Civilised travel depends on the good will of those around you. It’s a bit like growing up believing in the rule of law rather than the mob. It is also not natural to be herded into a confined space with tens or even hundreds of people who you don’t know and possibly wouldn’t choose to spend time with even if you did know them. Everything happens to you well inside the boundary of your personal space and this is not only unnatural but can be very unnerving.
I ended up on a packed flight at the end of last week which just about finished me. The person sitting next to me was, to be frank, too large to be traveling in a standard seat. But let’s assume that can’t always be helped. Although eating a bit less might. The real problem was the constant scratching and flicking the hair and the excavation of the nose that was going on. Now, if that wasn’t bad enough, the person across the aisle in the row in front, was doing the same thing. The nose bit, that is. So one way or the other, wherever you looked you were done for. So I just closed my eyes and tried to recall long forgotten meditation techniques to blot out my surroundings. The problem was that I didn’t have a candle to focus on. But I did manage eventually to take myself to a warm terrace in Italy.
I don’t know how others feel about this habit, the nose bit again, but my immediate reaction is to be sick. A while ago I sat opposite a French man on the Eurostar who did the same thing all the way from Paris to London. No particular association with being French, it’s just that he was. This is why I no longer book the communal table seats where you face someone unless I know the people I am traveling with. One day I think I am going to lean over and ask whether anyone would mind if I was to throw up. Perhaps that way they’ll be embarrassed into thinking about their behaviour in public the next time.
Of course, when you finally walk off the flight without acknowledging the forced “have a nice evening, thank you for flying with us”, they probably don’t understand that you’re not really being rude, you’ve just had enough. Again.