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Don’t Be That Guy

Manny RomanDuring a recent trip to visit friends in Wisconsin, Ruth and I encountered the normal hassles of getting to the airport, parking, dragging suitcases, checking luggage and the long walk that accompanies all these. Finally, arriving at the gate brought some relief, or so we thought. The gate area was very crowded since apparently people are conducting what is called “revenge travel.” People are making up for vacations lost during the lockdowns and are traveling in droves.

People may be making up for lost vacations, and leaving the lockdowns behind, but they are not leaving their rudeness behind. We were feeling the anxiety of finding a place for us to sit to wait for the boarding time. So many people place their backside in one chair and their backpack in the seats next to them. They totally ignore that many people are standing because of the many seats holding luggage and other items. Many elderly people were standing while many young occupied two or more seats with their stuff. I was especially surprised that a flight attendant had her luggage in one seat and her lunch in another.

As we surveyed the room we found two seats nearly empty. Their only occupants were a charging cell phone in each. I asked the nearest human if the seats could be released. A person in the opposite isle said they would move their phones and one even offered to move to another seat so we old people could sit. There is hope for the young after all. 

The flight was, of course, delayed and we were relieved that we had seats for the next 45 minutes. Other old people were not so lucky as they searched for two adjacent seats.

I wondered if people are just uncaring of others. Maybe they are just not very aware of their surroundings. Maybe they are just plain rude. The benefit of the doubt causes me to believe that the circumstances surrounding travelers may heavily influence this behavior.

We are in very close proximity to complete strangers. We have in our possession items which are valuable to us – luggage, computers, purses, etc. We must protect them. The safest place would be on the seat right next to us. We also want to keep the isle clear. We also are influenced by the consistency trigger when we see others acting the same way. Those who are standing must want to be standing or they would ask for the seat.

Who would want to sit so close to a stranger who may be contagious or a talker. Ruth is a magnet for talkers. Whoever sits next to her takes one look and immediately begins to divulge their family secrets. Sometimes the pictures are brought out. It is uncanny to watch and listen. I stopped asking what happened to cause this. She does not know.

So, why am I boring you with this stuff? I am asking that we all be constantly aware of our surroundings. Pay attention to how your actions or inactions may affect others – especially in crowded situations such as airports, restaurants, etc. I know that some of you will say that we are not responsible for the comfort of others, especially strangers. 

People can be passively annoying as in the case of a seat snatcher. Active annoyance is even more disturbing. Think of the last time that you were in a restaurant and had a loud, boisterous and annoying individual near you. Did it not hinder your enjoyment of the meal and your companions? Were you “That Guy?”

What about the diners who are finished, yet retain possession of the table for quite a while even knowing that there are many others waiting for their turn? The staff provides many hints that they should leave – clearing the plates, bringing the check, asking if there is anything else needed, hostile looks, etc. Yet they remain thus keeping others hungry and depriving the wait staff of possible tips.

I know that in the end, everyone is in it mostly for themselves. I am asking that you attempt to not be “That Guy.”

Manny Roman, CRES, is association business operations manager at Association of Medical Service Providers.

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