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An open letter to the passenger on seat 16D

Savera Someshwar | December 27, 2007

To
The passenger on seat 16 D,
A recent Kingfisher flight from Mumbai to Delhi,

Dear Sir,

(On second thoughts, I don't think I should begin with such a polite salutation)

Mr In-Desperate-Need-Of-A-Crash-Course-On-Manners,

I don't know if you remember me. In fact, I'm not too sure if you'd remember any of your co-passengers in the flight you took from Mumbai to Delhi on Tuesday. You see, you were way to busy being your boorish best.

In case, you don't quite remember, here -- as they would say in Bollywood -- is a quick flashback.

I'm sure you remember walking on to the plane and finding your seat. Here's what happened next. You rudely summoned the air hostess and told her to hang up your jacket.

She apologised, and said she couldn't oblige, because that was a service extended only to first class passengers.

You picked a fight. She remained apologetically polite, yet firm. Finally, ungraciously, you had to give up. You shoved your jacket in her hand, and then thrust your boarding pass stub, ordering her to put in the jacket pocket.

She didn't; she quietly put the stub in the jacket and waited till you took it back from her.

Maybe, for a minute, you forgot that an airhostess is a qualified professional, not your personal handmaiden.

Next, you ignored fastening your seatbelt much after the 'fasten-your-seatbelt' sign went on. And snarled at the hostess because she reminded you to do so. You wouldn't, however, have noticed that she had seen your girth. And stood by unobtrusively to see if you would need an extension to your safety belt.

The plane began taxiing in preparation for taken off -- despite the announcements that mobile phones needed to be switched off, you were still talking on your latest model cellular phone. Yes, we all understood you were having a problem with your passport, and there was vital business chitchat that just could not wait because you were seated on a plane that was about to take off.

But you can't blame the rest of us if we were more concerned about our lives. So, we silently cheered when the hostess asked you to switch off your cell phone. 'Yes, Yes,' you told her, and continued talking. She requested again. You nodded at her as you would at a pesky fly and continued talking. She insisted. You cut your call and snarled at her. Again.

For a while then, blissful peace descended. Until you surfaced again when lunch was served. "Is this the only vegetarian option you have?" Yes, she said. You snarled yet         again. But, for all your angst about the lunch, you tucked it in heartily.

As we finally reached Delhi, you began your penultimate act. The plane had barely touched the tarmac, the warning announcements about wearing seatbelts and not opening overhead lockers had barely faded, and you were on your feet. As, of course, were some of the other passengers who seemed to have forgotten a basic fact: Where on earth were you going to go until the plane came to halt and the doors were opened?

Like a patient school teacher dealing with a bunch of unruly kids, the crew got everyone back to their seats. Only, you took umbrage. After all, how could she -- a mere employee -- tell you -- a bona fide paying passenger (and, maybe, in your mind, her master) -- what to do!

And then, you began chatting on your phone again. The hostess requested you to switch it off until the plane had come to a standstill. You nodded and shooed her away.

 "But you can't do that, sir. Please switch off your mobile phone immediately."

You angrily raged at her. Another hostess came in to calm you down. "How can she do that?" you yelled. "How can she raise her voice and talk to me?" For the record, she didn't raise her voice.

For the record, again, you were the person who was out of line. You deserved to be treated badly -- you were behaving like a spoilt brat! You were just lucky you were dealing with professionals.

And you, sir, were one of the worst co-passengers I have ever travelled with. Unfortunately, you are not the only one flaunting your lack of etiquette. On most flights, you'll find passengers who insist on talking on their mobile phones when they should be switched off, refuse to wear the seatbelt, refuse to be seated when the seatbelt sign is on, insist on standing and opening the overhead lockers as the plane barely touches the tarmac.

In fact, in a flight I took a month earlier, there was one who even insisted on talking while the plane was in the air because took off three hours late. "Where are you?" was the beginning of his urgent conversation. "We are late, am still in the air." When he was requested to shut his cell, he yelled at the hostess, "It's because of you I am speaking on the phone. After all, your flight is late. How long do you expect me not to use my phone?"

Across the aisle, a 30-year-old man sat quietly, waiting for the flight to land, hoping he would not miss his connecting flight. He was the major in the Indian Army, on his way to join the UN peace-keeping corps in embattled Congo, ready to lay his life down to honour a commitment made by his country.

-  an exasperated passenger.      







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