Rudeness on a Plane: What Would You Do?

A late flight brings out bad behavior in passengers.

Late on Monday night, my flight landed at SFO. I was returning from a short trip to Washington, DC, to visit friends and family, and at what felt like 1 a.m. to my Eastern Standard Time-oriented body, I just wanted to get home.

The flight hadn't been an easy one. There was a large high school girls sports team seated around me (at least, that's what I was pretty sure they were), and the girls talked loudly and jumped up and down to visit each other during the flight, pulling on my chair every time.

When I started to get annoyed, I reminded myself they were just acting like high school kids do, and they weren't doing anything mean-spirited or explicitly rude.

I was seated next to a family with small boys who wiggled around, poked me and kicked the seat in front of them energetically.

When I started to get annoyed, I reminded myself that they were bored and tired, they were just acting like kids and their parents were doing a pretty good job of keeping their behavior in line. I also reminded myself that I'll soon have a screaming infant who will likely bother every other passenger on his first flight.

There was a lot of turbulence, and when the plane bumped up and down and the captain repeatedly had the flight attendants return to their seats, the high school girls threw their arms in the air, called to each other and made crazy faces.

I reminded myself that we were just going over "road bumps in the sky" and there was no need for me to hold my breath and clutch the armrest because we were perfectly safe.

It was when we landed and were waiting to leave the plane that grumpiness seemed to take over—not me, but another passenger.

I was seated on the aisle seat in the third to last row, blocking in half of the young family, the father and one of his sons. Even though we'd landed ahead of schedule, the father was concerned about making a connecting flight and insisted that I stand up in the aisle rather than wait in my seat as I usually do until the rows before me have cleared. 

As I stood there—not moving, of course, while we waited for the passengers ahead of us to begin to exit—the girls were talking loudly around us. I wasn't paying attention to their conversation so I don't know what was said, but the father suddenly seemed to lose his cool.

"Can you watch your mouth?" he said. "Do you ever think about anybody else or only yourself?"

As I say, I didn't hear what the girls said, but for the purposes of argument, let's assume that they were cursing. Was the father right to ask them to watch their language? Could he have done it more courteously or was he appropriately direct with them?

I have my own opinion, but I'd like to hear yours first before I share it. Let me know what you think in the comments, and after a few come in, I'll let you know what I think.

For the record, one of the girls apologized briefly, and everyone stood in awkward silence until we could get off the plane.

Do you have a dilemma regarding civility or ethics? Send your situation to drew@patch.com to have it featured on Patch and get the input of the Patch community!

Angelique April 03, 2012 at 11:02 PM
I think the dad was overwhelmed with his own kids and took out his own anxiety on everyone else around him. Instead of aiming it towards his own kids he let it go to the girls who he thought were possibly over the top duting the flight and maybe the curse words were just enough for him, and to u whom he thought was blocking his way from the whole 3 mins he would of saved.
Angelique April 03, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Mark Cox April 04, 2012 at 04:01 AM
Sorry, Drew, for such a uncomfortable flight. Travel is stressful and tends to bring out the worst in us. The man's question to the girls ("Do you think of anyone else or only yourself?") is ironic since he was also insisting that you, a pregnant woman, stand in the aisle so that he could get out quicker. We're often blind to our own selfishness. It's unfortunate that he waited until he was really angry to say something. Even annoying teenagers deserve respect. I really like that you bring up the issue of civility-- how do we disagree with others but still maintain respect and a spirit of friendship? So much of current discourse tends to be polarized and aimed at demeaning those who disagree with me. I avoid most of the political debates on Patch as they tend to produce more heat than light.
Drew Himmelstein (Editor) April 04, 2012 at 04:43 AM
I pretty much agree with what you guys have said. I thought the man was pretty rude, but I do think it's okay to assert that you disagree with other people's behavior in public. So I think it would have been fine for him to ask them to watch their language, but even if he's annoyed, he should have done so courteously and respectfully. That can be hard to do when you're upset about something, but I think the second part of his statement, "Do you ever think of anybody else..." was unnecessarily personal and rude.
Jo Dondis April 05, 2012 at 09:49 PM
This is a tough one. I understand the man's frustration. But the fact that he insisted that you stand in the aisle for his convenience says a lot about who he is. Unless the comments were blatantly offensive I think he should have let it go.


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