How Not To Be the Occasional Dickhead.

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You all know my love of United Airlines. Well, lately, that’s turned into a little less love, and a little more aggravation – I’m not bailing on them yet, but I’m starting to get a bit pissed off with their service of late.

Anyhow – that’s neither here nor there, it’s just background so you understand that when I got on the plane tonight, I was in a REALLY bitchy mood, having run from O’Hare Terminal F to O’Hare Terminal B, essentially 3/4ths of a mile full sprint, with a rollerboard carryon and a fully-packed ScotteVest. I arrived at the gate totally out of breath, last on the plane, and having had my bag ripped out of my hand and checked by an over-zealous gate agent. (Turns out the gate agent screwed up and the wonderful flight attendant gave me my bag back after determining that I was in the front of the plane, and there was tons of space left.) But ANYway…

So I get on the plane, and I’m PISSED OFF. I’m sweating my ass off, and all I want to do is sit down. As I drop my stuff into my seat, the guy next to me on the aisle looks at me and gives a subtle eye-roll. He was either hoping that he’d get the seat next to him free (doesn’t happen on United regardless) or there’d be a hot 22 year old next to him, not me.

But it was me, not the hot 22 year old girl sitting next to him, and thanks to his eye-roll at me, he’d now earned himself a seatmate who was going to go out of my way to be a dick to him.

Understand – This wasn’t normal me. Normally, I’m the nicest person ever. This was pissed off, cranky, sweaty, out of breath me, who after hauling ass across the airport, dealing with a douche at the gate, now had a douche next to me? Oh, I was pissed.

As I sat down, looking at him multiple times just long enough to make it uncomfortable for the next three hours, a voice from one row behind says to my seatmate “Hey, want to trade with me? He (meaning me) looks like someone I’d get along with moreso than you.”

Douche seatmate turns to him and says “are you serious? You want to sit next to him?” I was about to go off on this douche, when the seat-trader said “Sure, I’d be happy to sit next to him.”

My new seatmate, Chris, sits down, and we start talking. By this point, it’s been about five minutes, and the sweat is starting to dry off my skin. We start talking about everything – my run across O’Hare, the downfall of United, you name it. Within five minutes, I’m calm, relaxed, and ready for my three hour flight home. Chris came in and saved the day, just by being chill, having a genuine smile, and seeing a situation ripe for defusing. So how did he do it?

First off, he assessed the situation – I was the last damn person on the plane – He knew exactly what was happening from the second I ran on, sweating like I’d just run a half marathon. So he was able to see the situation unfold in real time.

Then, he simply lent a smile, and kept that smile, until the situation defused itself.

It got me thinking – How many times are we dicks when we don’t have to be? And hey – we’re all human – Just like I am – I have no doubt I would have spent three hours making my original douche seatmate totally uncomfortable had the seat-switch not happened – Why? Because I would have never had a chance to calm down.

So here’s what I recommend the next time you’re in a similar situation and the urge to be a dick pops up:

1) Whatever happens, find a way to disassociate yourself from the reality for at least a minute. For me, I didn’t have that chance. I bolted onto the plane, threw my laptop on the seat, and it just went downhill from there. You know what? Douche seatmate didn’t need to roll his eyes, but I don’t blame him for it, I came onto the plane pissed off and like the Tasmanian Devil, without so much as a “hi.” So yeah – He might have been a douche, but I didn’t help the situation. Had I been able to put my stuff down and then gone to the bathroom, even just splashed water across my face for a second, I could have calmed down. I made the flight, and was going home. And hey, probably burned a few calories in the process, and that’s not a bad thing. That’s how I should have thought, but didn’t. In the future, that’s how I’ll try to think. Had I disassociated myself, I would have been able to calm down and get that moment.

2) Recognize that not everyone else is as pissed off as you are – More than likely, they’re not pissed off at all. You’re the one who’s in the mood – Expecting everyone else to understand or empathize with you is wrong – They won’t, and they’ll just look at you as the outcast. What could I have done differently? Well, option #1 for starters, but if I couldn’t have done that, maybe I could have gotten in my seat calmly, and wiped my brow with a “whew” or something – The guy next to me would have understood. Instead, I came on pissed off at United, the idiot gate agent, everyone, and just assumed that everyone had the same issues I did. Except they didn’t. They either didn’t have a connecting flight, or it was on time, and they didn’t have to pre-murder-OJ-Simpson across the airport. (Older people will get the commercial reference.)

3) He’s one douche in a sea of billions. He’s not important enough to get to you. Let’s assume seatmate was a douche regardless of whether I did anything or not – He’s one guy on a planet of billions – Why should I have bothered to let him piss me off? All I’d have done would direct the next three hours of my life trying to get even with him for no purpose – He would have had control over me for no reason at all. We shouldn’t let that happen.

4) Finally, be like my seatmate savior – Always have a smile. It goes a long way towards making everyone feel better.

Hey United 353 this past Friday night – Sorry for entering the plane like a dick. I’ll work on not doing that again in the future, regardless of whether United, a gate agent, or anything else has set up my mood. And hey Chris – Thanks for being the voice of reason. You’re a decent guy. ☺

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