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Talkative Seat Mates

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: Business Travel Isn’t Glamorous.  When I travel for work, it is usually a domestic flight, ranging from 1-4 hours long.  I take that time to prep for a meeting, catch up from the meeting, or just relax.  Usually, right after I put my bags away, I’m putting my headphones on and am in my own little world.  From time to time this subtlety doesn’t work with my talkative seat mates.

A few years ago, I was taking trips between Chicago and Portland, Oregon every 2-3 weeks.  While these weren’t business trips, I did spend the four hour flight working.  I almost always worked exclusively on these flights (while drinking gallons of bad chardonnay).  I’m also not one of those guys who works well with music playing, but I did have my headphones in.  The headphones are a signal to others that I’m not in the mood to chat.  It is my attempt to not be rude.

United Domestic First Class Seats

United Domestic First Class Seats

Well, this one day, I was typing away on my laptop and the guy next to me wanted to chat.  As he started talking to me, I continued to type.  I heard everything he said, as I wasn’t actually listening to anything, I just had my headphones on. He tapped me on the shoulder, I made a big production about taking my headphones off and asked him to repeat what he said.

He did, and I answered with as few words as possible. I smiled and went back to my work.

A few minutes later it happened again.  Almost exactly the same as the first time.  Then 10 minutes later, again.  About an hour later, I put my laptop away and closed my eyes for a bit of rest.

Tap, tap, tap on my shoulder.  Another big production of taking my headphones out. Asking the guy to repeat himself I motioned that my I couldn’t hear because of my music.  He smiles politely and pointed down to the unconnected end of my headphones.  They were just dangling their over my knee.

I felt badly. He wasn’t a rude guy, he just wanted to talk. I sure didn’t though.  Who knows how long it was clear that I was just trying to ignore him.  He seemed genuinely hurt that I had lied to him.  As I was telling this story later the same night to friends, they all had this awful cringy face and called me a jerk.  Well, I just didn’t want to talk. Kudos to my seat mate for calling me out on my lie too.

He didn’t try to talk to me the rest of the flight either.

The worst part?  I often took the same Thursday night flight out of ORD and returned on the Sunday afternoon flight from PDX.  Half of the first class cabin was the exact same passengers each of those flights.  The road warriors were consistent.  Yes, you’ve got it.  I ended up sitting next to that same guy at least half a dozen more times on those same flights over the next year.  He never tried to strike up a conversation again.

How do you deal with chatty passengers?