Question: In the business-class car on Amtrak trains, there are two electrical outlets near the window seat. One outlet is for the person in the window seat, and one is for the person in the aisle seat, correct? What do you do if you sit in the aisle seat but the person in the window seat is asleep and using both outlets? This happened to me recently. I didn’t want to reach across the sleeping passenger’s laptop and unplug her stuff, so I woke her up. She was not happy, and seemed mad that I expected to be able to use one of the outlets. What do you think?
Answer: Yes, one outlet is for each passenger. If no one is sitting beside you, you can use both outlets until someone else arrives, but then you should say something like, "Let me know if you want to plug something in. I’d be happy to unplug my cellphone charger." And I agree with you that’s it’s better to wake someone up than to reach across her stuff and unplug it. I think it would be much more disconcerting to wake up to someone leaning across my stuff than to be tapped on the shoulder by someone saying, "Excuse me, could I plug in my laptop?" You didn’t do anything wrong.
Q: Why do people insist on putting bags in the overhead compartment sideways if they’d clearly fit the other way? You should put your bags in wheels-first to leave room for other people’s bags. Sometimes flight attendants even announce this. If I see someone’s bag like that, can I take it out and put it back in the right way in order to make mine fit?
A: While flight attendants do make occasional announcements about this, they don’t do so on every flight. People who don’t fly frequently might not realize how crowded the overhead compartment gets or that it makes more sense to put their bags in wheels-first. I’d try to give your fellow passengers the benefit of the doubt here.
But I would not recommend rearranging their bags without asking first. If you see the person who put the bag in, ask them directly; if not, just say, "Excuse me, who does this navy-blue suitcase belong to? If it’s OK with you, I’d like to turn it so my bag can fit as well." If the owner is nowhere to be found, ask a flight attendant for assistance.
Email travel etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at email@example.com.