Question: My family is going on a cruise in February with my sister and her family. We each booked our own inside cabin. Last night I pulled up our reservation online, and saw we've been upgraded to an outside cabin. We've cruised twice before, once in an interior and once in an exterior cabin, and the outside cabins are considerably nicer. My husband and I told our kids (because they hated the idea of another inside cabin) and we all got excited … until I realized that if my sister didn't get upgraded too, she's going to hit the roof. She already complains that I always get all the breaks, and this will be one more example. What should I do? Call her and tell her now? Tell her in person at Christmas? Feign ignorance till we board? Help!
Answer: You told your kids, so you can't feign ignorance. If you're all getting together over the holidays, I'm sure conversation will turn to the cruise … and your kids are liable to spill the beans. So don't even try it. You don't need her thinking you're lucky and duplicitous.
I'd bite the bullet and tell her now. If she's the sort of person who likes to make other people miserable when she's mad, you're better off breaking the news well before Christmas. Then you won't risk her initial anger spoiling everyone's holiday. She'll have some time to get used to it, and hopefully won't be too grumpy when you see her.
Be casual when you tell her -- I'd say something like, "Hey, have you checked your reservation lately? Looks like we got a new cabin assignment, and it has windows. I guess this is that random 'upgrade fairy' they talk about on Cruise Critic. I really hope you got upgraded too!"
If she hasn't been, and she goes off on you, just keep repeating that it's random. You didn't ask for it and you weren't even expecting it -- it was a total surprise. And it's still something that could happen for her, too, right up till the day you sail.
Overall, though, what you really need to do is resolve now that no matter what happens, you will not allow her to ruin your vacation. She wants to get angry over something random? Let her. But you shouldn't spend your entire vacation by her side, listening to her complain.
Question: I was in line at the security checkpoint recently when someone asked a TSA officer if he could move to the front of the line. The officer said it wasn't up to her --he needed to ask people himself. So he announced in a loud voice that his flight was leaving in 20 minutes and would anyone mind if he cut to the front. Everybody said okay. But then when he got to the front, he didn't have any ID to show the TSA officer who was checking IDs and boarding passes! He had some sob story about losing his wallet, blah blah blah. Why would you ask 20 people if you could go ahead of them if you knew you didn't have ID and were going to hold up the line?
Answer: Well, that guy might be a jerk who thinks he deserves special treatment, even if it inconveniences other people. But what if he's a perfectly nice person who's simply having the worst travel day of his life? When I was in college, someone swiped my wallet while I was waiting to board a train in Penn Station. It was incredibly inconvenient; I can't even imagine how awful that would be if it happened today in an airport.
So it's up to you -- do you write him off as a jerk or give him the benefit of the doubt? I'd recommend the latter. Travel is much easier when you let incidents like this roll off your back. I take it you made your flight … so why bother getting so upset?
Lesley Carlin has been writing professionally about travel and etiquette for more than 10 years. As one of the Etiquette Grrls, she is the co-author of "Things You Need to Be Told" and "More Things You Need to Be Told" (Berkley). Have a travel etiquette question of your own? E-mail Lesley at firstname.lastname@example.org