Seatmate pet peeve….

One of the things I love about flying commercially is the fact that people from all walks of life get in a metal tube and are stuck together for hours at a time. Like it or not, it’s a melting pot of people from all walks of life and all parts of the world. I’ve had the opportunity to meet plenty of interesting people while flying, from mailmen to CEO’s of large corporations to 747 captains, and people from all parts of the world, from Singapore to Sioux Falls.

That being said, I’ll generally not start a conversation with my seatmate. I will however say hello and smile as I sit down, but that’s the extent of it. It’s not because I’m anti-social or don’t want to talk to them, but rather because I respect that they might not want to talk to me. I understand they might have just come from the other side of the world or might just be having a crappy day, and the last thing I’d want to do is force them into a conversation.

So when a conversation starts on a flight, it’s typically my seatmate initiating it, which seems to happen quite often. What ticks me off, though, is when a seatmate will start talking and doesn’t recognize the signs of me not being interested. While I’m interested in talking most of the time, and have even spent some transpacs talking almost nonstop to my seatmate (and I’d like to think the interest was mutual), there are some flights where I’d just prefer to sleep or relax, and it amazes me when people can’t read the signs. For example, just last week:

Seatmate: “Hi, how are you?”
Me: “Fine, thanks.”
Seatmate: “I just came back from a business trip in Washington and am heading back home to Seattle. I was gone for eight days and can’t wait to go back home. Where are you from?”
Me: “I’m from Tampa”
Seatmate: “Where are you headed?”
Me: “San Francisco.”
Seatmate: “Oh, how long are you staying there for?”
Me: “Not very long, just a quick trip.”
Seatmate: “So what do you do for a living?”

From there it went on and on. Maybe I’m off base, but is it that hard to read the signs of a disinterested seatmate? In this case I felt as if I was being questioned by an air marshal, minus the attitude, based on my level of interest.

Am I that far off base? Is there an easier way to say “I’m really not interested in talking,” without being rude?

While we’re at it, on the other end of things I do find it hilarious how quickly people open up on airplanes and tell you stuff that’s just plain unnecessary. Just recently, for example, a passenger told me within 30 seconds of sitting down that he had the flu, and this flight had no empty seats. Jeez, thanks! Just a few months ago I was sitting next to a mother, that within a few minutes of starting a conversation with me, decided to tell me that her daughter is a complete $&^% (I’ll keep it G-rated, so why don’t we just say “loose”), and that her boyfriend doesn’t really care about her but only wants to ____ her. Oh, best of all, her daughter was only 15.

Some people, I tell ya, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg…. 😀

Filed Under: Travel
  1. I usually open a book/magazine or try to look like I need to do some work. If all else fails, don the headphones and (pretend to) watch the video – should I be so lucky as to have airline-provided IFE on the flight. And no, loquacious seatmates do NOT count as IFE, lol.

    I have had a few interesting seatmates. Twice in a month, I was offered job interviews based solely on the fact that I am a consultant with one of the major players in our industry. Go figure. Another time, I chatted it up with a rookie consultant at McKinsey who must have been very bright to get that job, but didn’t seem it. Two weeks ago was the woman who talked to the movie and applauded at the end of the film. Yeesh…

  2. One word: Headphones. These usually are the biggest clue I give. I stick them on, heck, they don’t have to know I’m not listening to music. Using the pillow and blanket and closing your eyes usually works pretty well, too. Oh, and eyeshades. Last but not least, ear plugs!!!

  3. I don’t generally mind some small talk when on the plane, but I do not like being peppered with personal quesions by someone whom I have been acquainted with for a few minutes. This is something I consider quite verboten.

  4. I’m the same way. I say hello and leave it at that.

    I remember once being trapped on a Southwest flight in seats that faced each other. A gentleman sits down, looks at the other three of us and says, “Well, we’re all gonna be friends by the time this flight’s over!” Ugh.

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