This is usually my favourite thing to do, but one woman RUINED IT.

empty plane

“Cabin crew seats for take-off, please,” said the tinny voice overhead.

I looked around, wide-eyed. I made my hand into a fist, then pumped it down.

“Yesssssssss,” I hissed, half-under my breath. This was a SCORE.

I leaned over to the other seats in my row – both empty – and grabbed their plastic-wrapped blankets. I tore them open, then lay them on top of the one that was already on my knees.

 

empty plane

I was on my way from Thailand to London, and things were going BRILLIANTLY.

I’d been out there to visit my brother. That’s so far, people would say when I told them I was going. That’s such a long flight!

I know. I was delighted.

I love a long-haul flight at the best of times. A multitude of things to do (Watch movies! Read! Write! Nap! Snack!) without any of life’s normal distractions.

But on this one – there were only 4 other people in the ENTIRE back section of the plane. I had three seats to myself! And no one nearby to annoy me!

I decided I’d start with a movie after I come back from the washroom. I left my blanket pile and made my way to the back of the plane.

When I emerged, just as I started to walk back, I noticed something and stopped dead in the aisle.

What?

WHAT????

A lady who I didn’t recognise – clearly someone originally seated further up – had settled, with all her stuff, in the seat directly in front of mine. Directly.

I was shocked. And then outraged.

THERE. IS AN ENTIRE. BACK. HALF. OF A SODDING. PLANE. I thought, fuming. AND YOU. HAVE SAT. DIRECTLY. IN FRONT. OF ME??

I’m a very positive person. I have the word “yes” tattooed on my finger. My business name is just that word twice plus my first name.

But, when it comes to seating arrangements as I’m travelling, I’m at my least generous.

I went and sat back down. Surely, once she saw that the STUFF on my SEAT was also accompanied by a person, she’d move.  As I made my way into my row, she turned her head. Her eyes flicked to mine, then back forward.

She was staying still!!!!

I sat, wrestling with myself.

I hate people being upset with me – even people I don’t like. I kind of hate talking to strangers.

But there were fifteen hours ahead of us, and this was madness. MADNESS.

After a few more minutes, I took a deep breath, and poked my hand between the seats to tap her on the shoulder.

“Oh!” she’d jerked forward as my fingers found her.

“Hi!” I beamed, and tried to arrange my face to its most charming. “Would you mind–“
My voice was high and squeaky. For god’s sake.
“–would you mind moving to a different seat?”

Wide eyes flitting around, she looked totally flustered. Oh no. She was upset. I started panicking, and continued,

“It’s just – if you want to put your seat back, then I don’t have to worry about kneeing you in the back.”

She began to gather her things, while saying in a shrill voice, “But I don’t tend to put my seat back!”

Intellectually, I knew this was bunk. It was a 15 hour flight. But my logical brain had been taken over by the part of my brain that reeeally can’t handle people being upset with me. I tried being cheery again.

“You know,” I chirruped, slightly hysterically, “This way, I don’t have to worry about disturbing you!”

As she stood up, she said, “Well I wasn’t worried about that!”

She moved, along with all of her things, to another seat three rows ahead.

I was relieved.

And then, when I stop being relieved…

…I was LIVID.

HOW. DARE. SHE.

I thought.

FORTY-ODD EMPTY SEATS AND SHE THINKS IT’S OK TO SIT RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME? AND THEN THINKS I’M THE ONE WITH THE PROBLEM??

Again, intellectually, there was no issue. I do not know this woman. She moved. I’ll likely never see her again.

But my emotional response to people being upset with me is so unpleasant and so powerful, that I’ll do anything to avoid it. And an easy escape route is fury.

I couldn’t let it go. I couldn’t stop shouting at her in my head.

It ruined my long-haul flight. And you KNOW how much I love a long-haul flight.

Finally, we landed in London. I gathered my things, trying not to pay attention to where That Woman was on the plane. After the long walk down, I got to customs and went to wait in the long line of people getting ready to go through the automated gates.

Standing, dozily reading a magazine, I suddenly heard something. A woman. Shrill.

I looked up. It was her.

She was at the automatic gate, and it wasn’t quite working properly.

She looked totally flustered. She was upset. “It’s not..” she half-shrieked, her head, jerking around. “It’s not working! I can’t – I can’t make it work!”

And in that moment, all of the fury, all of the resentment I’d been holding towards her dissolved.

Oh…. I thought. Oh! You’re not mad at me! It’s not that I did anything wrong. You’re just someone who’s really anxious! This is just how you move through the world! Gosh, that must be so hard. You’re just a poor old thing, aren’t you?

I watched her, as she finally made it through the automatic gate. I felt nothing but love for her, empathy for what a hard road life must be, to live like that.

Then I got through the gates myself, and went home.

 

 

This is one of the stories I’m sending out this month, as part of my free Advent(ish) Calendar of Stories. If you’d like a different story sent to your inbox, every day in December – for free – you can sign up here*:

Thanks so much for reading! Let me know your #1 long journey tip in the comments below.

 

You rule!
xx (Yes Yes) Marsha

 

PS I’d love to have you in the Advent(ish) Family. Get a different (short, true) story via email, every day in December (for free!), here*:

*you’ll also join the Yes Yes Family, and get free coaching on storytelling, via email.

4 Comments

  • Gretchen

    Reply Reply December 6, 2017

    There was not a single word of this story that I did not viscerally relate to. I have also been on that 15 hour flight shouting in my head the whole time. Completely brilliant and beautifully unwrapped. Thank you so much for this. It made my day.

  • Susan

    Reply Reply December 10, 2017

    so glad you were able to watch that second incident with the lady, which kind of resolved the – not sooo lovely feelings #gavebackpeace … It actually reminded me of a sentence by sales coach Kendrick Shope: “other peoples money is non of your business”. It is a tough exercise – not to think too much about what each and every other person might be thinking. Totally hard to do as a storyteller and not always applicable but sometimes a pure life saver :-) (chewing on that, myself.)

    Thank you for that story! I had lots of fun with it, too :-)

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Reply Reply December 12, 2017

      So glad you had fun with it! And yes – ugh – SUCH a hard lesson to actually take on board, in all contexts, isn’t it?

      Thrilled to have you in the Yes Yes Family!

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