The name "Bob" was a dead giveaway. You acted prudently. One should never be nice or talk to "Bob." Nothing good will ever come of it.
Clearly, The Stranger needs its own corporate jet.
I have no problem saying, "I'm sorry, but I'm reading." Or, "shut the fuck up."
Never, ever, under any cicumstances make initial eye contact on an airplane. Screw social niceties. Close your eyes and go to sleep. If you can't sleep, just pretend.
I've lost hours of study or reading time because people wouldn't recognize that a book is more important than making chit-chat. I need to become more assertive...perhaps not as assertive as Mssr. Poe, but more assertive nonetheless. On the other hand, when I've been in the mood to interact and the person has been interesting, I've had quite enjoyable travel experiences.
@4 That also works great on buses, with the added benefit that if you look like you're sleeping, no one will ask you to give up your seat for cripples/small children/old ladies.
You may hail from Chicago originally, but your inability to directly express a reasonable social need smacks of Seattle passive-aggressiveness. How about "Nice to meet you Bob. I need to concentrate on my work during this flight."
I would have yelled "Bob has a bomb and is going to kill us all!" Always good for a laugh. Well, you should have done that, I really wouldn't since I am pretty sure I am allergic to going to jail.
That really hurt my feelings.
Should have just started talking about how you came up with the term 'Santorum'.
Could he read your screen? Maybe he became speechless from the content of your email.
People like this are why I invest in hard-to-miss earbuds or straight-up headphones if I'm going to in any sort of situation where I could be someone's captive audience (doctor's office, Metro, etc). I usually add sunglasses if I think I can get away with it. If they can't catch your eye or your ear, they can't monopolize it.
And I don't care if it's Seattle passive-aggressive bullshit, it's also someone being too stupid to pick up on non-verbal, and sub-verbal cues that I'm NOT FUCKING INTERESTED.
it isn't necessary to be "nice." Just be civil. Channel Bartleby with "Excuse me Bob, I prefer to read."
@7, EXCELLENT point!! Bravo!!
But What About Bob?
Number 7 makes the best sense, what happened to common-sense manners? Remember folks this does go both ways. Should you have a question or a need to talk with a stranger, expect the person you approach to look down, put in the ear-thimbles (ala F451 R. Bradbury)and just sort of drift away. What goes around comes around.
I've met Bob before! multiple times. He always looks different. Hmmm... I don't remember him saying his name was Bob. Sometimes he's a woman.
Passive aggressiveness is a Western culture thing. It's not just a Seattle thing. Personal pet peeve I have with Slog commenters. OK, rant over. thx.
Once in the early '90s someone tried to talk to me on a plane. I really can't recall how I got through the ordeal, without the safety net of being able to blog about it the next day.
What a pathetic move, how about "nice to meet you Bob, I gotta get some work done now" instead of grinding your teeth and thinking "oh my god, I can't wait to post this..."
i will say i enjoy, for the most part, at least a little bit of a chit chat when i travel. it feels incongruous to be surrounded by so many people when i travel yet isolated from them as if they weren't there. i like people and the stories they have to tell...i wish more people would chat. (and by chat i mean the art of conversation, not seeking to dominate/proselytize/talk ear off)
When I moved from Florida to Chicago this year, there sat behind me a poor young woman around my age who was talked to by her neighbor for about three hours. The woman even gave her her home address/phone number so they could spend time together "the next time she's in Gainesville." It was hilarious. I wanted to give the girl a hug and slap the woman. It was clear she didn't want to talk, just sleep or something. And I had to listen to this shit.
John Waters always carries a provocatively named book with him to read like, "Lesbian Nuns".
pretend to be deaf/mute.
start praying in Arabic.
We Can Sit and Talk and Not Talk For Hours and Still Have Things to Not Talk About.
I bring a book titled "Greatest Airplane Crashes of All-Time: Now with graphic photographs!"
I had the same thing happen to me on my way back from Paris not four hours ago. My favorite moment would have to have been when I pulled out my book, started reading, and my neighbor asks if its an interesting book. I wouldn't know, French Bob. Just like I wouldn't know if the movie I am watching is any good, or what my food might have tasted like hot.
Gosh Dan, life's full of little trade-offs, isn't it.
Regretfully, Bob, I already have all the friends I can handle and I hope to get some work done on this trip. So please excuse me and enjoy your flight without me.
@7 and others have it right. When you don't want to talk with a fellow traveler you politely but unmistakeably bow out. You don't have to tell your interlocutor why you don't want to talk with him but it helps make it seem less harsh. A civil "It has been nice talking to you but I like using my flight time to catch up on: work, reading, sleep, furtive masturbation, and etc." and a smile is all that is required of you. After that you don't even need to avoid eye contact. You can exchange all the friendly smiles you can muster as you squeeze past to get up, ask the attendant for a drink, or wipe yourself clean.
99% of the time, the last thing I would want to do on a plane would be to talk to my seatmate (staring into space is usually preferable to me). I just typically don't say anything at all and just bring out my work/book and start doing/reading it. If needed, Iíll pretend like Iím super absorbed in what Iím doing and do a ďhmm, what?Ē. I donít think Iíve ever had anyone so oblivious that this didnít work.
"No nice way so 'Leave me alone'"? Geez Dan, you must be much more of a pussy in person than you are in your column.
"I am a member of the Church of Satan and we are fasting for the destruction of families of pastors and Christian leaders."
There are the commenters who realize that Hayden @7 nailed it, and there are those trying valiently not to.
Taxi in NY, LaGuardia to Manhattan stuck in traffic on bridge, taxi driver in endless monologue "I sit 12 hours a day in this moving coffin" his wife left with his best friend everything sucks over and over and over. My responses:
1. Could you please stop talking? I'm reading.
2. REally could you stop tlaking you are bothering me.
3. [after about half and hour nonstop] OK you want to talk ? Here's what I think I'm going to tell you right out. You want to hear? OK. You should do one of two things. Ditch this cab right here right now hitchhike to Florida and be a bum on the beach. Of just go commit suicide right now. You're not happy. You make your customers miserable. Really you can't take it, off yourself. You make the world a more miserable place. But you can change it-- leave, change, kill yourself, whatever, just do it." OR in that vein about 6 minutes worth, fairly animated and assertively.
His reply "Wow, thank you for being so direct, I'm really going to think things over."
Then he shut up.
We have such a taboo against being "not nice" it's sickening.
Dan, obviously you would rather be passive-aggressive than just tell the guy upfront you don't feel like making chit-chat. Very telling.
@ 3: I couldn't be less surprised to learn that.
Seeing as you didn't mention a second person sitting next to you, I can only assume you were in first class... in which case, you'll get no sympathy from me.
I actually think 29 nailed it. For me, if it were someone totally oblivious (for whom, just ignoring them and doing what you want to do doesn't work), I would want to say "I'm sorry but I would prefer to read" in the nicest, least harsh way possible. Because the words themselves pretty much give a loud and clear fuck you, and it's difficult to actually deliver them while sounding nice and polite. Which is why I prefer to say nothing at all -- for me anyways, it has always been more polite to do that than to say some version of I don't want to talk to you.
My mom is just like that. She is on planes all the time, and her solution is just to ignore everything Bob says or attempt to says to her. If Bob gets too chatty, she gives Bob a death look and he usually gets the hint to shut the fuck up.
jeez. just tell him you are just getting a terrible flu and your throat is too sore to talk. then he'll get out of your personal space and definitely not try to entice you into conversation.
The words don't even have to deliver a "fuck you," much as that might make us feel better sometimes.
How about: "Excuse me, I don't mean to be rude, but I have a lot to think about and I'm not really in the mood for conversation. Thank you for understanding."
this guy is an advice columnist?
I was on a long flight a couple of weeks ago and the gal next to me introduced herself. It turned out she had been my high school English teacher many, many years earlier. We had a really nice chat for about 20 minutes. Then we both agreed we had work to do/reading to get caught up on. We could have said that earlier on, but it was fun finding out what each other had been up to over the years. I don't think either of us suffered any angst or permanent damage from having made that contact. You must lead a pretty cushy life if this is really a problem.
Wow, I thought you were just an asshole online.
#41 has the right idea.
This world can use a lot more fair treatment of everyone by everyone.
Try putting all the understanding you lobby for online into real live practice.
Now I know why that Bob guy shows up every night on the Slog and posts the same thing to every single thread saying the Slog is a stupid waste of the Internet and everyone who reads the Slog or posts on it is stupid. Except him.
He's punishing us all.
One of the best things about being a scary-looking black dude is that people almost never bother trying to get chatty on public transit.
What if you had to sit next to this guy??
#24; you are my hero. Snow peas? Soup?
Clear, honest communication is ok when negotiating piss-play or bondage scenes but not when dealing with normal people doing normal things?
Remember Dan, it's good to tell people what you want so long as you do so clearly and politely.
Depending on the other person to get the hint is how people get date raped and other horrors. But then you knew that, right?
Oh my god, people. You'd HATE me on the plane. I really enjoy talking to strangers (it's my mother's influence, god rest her soul) on the plane or in the grocery store. I mean, not like they're my new best friend or anything. But I like making a brief connection.
On one flight up to Seattle from San Francisco the woman and I chatted about her son and it turns out he's majoring in the field my partner teaches in--it's not a really big field. So that was fun. Good times.
Okay. Now that I've said that (#51), I obviously don't talk to people who don't want to be social. And if I'm not in the mood to talk, then I'd just give off subtle clues--earphones or closed eyes or an open book.
While I am tolerant of a few minutes of chat I think that the people who get onto airplanes, trains, etc, with nothing to do should really wake up and realize that travel is not a novelty anymore. The person that they are sitting next to is not rude, but prepared, and has every right to use their travel time as they please.
Just got home from a cross-country flight from hell...the only thing that got us through (me with autistic toddler in tow) was bonding-with-neighbors chit-chat. On hour three of sitting in the plane on the runway going nowhere, it was nice to hear about nieces and nephews.
Of course, the free booze helped too. Not me, responsible mommy that I am, but the plane atmosphere in general.
As someone who typically only flies in first class, that is what flying is all about; drinking a half dozen or more of complimentary glasses of Cognac and babbling about things you never thought you would tell a stranger on an airplane. Sometimes people don't want to interact and act like total conceited self absorbed geeks, like you did here, by listening to their headphones or reading a book. Most times I am able to induce the person next to me to partake in drinking copious amounts of alcohol even if they are not a drinker. One time I got a businessman to drink so much one Friday evening flight that I felt bad about his impending meet up with his wife. Flying in first class should definitely be a social experience.
I pretty much talk to anybody, anywhere, anytime. But on a plane is one of the few places where I don't like to talk to people. Yet,sometimes when I have I've learned some amazing things. Thanks food additive man and nuclear submarine guy!
Wasn't it Malcom Gladwell who actually got an idea for his next book from talking to the person next to him on a plane?
I totally sympathize with this dilemma- if you say anything at all, even if you try to say it politely, you're just going to come off sounding like a jerk. Then you remain stuck next to the same person for hours who now probably feels slighted that you didn't want to talk to them and is sending "bad vibes" your way. It's not like they can switch seats easily as if they were on a bus.
I much prefer the passive agressive approach too and bust out the headphones ASAP.
"Psst -- hey, buddy, you know what? I killed a man last night. Choked him to death. I had to -- he was controlling the spiders. You know about the spiders? They're everywhere. They eat your thoughts. Didja know that?"
Then pull out a kid's book about spiders.
Yeah, #55, you don't sound self-absorbed at all.
Poor, poor Dan, having to put up with the plebs!
I totally support the passive headphones and hoodie route! Even if you simply say, " I need to work" you open yourself up to questions. Then they wanna know what you're working on...and no matter what you say they have a story they wanna tell you about that.
Really, sometimes it's difficult to be left alone...I even keep my headphones in with my ipod off... it keeps me from being interrupted!
It is passive-agressive bullshit. I wrote it, but deleted before posting. And Seattle and Boston are the centers for it. People are just aggressive-aggressive in NYC.
People have to go on craigslist to find friends in Seattle. You're a bunch a passive-agressive assholes who can't drive or even cross the street for that matter. There's no reason not to comment on it. I think the appropriate for you to do would be to say nothing and put your little headphones on or secretly yank my privileges. The weather ain't the only thing that sucks here. P.s. you can't plan worth shit either, everyone has a complaint about every plan and a better idea that they're not going to talk about.
I hate it when Bobs strike up a conversation anywhere I can't escape from - Taxis, planes, hairdressers' chairs... That's why I bring a book everywhere. As soon as they start to strike up a conversation, I say "I'm at a really good part of this book and I can't put it down. You don't mind, do you?" No one has ever gotten upset with me, although I have had to duck out of "Really? What's it about?" a few times by saying "I'd really like to read now, thanks." Everyone gets that point.
Here's what you do:
"Hi, Bob. My name is Dan Savage and I'm a faggot."
When I've had work or reading to do I've just let people know. Other times I've had some interesting conversations.
Just one thought: Aren't you, ah,,, a little,,,ah,,old for a hoodie?
I have never had anybody offer to shake my hand on a plane. Usually it is just a smile a friendly nod, ipod on and book opened!
I made the mistake one time of asking a lady about her little dog that was with her on the plane and I had to listen to her talk for hours about reincarnation! I guess her dog was somebody reincarnated.
Dan, if you ever sit next to me on a plane I wont shake your hand but I will give you a big huge hug and then leave you alone : )
I will make sure and disinfect myself first!
most of the time, if you make small talk for 5 minutes, then you have the needed informality to pass your ass right next to their face on your way to the can.
it wouldn't kill you to show some empathy, liberal elitist. frankly, i'd prefer to have "bob" back me up in one of these barfights i keep hearing HRC supporters go on about.
You people who are calling bullshit have obviously never dealt with anyone who can't take a hint. And trust me, it's worse when you're a woman, and Bob is trying to be more than your seat-buddy on the plane. Sometimes even being out and out rude doesn't stop them. Sometimes the hoody and earphones are the only option.
It's not that I've never had a nice conversation on the plane, but most of the time I just want to be left alone. What the hell is wrong with that?!
As an actual Bob who used to fly a lot - I never struck up conversations with strangers next to me for many good reasons, including a possible Dan Savage Scenario where I'd be sitting next to someone who might be offended I didn't recognize him or her but in my defense I'd probably miss most major league celebrities sitting next to me, let alone the local minor leaguers.
@62 - Will people please shut the hell up about how hard it is to make friends in Seattle? This is all I ever hear! I guess it is, if you stay at home on your freaking couch every night and are scared to go up to someone and say: "Hello, my name is..."
But you are right about the dumb fucks who won't even cross the street with no traffic in sight and the pouring rain...grow some balls, people!
No, I got a better one -- just say "Hiya, Bob. Hey, do ya ever get one a these chicks just won't shut the hell up? I was banging this bitch last night and, God DAMN, I just started chokin' her. Heh heh, she's wearin' a turtleneck today, you c'n be DAMN sure. Hey, do you know what chlamydia looks like?"
Being introverted is not the same thing as being passive-aggressive. If I'm reading a book, I shouldn't have to do something as terribly fraught with social danger as actively asking someone to stop talking to me. It's simply rude for them not to pick up on the clues and leave me alone. I'm being passive, they're being aggressive, but neither of us is being passive-aggressive.
And here's one voice saying thank god for Seattle's introverted culture. Is it such a horrible thing that one American city follows the norms that 25%-50% of us prefer?
Clinically, it may be passive aggressive in the sense that you hurt them by withholding conversation/interaction. Now, your intent may not be to injure them through passivity but functions and outcome pretty much determine that it is.
People often misuse the term, usually misattributing it to a more simply aggressive act that happens to be delivered in a sneaky covert manner, but I just ignore them when they do that.
Speaking of introversion, I bet Obama is an INTJ on the Myers-Briggs like me.
When I fly, I prefer to rock back and forth chanting, "in'sh Allah, Allahu Akhbar..."
Bob @73, injuring people by withholding interaction is pretty much the description I have in mind. Maybe add quietly judging or silent piousness. The goal is really to stifle all attempts at friendliness and punish the outgoing.
Dan, this probably doesn't happen so much in first class, you cheap piece of shit.
Put your earbuds on, but don't put on any music. It still sends a message.
It's sad, but I always fly with a hoody on now for the same reason.
Almost everyone I know across the country hates being spoken to on planes unless it's an attractive person who wants to bone.
I tend to be more aggressive when I smell a plane talker coming on.
"Hi bob! I'm bs! God, what a relief! I was afraid I was going to be seated beside someone annoying and chatty, but I can tell you and I will get along just fine sitting in respectful silence. Enjoy!"
They don't really know what to say in response to that.
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