Friday, December 21, 2012

YOU GOT TO MOVE: It's never a bad time to remind people of their obligations in an airport or on a plane, but as we hit the high season for holiday travel, now is an especially not-bad time.
  1. Walk left; stand right.  If you know nothing of anything in this world, you should at least learn this lesson, because it applies wherever there are things moving at different speeds.  Moving walkways?  Don't stand next to your companion; stand in front of or behind her.  Escalators?  Pull your wheeled suitcase behind you, and let the hurrying people pass.  This means you, people blocking both of the long escalators at Dulles.  
  2. And don't just try to slow-walk your way into compliance.  Many people in airports are in a hurry for good reasons.  Get out of their way.  
  3. If you must text or email, move to the side of the concourse.  The part of your brain that types also short-circuits your sense of direction, overregulates your speed, and disables your situational awareness.  If you meander in front of me while I'm trying to hustle from G-20 to A-20 in Minneapolis, I will enjoy running you over.  
  4. In that nerve-wracking time when people start jockeying for position before they call your boarding group, find a decent place to stand.  As everybody inches closer, you have two choices:  stay where you are and yield your position, or inch closer in proportion to everybody else, maintaining the same relative position.  Don't try to weave through the crowd to improve your position, because then everybody will, and all hell will break loose.  
  5. When it is a scrum, it is a scrum.  Once something resembling a line forms, it is a line.  You enter a line from the back, not from the middle.  
  6. They keep saying it, and you keep not listening.  Your bag goes into the overhead compartment WHEELS FIRST.  If your bag only fits in sideways, IT DOESN'T FIT. Check it.  
  7. If the person behind you is in a car seat or is carrying a child on his or her lap, you cannot recline your seat.  True, this is an unexpected inconvenience to you.  But you cannot do it, period, so don't bother making mad faces at the parents.  
  8. Middle seat gets both armrests.  This way, everybody gets at least one armrest, and it best equalizes everybody's space. If you think that the shared armrests are for whoever first claims them -- a rule that frequently would leave the middle-seater wedged between two elbowy people -- you have entitlement issues. 
  9. Relatedly, no matter how important you are, there is no hierarchy of in-flight activity.  Your splay-elbowed comfort while typing out your brief, presentation, or screenplay does not warrant jabbing your sleeping neighbor's elbow off the armrest.  
  10. If you're in the middle or window seat and you have to get up, don't grab the seat in front of you to steady yourself. You're capable of standing up without bouncing that person like a rubber toy.  
  11. Never conduct a conversation across a person.  There is little on a plane as irritating as being right between two people shouting at each other.  Perhaps you could offer to trade seats?  
  12. Exiting a plane is like a wedding recessional.  Everybody in the front row goes, then everybody in the next row, and so on.  No matter when you reached the aisle, if you are in Row 21, you are not going to get off before the people in Row 20.  


  1. Yes, number 6! It drives me crazy when someone shoves a suitcase sideways because it's too big for the overhead compartment. I wonder why more flight attendants don't go ballistic over this. As a passenger, I can barely keep it together.

  2. Adlai7:06 PM

    Also, men? Keep your legs together. I don't care what's going on in your pants, there's no reason to splay your legs out into the adjoining seats.

  3. isaac_spaceman8:13 PM

    The leg-splaying bothers me, but saying "keep all parts of your body within your own seat-box" is not the same thing as saying "keep your legs together," which, on a long flight, may not be possible.

  4. janet9:30 PM

    Re: #10 -- I hope you will always be young/agile enough to stand up entirely on your own. Not everyone is. It's one of life's unexpected inconveniences.

  5. As a 6'3" man with a propensity to DVTs, I'll put my legs anywhere I
    have to in order to keep the blood flowing. This is done as a courtesy
    to those other passengers who'd prefer I didn't stroke-out and drool on them, or start coughing up blood and
    then collapse, hypoxic, dying, or dead across their laps.

  6. The Pathetic Earthling9:53 AM

    The consequences of me dropping into someone's lap are significantly worse than the consequences of Isaac dropping into someone's lap, so I'll hold on (albeit as carefully as I can).

  7. The Pathetic Earthling9:55 AM

    Also, this reminds me that I'm glad I haven't been on an airplane since October 2011.

  8. isaac_spaceman5:34 PM

    First of all, obviously, if people's physical abilities prevent them from doing something, then they don't have to do it. That doesn't mean that the etiquette is incorrect, the same way that the existence of people who have physical difficulty eating doesn't mean that it is impolite for others to eat messily. When that article came out in Gawker a few days ago talking about sidewalk etiquette, a zillion people in the comments were like "OUTRAGE! I CANNOT WALK QUICKLY." Clearly the article wasn't aimed at those people. Maybe it's best to assume that "if you can" belongs in the front of all of these things.
    Second, it is just as easy to steady oneself on one's own seat back as on the seat back of the person in front of you. The advantage of using one's own seat back (or the arm rest, or the seat back of the person whose seat you are crossing -- a person who likely has already vacated the row for you) is that either there's nobody in that seat or, at the very least, they are aware that you are coming through. The disadvantage of grabbing the seat in front of you is that you are disturbing someone and it is likely to come as a complete shock to him or her, making it that much worse.

  9. isaac_spaceman5:35 PM

    see above

  10. KCosmo's neighbor8:06 PM

    Isaac, did you type this up while in flight? My guess is yes.

  11. The problem is, though, that people who don't need to, say, use a seat back in order to stand, generally don't consider - at least not in the moment - that someone else might. As a young and healthy-looking person with a chronic illness, I've been the recipient of many a dirty look from people on public transportation who assume my sitting down is the result of poor manners and not because I actually need to sit. I'm sure those people would agree in theory that there are exceptions to these "rules," but based on all of the ignorance I've encountered, people could always use more reminders that everyone has different physical abilities.

  12. Anonymous11:20 AM

    I'll never understand why getting on/off a plane is ones of life's most difficult tasks. But, clearly it is.
    And the comments in this thread prove it.

    PS: no excuse ever for yanking the seat in front of you for leverage to get up/down. Ever.

  13. Amen! I am so sick of my space being hogged by someone else. I paid $1,200 for this ticket - I should get the entire seat and the space in front of it:

  14. Just keep your legs, arms, torso, whatever, out of my space. And when I draw my legs in so they are not touching yours, it is not permission for you to spread your legs wider. I am sorry you are not comfortable. But neither am I. And your discomfort does not give you rights to my space.

  15. Mueller11:30 AM

    And for the love of God please take a shower and use deodorant before you leave for the airport. And scarfing down that pound of bacon before you left and then belching and fa*ting your way from NY to LA is not a good idea.

  16. Sweet6312:48 PM

    Fat people stay home.

  17. Astro Mathman2:24 PM

    Then another simple rule kicks-in, the 'excuse me' rule. As in saying to the person whose seatback you grabbed, 'Sorry, but my knees* are bad and I have trouble standing.' (*insert ankles, etc, as appropriate.) Apologies and politeness are never out of order.

  18. Astro Mathman2:30 PM

    Oh, god. The worst part of the aisle seat is the boarding process; having some fat lady (seems like it's always a fat lady) stuck standing next to you, when she hasn't thoroughly wiped.

  19. petedrum6:23 PM

    #13 Recline your seat slowly

  20. petedrum6:26 PM

    #14 At the baggage carousel, stand back at least 4 feet until your bag is in sight. Everyone will get out quicker. To facilitate this, mark your bag in a distinctive way that is visible at a distance.

  21. gtv20004:32 PM

    Or not at all. I'm 6'3" and manage to not recline my seat, my knees would appreciate the same from you.