Ask Amy: Annoying Airplane Flight Gets Awkward

By Amy Dickinson | August 4th, 2021

A rude text leads to an uncomfortable experience

Woman texting on airplane flight Image

Dear Amy: On a short airplane flight, I was seated next to a woman who chatted to me nonstop about this and that, while I listened and smiled politely.

When she started to voice opinions that I didn’t share and didn’t want to discuss, I tried to wrap up the conversation and turned to my phone.

I texted my daughter an unkind remark about the woman, which the woman saw; she would have had to make an effort to see what I was writing.

The woman became upset, and I felt terrible.

I apologized profusely. The flight attendants even got involved.

We were both silent for the rest of the flight.

At the time I chastised myself for writing something snarky about my seatmate, but the more I thought about it, I wondered if I needed to feel so bad.

After all, the remark had not been directed at her and she took it upon herself to read a private communication.

What do you think?

– Testy Traveler

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Dear Testy: Your seatmate failed to “read the room,” but some travelers are nervous or excited and choose to distract themselves through chatter. (I have now trained myself to respect my seatmate’s privacy until at most 10 minutes before landing.)

Your seatmate also failed to read you, as someone who knows how to smile and act politely without actually being polite or kind.

You have the right to think whatever snarky thoughts you might have; but when you commit them to writing, your thoughts will take on a life of their own.

No, she should not have read your text, but she did read it. (I’ve seen this referred to as “shoulder surfing,” and you’ve probably done it, yourself.)

Your question to yourself should be: “Should I have written the text in the first place?”

If your middle school child reported to you that she wrote a snarky note about a fellow classmate, but the classmate intercepted it, read it, and responded badly, would you encourage your child to justify her own actions the way you are doing?

Generally speaking, if you feel bad about your own behavior, then go ahead and lean into that feeling; it means there is a high likelihood that you behaved badly.

If you want to move through a world that is gentler, more respectful, and kinder, then the better behavior might as well start with you.

And – while I’m at it – let us acknowledge the often thankless role of flight attendants, who are there to see to our safety, but end up using their valuable time and energy negotiating this sort of nonsense.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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