No one likes a noisy traveler.
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You know — the guy at the gate with the cell phone glued to his head, shouting details of his personal life, or the scene-maker on the airplane, or the couple trying to break an endurance record (if you know what I mean) in the hotel room next to you.
After 20 years of flying, I’ve encountered more than my fair share of obnoxious fellow travelers, and while dealing with these types can be frustrating, it can also be fun and rewarding. Come with me as we deal with the wonderful world of loudmouth travel.
Here are nine tips for dealing with that noisy neighbor.
1. No kidding. Children are wonderful. We were kids once, and many frequent flyers still act like babies. But after a misconnect, a long day, or just the hassles involved with air travel, the screams of young ones can put you right over the edge. The simple answer is earplugs. And when you know that your child’s behavior is less than stellar on airplanes, buy a jug of earplugs at the local pharmacy and offer them up as a precaution. You will most certainly get a positive response from your seat neighbors.
2. Cell block. There always seems to be that one person in the boarding area who must broadcast his personal affairs to all in the vicinity. This person is called a Christopher Columbus because the whole world seems to revolve around him. Instead of glaring at him or actually listening to his conversation in disgust, either confront the offender or simply get up and walk away. I remember one woman decided to give a man a taste of his own medicine and pretended to shout into her cell phone. “And there is this really annoying man making a very loud cell phone call who is disturbing everyone in the boarding area,” she said. Everyone applauded and the man eventually got the hint. Problem is that most of these people don’t realize how loud they are.
3. The no-tell motel. Love may be wonderful and in bloom, but not at 2 a.m. in the hotel room next to you when you have a 6 a.m. wake-up call. If you hear it for a few minutes it’s cute, after 15 minutes you grow weary, but 45 minutes you start seeing red. I know this is a bit unorthodox, but besides banging on the wall or calling the front desk, try howling like a wolf. A female flying partner told me about this, and believe it or not, it has worked every time.
4. Breath refresher. I have had someone with such bad breath speaking to me that it made me want to rip off my nose. Have those strong mints or chewing gum handy and offer them up. If they refuse, persist and say, “No, you really need it.” Same goes for you, if someone offers a mint several times, take it as a hint.
5. Tell someone. If you are on a plane, in a hotel, or wherever, try to kindly ask the loud offender to keep it down a little bit. Many times that alone will solve the problem, but if it doesn’t, call a flight attendant, hotel security, or someone in charge and plead your case.
6. Vengeance is mine. Okay, I am a nice guy but if I am in a hotel and have tried every avenue but still got a horrible night’s sleep, I am not above seeking a little revenge. Make sure you get their hotel room number and when they are finally sleeping, give them a few random calls. If nothing else, it will make you feel a bit better.
7. Life history. It’s good to meet people when you travel. But let’s be honest. There are just some times you don’t feel like talking, listening, or even pretending to listen. This is especially agonizing if there is a passenger next to you reciting his life history from age three. The most effective way of pre-empting such a scenario is to put on your earphones, even if you aren’t listening to anything. It sends a polite message that you have other priorities.
8. Be nosy. When there are extra loud seat neighbors nearby, try listening in and inappropriately commenting on their conversation. Or if you’re within eye shot of them try smiling at them intensely. You will feel a bit silly but after awhile they often grow uncomfortable and eventually stop.
9. Reality check. Be aware of the signs and check occasionally to see if you yourself are being one of those loud neighbors. Look for the glares, watch for people who quickly turn their heads when you talk, or see if you get those hotel phone calls or wolf cries; realize it is easier than you think to be the offender.
The following is a true story. My wife and I had been married for a short time, so we tried to fly on the same crew whenever we could. One trip we had a wonderfully long layover in New York. We took in the sights, ate and drank well, and had what we called a romantic layover date.
When it was time to go to the airport for our return trip, we all got on the bus and one male flight attendant seemed quite upset. “I hate that layover hotel and I never want to stay there again.” Now the layover hotel we stayed at in New York was actually quite good so I asked him why, and he replied, “Because the walls were so thin and some couple were bonking like rabbits all night long.”
Shocked but curious, I asked him what floor he was on and when he replied the 8th, my wife and I turned red as we instantly realized who that couple was.
See, it can happen to anybody.
James Wysong is a veteran flight attendant who has worked with two major international carriers. James recently released a new book, “Flying High With A Frank Steward: More Air Travel Tales From the Flight Crew.” For more information about James, visit his Web site or send him an e-mail.