or "Why You Shouldn't Be an Asshole to People You Don't Know."
On Saturday morning, I took a flight to New York to meet my family--my mother and brother share a birthday, and they thought we should go to Manhattan to take in the sights. When I booked the flight, I went online to see if I could get my favored aisle seat, but unfortunately, the aisle seats were all taken. Instead I chose a seat on the right side of the plane where there were only two seats in the row (rather than the three seats on the left side).
When I boarded the flight Saturday morning, I went to my assigned row, and looked in the overhead compartment. A family of eight people had taken all of the overhead space above my seat, so I pushed my backpack underneath the seat in front of me. I promptly sat down, opened the magazine I bought at the airport newsstand, and started reading. My seat-mate arrived shortly after I did, bearing a set of Bose headphones and an iPhone.
Once the flight started moving, I noticed him look down at the armrest and sigh heavily. I didn't think anything of it at the time. Once we were in the air, however, he started forcing his elbow into my side, subtly at first, then more noticeably as time went on. I did my best to give the man more room, slouching my shoulders and scooting to the right, but since I was sitting in the window seat, I couldn't move any further into the side of the plane. Finally, I tapped the man on the shoulder and said "Sorry, I don't have anywhere to go."
The man exploded at me, insisting that I was partly in his seat, and that he didn't care if I didn't have anywhere to go--He wanted me off his armrest and in my apportioned space. I argued with him for a time, but the man finally put his headphones back on, muttering, "you should've bought a first class ticket." I considered saying something to him after the flight was over, perhaps something to the effect of "I hope your children don't grow up to be passive-aggressive assholes like you"; but honestly, I'm non-confrontational in general, and I didn't see the point.
This encounter bothered me throughout my time in New York, and it still bothers me now; because while my shoulders may have encroached into his seating area slightly, the man had the benefit of being in the aisle seat--unless he has some unknown injury causing him to lean rightward all the time, he had the ability to lean to the left to avoid contact. I called him on his passive-aggressive territoriality and got hostility as a result. If he had responded with sincerity or apology, we wouldn't have exchanged words. In general, I'm a nice guy. Those of you who know me know that it's no skin off my back to help someone out or accommodate a stranger. If you're hostile to me, however, throw that all out the window--I'm still mulling some kind of revenge against him now.
And that's where I come to the subject of this post. Revenge. Don't be an asshole to someone you don't know, especially when you don't know what they're capable of. I considered for a while calling up the airline to see if I could get the name of the man sitting next to me, and Google him. Since he had an iPhone, I could probably assume he was on AT&T. If I found his cell number, I'd sign up his SMS-email on all sorts of random mailing lists. If I found his business, I could call his boss and tell him that his employee was rude and confrontational. These are the tame options. I pondered things far more sinister and far more life-ruining, but I put those aside when I think about his two children.
This entry is all the catharsis I'll be getting on this matter. Hopefully, posting this will let me put my feelings aside. I may, however, entertain requests from trusted friends for the flight and seat number of the man in question.
The moral of the story: Before you flip someone off or bite their head off, consider for a moment that they may be dissatisfied with the way their life is going and have no qualms about ruining yours. Be excellent to each other.