The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

12:19pm on Sunday, 13th March, 2005:

Consistent Behaviour


It's comforting to know how consistent people can be in their behaviour. For example, if you're stuck behind a car and the driver does something odd, you can be sure it's not a one-off, and that they'll continue to do odd things until you get past them.

Here's what happened on my flight home yesterday.

I was in seat 45C. After the special needs and first/business class passengers had boarded, the first general call was for rows 45 and above. I was about twelfth through the barrier, and yet when I arrived the passenger in 44C was standing there blocking the way as he put his two items of hand luggage (I didn't know we were allowed two items!) in separate overhead lockers.

When he got out of the way, I stowed my briefcase and sat down. The aircraft had been sitting on the tarmac for quite some while and it was baking hot. Air conditioning was undetectable. I settled in, then WHAM! The seat in front of me comes back as far as it possibly can. It seems Mr 44C wants to read his newspaper, and needs the room.

I'm trapped like this for almost an hour. I've no idea why there's a delay on taking off, because we're not told a thing. Only when the aircraft starts to taxi to the runway does a flight attendant tell 44C to put his seat in the upright position. Still, what relief!

As soon as we're in the air, WHAM! Back it comes again, all the way. When the movie starts, I can't angle the screen enough to see the picture fully.

Now here's one of those little touches of consistency I was talking about. This guy is inconsiderate to a degree that permeates his being. He yawns, stretches, then puts his hands behind his head, behind his headrest. Yes, that's right, he clasps them over my mini TV screen. This is too much: I complain, and he removes them with the kind of reluctance I might myself have exhibited had I been asked to stop breathing. He only replaces his hands there twice more during the journey.

Lunch comes. The flight attendant can't get my tray on my table because it's so close to the back of the chair — 44C is at about 45 degrees. The flight attendant politely suggests to 44C's occupant that he should move his seat forward, which he does. Oh, I should mention that at no point does 43C ever go back, so there's no knock-on effect here: 44C is doing this without any prompting.

So I manage to have my lunch, which (this being British Airways) is pretty good. I've nearly finished, when WHAM! Back comes chair 44C again. It seems the occupant thought that the advice to put his seat forward was to help him eat, not to help me eat. If I'd had a bottle of wine like 45B and 45A have, it would have gone all over. As it is, there's barely an inch of clearance above my teacup.

Talking of 45B, there was a mildly amusing incident when she wanted to go to the lavatory (which happened something like 4 times during the 9½ hour flight). She was a young but somewhat overweight Irish woman, and had trouble getting out of her seat because of the space taken up by 44C. She had to turn sideways to slide out, so held on to the headrest of 44C for support as she did so. When she let go, 44C twanged forward and projected its occupant several inches further. I quite enjoyed that.

44C remains back for the rest of the journey. About 90 minutes to landing, we're given breakfast. This comes in a box. The flight attendant asks 44C to move his seat forward, but he doesn't — he assures the flight attendant that it's OK, he'll eat it leaning back... When the flight attendant comes to collect the boxes later, he bashes 45B's on my nose as he can't get it through the gap between my head and 44C.

Come landing, 44C has to go forward, and its occupant complies. As soon as we've landed, you've guessed it, WHAM! Back it comes again.

The aircraft taxis to the terminal. The instant it stops, Mr 44C is on his feet getting out his luggage. He only removes one piece, though, a soft-sided leather briefcase. He leaves the other piece in the overhead locker for 10 minutes while the doors are opened and passengers start to disembark. Only when the person in front of him actually starts walking, then does he get down his luggage, holding up everyone in rows 45 and beyond. This second piece is a flight bag with an extendable handle. He extends it right there in the aisle, then drags it along behind him. It catches on several seats; each time it does so, he stops and backs up to uncatch it. At one point, he halts to ask a flight attendant a question about his connecting flight. Everyone else stands and waits patiently as she politely tells him she hasn't the faintest clue what he's talking about.

Off the aircraft, the guy occupies as much space as he can. His over-stuffed briefcase in one hand and his tow-along bag in the other, it's impossible to get past him. If he were to walk a foot closer to either wall it would be possible, but he doesn't think that way. He doesn't think at all. He just saunters along at his own speed while the rest of us seethe.

We reach the travelator. He steps on it and stops. He doesn't walk along it like everyone else, he just stops. I ask him to move to the side. He does so, but doesn't move his drag-along bag. It stays there on the left, while he's on the right, holding its handle. Honestly, if he'd wanted to make it harder for people to get past he couldn't have done so.

I step over his bag, and am free.

In passport control line, they open up a new window and he gets ahead of me again. The route to baggage control is slightly wider than from the plane, so he has to weave a little to stop people from getting past. I don't think he's doing any of this deliberately, it's just he has no conception that his actions may affect other people. As far as he's concerned, there's a wide path to walk along so he doesn't need to keep his arm as stiff as he did while tugging his little bag before. Never mind the 200 people he's holding up.

I manage to overtake him on a corner, and that's the last I see of him.

This man has no sense of consideration for others, none at all. He'd doubtless be shocked to discover this. He's simply blind to the effects of his actions on anyone else, all the time, probably from birth. He's entirely consistent.

I can see how people sometimes get air rage.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).