I was on the second leg of my journey flying from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok. After the normal airport boarding delays that one long accustomed to travel carelessly associates with international trips, I finally settle into my seat ready to nap my way onto the correct time schedule.  Fifteen minutes later it comes to my attention that I have a loathesome issue: a rude Single Serving Friend*.

I had a space hogger sitting next to me. He was not a big man per say and could have stayed in his own seat perfectly fine despite having abnormally proportioned forearms. At first I tried to scoot over as much as I could, but he just kept moving further into my space. Finally, I had to give him the subtle shove him back into his own area by crowding that side of my chair. It was a six hour silent fight with an otherwise seemingly polite man. And by the end of it, I wanted to ask him if he was willing to repay me for my seat since he was occupying so much of it.

We can all agree that airplane travel can be quite miserable. The seats are cramped. The air is recycled. And movement is limited. However, we can all make it easier for one another by being the best sort of single serving companion. Below are some of my rules of thumb for how to make airplane travel less cumbersome for everyone:

1. Mind Your Space. I admit that at 5’4″ and 117lbs, I have a little bit more maneuverability than my 6’4″ and 190lbs friends out there. Never the less, air plane seats are still cramped, my joints still ache if I am on a plane longer than 40 minutes, and sitting still is a special sort of torture. The truth is, big or small nobody is comfortable in a plane. And no matter the size, we each paid for our small bit of real estate for however long the flight it. Unless you are willing to pay for more than one seat, stay in your own area. Everyone will be happier that way.

2. Strong Smells Stink. Whether you cannot live without your favorite perfume, are too “natural” for deodorant, or are simply one of those unfortunate individuals who have problems with body odors, you need to real it in and think of others. For my perfume friends, I understand. I enjoy a vanilla lotion myself. However, my Aunt is one of those people who has to medicate herself to go outside in the spring. Now while I do not have her allergies, I try to keep her in mind when I travel. Fact is, you have no idea who you will be sitting next to and you would hate to be made ill by someone else. For the rest, take a shower, make an exception to your all natural lifestyle, reapply deodorant midflight….whatever you need to do. Airplane travel is a cramped space full of recycled air and mediocre filtering systems. Just as you would hate sitting next to someone wearing a gallon of Chanel’s new fragrance, they hate being subjected to B.O. A few positive hygiene practices goes a long way.

3. Know When To Zip It. Unless you are new to traveling or extremely lucky, most of us have had a nightmare of a travel experience. Cancelled flights, lost luggage,or maybe you simply do not want to go. The best case scenario for me when this happens is some quiet deep breathing and very little human interaction. Additionally,some people are uncomfortable around strangers or panic in social situations. Reading body language and knowing when to carry on a conversation and when to give someone a quiet smile and to go about your own business is important. Sometimes the best social interaction you can give is your understanding. Pay attention and remember that not everyone may feel as chatty as you feel.

4. Your Baggage Is Yours. Whether you are carrying a large purse or a laptop bag, it needs to fit in your own space. Just like strangers are not interested in your figurative baggage (life story,) they do not want to have to fight with your literal baggage. What you bring on the plane should fit comfortably under the seat and in the overhead. Regional planes have small compartments. It is an international fact of life. If you have to hold your gear on your lap instead of finishing whatever it is on your laptop, so be it.

5. If You Would Hate It, Do Not Do It. Most of us have at least one bad travel story that we griped about the second we had a wifi connection. And it is often the people who make the biggest scenes that are the worst people to travel next to. Your comfort is equally important to the next person’s. Double check yourself by asking if what you are doing would irritate you. And if it would, change your behavior.

*Single Serving Friend is a term taken from Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Fight Club.

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