe we would get along more, care less about inconvenience and more about our relationships with other people. The world might just live in harmony if every once in a while we really talked to a stranger, raced a random biker down the sidewalk on our longboards (ahem, Bhadri) or let someone sit next to you on a plane. I could be wrong though.