March 12, 2010— -- In this edition: Climbing over a sleeping passenger mid-flight, how not to be your office's gourmet food importer and more.
Q: When I fly, I am invariably seated next to someone who falls deeply asleep. I hate waking them up to use the restroom. I'm pretty skinny—can I just climb over them, if I think I can do it without waking them up?
A: Please wake them up. Nobody on the redeye wants to be jolted awake from their Ambien-induced slumber by someone awkwardly straddling their legs. I, for one, would probably scream. And I think we can all agree that the less screaming there is on planes, the better.
Q: I'm going to Italy, and was planning on not checking a bag, but all my work colleagues are asking me to bring them wine, olive oil, cheese, etc. I really don't want to schlep all that stuff home! Is it okay to tell them sorry, but no? Or to just pick up some things at the fancy local deli and pass them off as souvenirs?
A: You don't have to play gourmet food and wine courier for your entire office, but please don't lie about it. If you tell someone you brought back a wonderful olive oil especially for her from a little family estate in Tuscany, and she discovers a "Joe's Deli-- $7.99" price tag on the bottom of the bottle, she will never, ever trust you again.
So just tell the truth. Say you'd love to bring back a ton of food and wine for everybody, but you simply don't have much room, and you don't think it'd be fair to bring back a bottle of wine for Lucy in HR but not Alice in Accounting. If you do have a tiny bit of space, bring home something easy to share, like interesting candy, and invite everyone over to your desk to try it.
Q: On my last flight, I got the middle seat between two people who obviously were traveling together. They spent the entire flight talking over me. I asked if one of them would like to change seats with me, but they said, "Oh no, I really want the leg room from the aisle seat" and "I really want to look out the window." If you're traveling with someone and want to chat with them, shouldn't you book seats next to each other?
Try Leaving the Middle Seat Empty
A: Well, it's not unusual for two people taking a flight together to choose the window and aisle seat in the same row. It's not a bad travel strategy: middle seats are usually the last to be taken, so if the flight's not full, there's a chance they'll end up with a whole row to themselves. I don't disapprove of this.
However, if you try it, and someone does sit between you, you and your companion have to make a choice: would you rather talk to each other during the flight or enjoy your respective window and aisle seats? If you want to chat, somebody needs to switch with the passenger in the middle, because it's incredibly rude to talk across someone. If neither of you is willing to sit in the middle, then you need to keep quiet and not bother the other passenger
Lesley Carlin has been writing about travel and etiquette professionally 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 email@example.com.