When Smite Might be an Option

Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt

It’s pretty hard to figure out who said that, or who said it first. imageAccording to some, it was God. Hey, I’m as big a fan of Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain as the next guy, but I’m not choosing either of them over God. Regardless of who first uttered this phrase, I’d like to point out that that if you want to see evidence of its validity, step onto a plane.

I recently booked a three-city-bank-shot via one of the Internet Travel sites. I got a great deal on an otherwise complex and expensive bit of travel, but the seat selection offered to me was a collection of middle seats in the back of the plane. Normally, I don’t care where I sit, but I was worried about those seats on some flights where I had very short layovers between connecting flights. So, I paid a few extra dollars to upgrade to Economy Comfort (the modern-day equivalent of what we used to know as Coach). I like aisle seats, toward the front of the plane when I have a connection because I feel like I’m more in control of my own destiny. It’s not really true, but I’m easily convinced of such things.

On the first leg of my trip, from Hartford, CT to Orlando, FL, I upgraded to an aisle seat in row 8. When I sat down, I noticed a woman at the window, already strapped in and reading a book. The middle seat was empty, so I didn’t bother to buckle-up. A few minutes later, a guy stops in the aisle and says “that’s mine…sorry” pointing to the middle seat. I got up and out of his way and said something like “no problem” to which he replied “I hate middle seats” – which caused me to recall an expression I’ve heard my English friend say “yeah yeah, off you go.” The woman at the window heard this guy’s complaint and when he sat down, she offered him a proposition:

“My fiancée is seated on the aisle, two rows back. It’s also an Economy Comfort seat, and it would be great if you would switch with him because then he and I could sit together.”

This was one of those home run deals where you get to do good and get rewarded, but the guy said: “I wouldn’t want to do that” then he mumbled something about staying in his assigned seat. Then, as the plane started rolling, he tried three times, to strike up a conversation with the woman. Each time, she turned her head sharply to the window and nosed into her book. “How’s that working for you?” I thought.

This incident reminded me of a similar one several years ago. I was running for a connection in Atlanta. When I got to the gate, the attendant was dealing with a young girl who was traveling alone. The attendant was concerned about something dealing with the girl’s age. The young trooper pointed out that 12 was the magic number in this case, and that she was 12 ½. With her pink roll-aboard in tow, she entered the jet-way. Since I was late, they had given my assigned seat to someone else. The attendant was able to get me an aisle seat near the back. Since this was the final leg of my flight, I really didn’t care. She printed a new boarding pass and I was on my way.

I boarded the plane and the flight attendant shut the door behind me – I was that guy, the guy your flight was delayed for – and, I had to walk the length of the aircraft.

When I got to my seat, the little girl was in it. I said “excuse me honey, but I think you’re in my seat.” She started crying…sigh. Through her tears, she said “I’m supposed to be in the window seat.” I looked over and the guy seated at the window said “I really can’t deal with sitting in the middle.”

I tapped the little girl on the shoulder and said: “it’s OK, I’m going to call the flight attendant and she’ll either make this man move, or she’ll throw him off the plane.” The man got up, the little girl moved and the man motioned for me to take the center seat. Not happening. He sat down. I sat down and I pushed his arm off the armrest – don’t make little girls cry.

After my stay in Orlando, I was off to Iowa via a imageconnection in Dallas. A woman traveling with two young children was in the row ahead of me on the other side of the aisle. None of their TV monitors were working. She asked the flight attendant for help but after several attempts to repair the system, she was told two things. One, the TVs weren’t going to work. Two, the only empty seats were in an Exit row and her children were too young to sit there. Within a few minutes, those of us who were content to read on this flight brokered a deal where a few adults got exit-row seats and a couple of kids got working TVs but about 9 people were not in their assigned seats. The attendant even gave the family movie access for free. I think God would have liked that.

35 thoughts on “When Smite Might be an Option

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  1. Pictures – When you are continuing on a multi-stop flight on Southwest, you are allowed to change seats after the people getting off are gone and the flight attendants get a headcount. This plane had gone from San Francisco to Denver and was now heading to Omaha. I guess Omaha wasn’t as popular a stop as I imagined. The early helicopter at the Connecticut Air Museum didn’t have many amenities (like a cabin) but it had no middle seat that I can see.


  2. You’ve just sot right up in my estimations; I don’t mean as a writer (those abilities speak for themselves), but as a man too – dealing the way you did with the selfish berk who upset the little girl was priceless!


  3. I have enjoyed myself reading this, Dan. I particularly liked the part with the man who wouldn’t let the woman’s fiancee to sit with her. It happened to me once in a bus. I had my assigned seat, and then this girl, who was to occupy the adjacent seat, comes with her boyfriend and explains that they had two different seats but they wanted to sit together. Would I please move to the boyfriend’s seat? I actually thought it was a fine request. I didn’t mind moving. Besides, when I see people in love, I see hope for humanity. But I said no just to see what she would do next. I didn’t mean to be mean. I said it in a friendly way. She, however, became impatient and did something with her mouth which I found to be very unpleasant. So I refused to move and told the boyfriend to ask his neighbour to shift instead. He did. And the matter was settled. As for the man who makes the kid cry, you handled him fine. Grownups just shouldn’t fight with kids for window seats.
    This is a great post, Dan.


      1. That was clear. Women have such a strong ability to use body language, and this woman couldn’t have been more clear in her message. The fact that he tried three times was laughable.


    1. Thanks Peter. I have been startled by the request to change places, and I remember once sort of giving the wrong answer. There is the immediate desire to “do the nice thing” but there can be problems. I turned down a request once because it involved me moving forward which would require trying to move backwards upon landing to retrieve my bag. There are so many variable, that I have to think about it before blurting out an answer. If I had been asked in this case, I would have said yes quickly. The woman didn’t ask me, and I didn’t volunteer because the guy seemed unwilling to move from the middle seat (that he hated).


    1. Amen to that! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been boiling inside at the total lack of logic when boarding an air plane from front to back. My husband (the Buddha) has slowly worn off on me, now, though… We just wait until everybody else is on the plane and then board :)


  4. I’m often mean to folks who don’t offer their seats to the elderly or the pregnant. I range from dirty looks to ‘shame on you’, but some day I might go too far :). I loved that ‘don’t make little girls cry’ bit.


    1. Totally with you on this. I’m always amazed at how inconsiderate some people can be, and on occasion, stupid too; the idiot in question here was lucky that Dan was of an age and temperament where his response, although highly effective, was thankfully a measured and sensible one. Think though if instead of being on a plane but a coach instead, one carrying a bunch of rugby playing squaddies – the idiot in question might very well have found himself being thrown very unceremoniously from the coach, probably minus his clothes and with several bruises to boot. I wouldn’t condone that now of course but thirty years ago in my own ‘squaddie’ days, well, who knows..


      1. You are so right! I think that if this guy hadn’t been in the back of the plane, he might have already been in trouble. Most of the guys I know would react quickly if they saw an adult male doing something that results in a 12-year-old girl crying. It was due to her presence that I selected professional language instead of the words that were on the tip of my tongue.


    2. I think it might be easier for a woman to master the dirty look. I usually need to say something, and sometimes, I tend to go a bit too far. My wife worries that I may get into trouble but sometimes, things have to be said. Thanks for adding your comment.


  5. Nice post! I don’t usually read blogs early in the morning; I’m glad I’m reading today. Smiling here.
    It would have been so good for that fella to switch seats with the woman’s boyfriend. I wonder if you got some glares when you held up the plane…I mean held up the plane from taking off because you were late :-) It was very kind of you to help the pre-teen get the window seat.
    Nice quote!


  6. A little kindness can go a long way on an airplane. I once got stuck in the Newark airport for 6 hours between flights. The terminal was under construction and I had a nine week old baby with me. The kind man that had been sitting in the next seat on the first leg on my journey, finagled me a pass into the US Airways Executive lounge until our next flight. I had a clean place to let the baby nap and all the snacks I could ever want. You better bet that guy got a thank you note.


    1. That was so nice. I love hearing about when people do something nice when there’s nothing really in it for them (except maybe a thank you card). I try do remember to do things like that when I can, but it’s always easier when children are involved. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.


  7. I seem to have been asleep at the wheel and missed this post . Sounds almost like you are the fixer , the savior of air travel . Good for you standing up for the 12 (1/2) year-old girl ! I’ve been involved in some of these seat-change negotiations , too . Think of it as street justice , I guess , despite the airline’s seat assignment charts . Great post .


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