POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 25, 2012
Condescending attitude turns off flier
Question: I had the window seat on a recent flight. There were two very tall men seated in the center and aisle seats. The guy in the center seat was taking up the whole armrest between us and stretching his right leg into the space under the seat in front of me. I gave him a look and he moved it, but he said, “I don’t know why you don’t just switch with me. You’re an itty-bitty little thing.” Maybe I am only 5-foot-2, but I chose the window seat on purpose when I booked my tickets several weeks earlier. I tried to explain this, but he just said, “Whatever,” and said something under his breath to the tall guy on the aisle. Then they both laughed. I was really mad. Should I really have changed seats with him just because he was tall and I’m petite?
Answer: No way. This guy needs to learn that you don’t call a grown woman an “itty-bitty little thing.” That’s ridiculously condescending, and if you’re trying to get someone to do a favor for you, being condescending is never, ever the right approach. It wouldn’t have been out of line for him to ask you if you’d consider switching seats, but he should have asked you. If you want a stranger to inconvenience himself or herself for your sake, you need to phrase your request as a question and include the word “please.” Good for you for staying put.
Email travel etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.