Sunday, February 23, 2020

Was airplane seat puncher in the wrong?

By now, it's very likely you've seen the viral video. It features a passenger in a non-reclining seat at the back of an airplane repeatedly punching the seat of the passenger in front of him who has reclined her seat.

The reclined passenger posted the video on Twitter with the message: "After much consideration, and exhausting every opportunity for #AmericanAirlines to do the right thing, I've decided to share my assault, from the passenger behind me, and the further threats, from an American Airline flight attendant. She offered him a complimentary cocktail!"

In later tweets, the reclined passenger indicated that she had had "extensive neck surgeries" and that her "cervical spine is completely fused, except for C1."

As the tweet went viral, others chimed in. Some found the reclined passenger to be inconsiderate for invading the space of the passenger behind her. She reportedly did move her seat up when he had asked her to during the meal service. Many others called out the seat puncher for his boorish behavior. However inconvenient, one tweeter wrote it didn't provide "an excuse for this man to bully you into submission."

First to get a bit of Twitter mechanics out of the way, if the reclining passenger was trying to send a copy of her tweet to AmericanAirlines customer service, she might have consider using the @ sign before her tweet rather than a hashtag.

But who was right?

Certainly, it was inappropriate for the flight attendant who was alerted to the punching of the seat to be dismissive of the complaint, if indeed that was what happened. Punching someone's seat repeatedly is hardly acceptable behavior.

But would the passenger stuck in the last row been in the right to insist that the person in front of him not recline? He certainly was in the right when he asked her if she could pull up her seat so he could use his tray table during meal service, and she seems to have complied.

If having the second-to-last seat reclined proves untenable for any passenger, then why does any airline allow that seat to recline? That it was a recline-able seat suggests any passenger in it should be able to avail himself or herself of that feature. Then again, just because we are capable of doing something doesn't always mean we should if we know it is causing discomfort to someone else.

The best response to the situation I've read was CBS "60 Minutes" correspondent John Dickerson's who tweeted:

"Not all rights must be exercised to their maximum extent, so maybe don't recline when it causes a special pinch on your fellow human. Mild suffering puts one in a position of finding grace, so use the irritation of the reclined seat to transcend yourself."

He's right. The right thing on a flight or anywhere else is to be mindful of whether our actions cause discomfort to others, but that when we do find ourselves to be mildly inconvenienced to refrain from doing our best to exhort discomfort in return. It's never too late to learn to play well with others, even if that message didn't take hold back in kindergarten. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Man wonders how neighbor got his number

At first, L.J. was simply baffled, but that bafflement slowly evolved to confused, and ultimately arrived at anger. Even though he had never had his landline phone number listed in the white pages, he did occasionally receive robocalls or solicitations from company representatives who had gotten his number off some list.

He could usually identify the latter because he or she would mention a legal first name that he never used. But this call was different.

"I'd like to speak with L.," the caller said when L.J.'s partner answered the phone on a recent Saturday morning.

When asked who was calling, the caller identified herself as a person known in their neighborhood. She told L.J.'s partner she had just received her real estate license and was calling neighbors to see if they knew anyone looking to buy or sell.

"I got L.'s number from the white pages," the caller said, referring to the old-fashioned phone book. L.J.'s partner told the caller he wasn't home and ended the call.

When she told L.J. about the call, the bafflement hit.

"I'm not in the white pages," he said. Nevertheless, that's what the caller had insisted.

She also seemed to know a bit more about L.J. than any white page listing would have revealed, such as his place of employment. "Had the caller Googled him?" he wondered.

Neither L.J. nor his partner dwelled on the matter much and went on with their day. It was when they were on their weekly walk together that it finally hit him.

"That's the neighbor who passed around the clipboard about a year ago at the neighborhood meeting about some new home construction, which required a zoning variance," L.J. said. The neighbor had said that she planned to use the information on the clipboard to notify neighbors of any new meetings scheduled with city representatives.

L.J. was miffed. "I think she's using that list to mine for new customers," he told his partner. "That's just wrong."

"Should I call her and tell her to stop?" L.J. writes. "If she's getting my contact information off of that list, then she's likely doing it to others."

If the neighbor was using information from a list intended for a civic purpose to advance her own business, she was wrong. If she's lying about where she got L.J.'s number that compounds the wrongness of her action. Beyond being unethical, it's also bad business, because who wants to do business with someone who's deceptive from the get-go.

But what if L.J. is wrong? If his newly minted realtor neighbor actually did get his number from some online service calling itself the "white pages," then he finds himself in the position of jumping to conclusions and falsely accusing a neighbor of being dishonest.

He's got two choices: He can call her up and ask her where she really got his number, or he can simply tell her he doesn't know anyone buying or selling and let it go. Were it me, I'd let it go, not only because it's the right thing to do, but also to avoid having to get another sales talk over the phone. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to