If you know me at all, then you won’t be surprised to learn that I decided to read an article entitled “Whose Feet Are Those?” Unfortunately, it wasn’t an article about a mysterious rash of stray feet showing up in unexpected locations. Instead, it was a New York Times article about travel etiquette, written just in time for all of us to learn how to negotiate the upcoming holiday travel season. They even quoted Lizzie Post, super-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, whose 1922 book “Etiquette” has been torturing the world for almost a century.
Her basic advice? Don’t do anything, at all, ever. Or, to quote her directly, “to do nothing that can either annoy or offend the sensibilities of others, sums up the principal rules for conduct under all circumstances — whether staying at home or traveling.” Keep in mind that this was written in 1922, at a time when things like ‘unescorted women in public’ and ‘racial equality’ would have offended the sensibilities of others. That Emily Post herself was literate and well-educated was probably an indelicate subject of conversation at some dinner tables. But I’m getting off-track.
Or am I? After all, old advice is often the best advice. So in honor of Ms. Post and her fervent desire to never do anything that might in any way bother another human being – and also in honor of the thousands of human beings who are so easily bothered that an article like “Whose Feet Are Those?” needed to be written – here are a few travel tips I hope to take to heart:
Only Use Soaps, Deodorants, and Perfumes That Every Passenger On Your Flight Will Appreciate! This will require you to learn the names of all these people, call them all, and obtain their verbal approval before leaving your house. As Lizzie Post says, “Even the lightest perfumes can actually be amplified, especially when you’re in travel situations. Stress levels are elevated, and when that happens you do tend to perspire more.” Which also means you shouldn’t sweat. If you sweat, you should get off the plane, even if this requires a mid-flight departure. Remember, your seat can be used as a life preserver, which means it’s probably also a parachute.
Don’t Get On The Plane Until Forcibly Escorted To Your Seat By Airport Security! The article quotes one frequent flier’s frustration at “gate lice,” a term I’d never heard before referring to people who stand up and wait to board long before their zone is called. Right now we’re going to ignore the fact that first class passengers do this as well, and on every flight I’ve ever been on. They are first-class lice, and therefore exempt from your contempt. More importantly, this means that standing and waiting has the potential to annoy others, so you shouldn’t do those things. Just like good little boys and girls should be seen and not heard, airline passengers should be seated at all times – including outside of the plane.
Don’t Recline Your Seat, Use Your Armrest, Accidentally Bump the Seat In Front of You, or Stretch! Every one of these activities was cited in the article as a potential source of friction between you and the other passengers, which means none of these activities is acceptable. Other social faux pas include: yawning; speaking at a volume anyone else can hear; wearing a brand of headphones other passengers disapprove of; having to go to the bathroom if you’re sitting in a window seat; breathing too heavily; coughing; looking sideways; wearing clothing other passengers don’t like; or being vaguely or acutely unattractive.
And there you go! Simply follow my impossible-to-implement advice, and you’ll be the unobtrusive life of every public conveyance you ever set foot in. The people around you probably won’t thank you, but at least they won’t hate you. I suppose it’s possible for all of us to accept the fact that we’re wedged into a plane with 150 other people, that none of us feels like we have enough space to be comfortable, and that we’re all trying to make the best with what we’re given. But seriously, whenever has patience and an understanding of other people’s differences been a priority of ours? Not on your next flight, I can assure you that!
What’s the most annoying thing you’ve experienced on a flight?