I read my Twitter feed more than any other news source these days and one thing that stands out to me are the complaints. Constant, unrelenting complaints about everything regarding the general travel experience: Airline employees, passengers, travel delays, security lines, how other people act, how other people look, babies, adults, fat people, skinny people, the food in first class, the peanuts in economy class, the cheap booze, the lack of diet Coke/Pepsi, the lack of advancement in the invention of instant transport devices. It goes on and on. Sometimes it’s obnoxious and I end up putting a virtual muzzle on frequent complainers (i.e. set their status to “mute”) but sometimes I feel compelled to speak out. Here are six things that travelers need to stop complaining about:
1. Babies on Planes. We’re all going to encounter kids at some point because they, you know, exist in the world. We were all kids once and have probably at one point had a kid with us in public who cried despite our best efforts to make them stop. So when you see a family with kids boarding a plane, keep the sighing to a minimum and if said kid is crying, yelling at their parents isn’t going to make the situation better. I’m not saying let’s let parents off the hook entirely, but if they’re at least trying to calm their kids down, be patient, put your earplugs on and wait for the noise to die down. And, hey, if a family is looking around frustrated because their 3 year-old is sitting five rows away from the parents, maybe offer to switch seats if it doesn’t put a huge wrench in your napping plans.
2. Overweight People. An airplane is not an amusement park ride – we all have a right to fly regardless of our weight or size. This being America and not an impoverished country, there will be people traveling on planes who aren’t exactly stick thin (unless your seat mate is a supermodel, in which case you might get a phone thrown at your head and called a basic b****). There’s no need to make people feel bad about their weight or put your own needs above theirs. They can’t lose weight in an instance, but we can help the way we react to them. So don’t be a jerk about “fat people” sitting next to you on a plane and how they should be sent to the luggage compartment or forced to buy an entire row of seats. Sometimes you have to endure a bit of discomfort for the sake of being a decent human being and living in a world inhabited by people different from you.
3. Reclining Seats. Seats are built to recline so that those 1 – 19 hour flights don’t leave passengers with severe back injuries. So yes, feel free to recline your seat for just a tiny bit of comfort on what is normally a miserable experience for most people, and don’t choke anyone else for doing it.
4. No One Speaks English. English isn’t the only language spoken on this planet – anyone who’s ever traveled outside the country (or to Los Angeles) knows this. Whether you’re traveling within the U.S. or abroad, you may encounter people who don’t speak English fluently. Some of them won’t speak it at all because they’re content speaking their language in their country or because they just got here yesterday. Not gaining full command of a language as soon as they step on the tarmac doesn’t make them lazy or stupid.
I moved to this country when I was 10 years old and spoke next to no English. It took me about 9 months of self-study before I became fluent and it was a tough 9 months of struggling in school and dealing with an idiot teacher who, despite claiming to speak German, hardly ever understood me and resorted to giving me a C in every subject as an easy way out. I say this to point out the obvious: It takes time to learn a new language, but people shouldn’t be expected to put their livelihood on hold and live in cardboard boxes until they’ve mastered a language enough to satisfy random people they might encounter on a daily basis. Have a little compassion and know that rudeness doesn’t help.
5. Things No One Can Control. “And then they made us sit there on the runway for FORTY minutes!” This isn’t just a line from Louis C.K.’s stand up act – it’s a common complaint during flight delays. Which aren’t going to end any time soon, so the incessant complaints are really pointless. If you can get over something eventually, there’s no sense in getting upset about it in the first place.
Unless Putin decides to share his weather control machine or airplanes are designed to be completely infallible in terms of mechanical issues, delays will happen. The best way to deal with such situations is to be prepared. Bring a magazine, smartphone, or a book of crossword puzzles. Or do that thing human beings are renowned for – talk to the person sitting next to you who’s probably as bored/miserable as you are.
On a similar note, people channeling their frustration towards those who aren’t responsible is ridiculous. I recently had an incident in Chicago where the same Uber Taxi driver was assigned to me as well as another woman nearby. As soon as the driver took my bag, she came barging over, saying that was her cab. I showed her the Uber app and said it was actually the cab I was assigned to. She proceeded to yell at the cab driver for picking up both fares, which was not the case. I explained it was obviously Uber’s fault but if she was heading downtown, I was happy to share.
She actually ended up being pleasant and we had a conversation about points and miles during the ride, but every chance she got she’d segue into taking a jab at the driver. How it was ridiculous that he “signed up for two passengers” and that she’d been on the phone with him and didn’t he know who he was talking to? I kept interjecting that it wasn’t his fault, there was obviously confusion caused by Uber’s system but she wouldn’t hear of it. At this point, her berating the driver was really absurd because she got her ride, she didn’t have to travel alone at midnight, and yet she insisted on harping on this thing that wasn’t even an issue anymore and making the driver feel bad for it.
Later on, I found out she accidentally cancelled her ride and it got assigned to me – so really, she was at fault. I wonder how she would have reacted if the cab driver had unleashed a tirade on her? Anyway, when things go badly, don’t blame or yell at people who have no control over the situation.
6. General Bigotry. I’m not worried about traveling by myself, but with the recent bigotry directed towards Muslims, I do worry for the men in my family. They are good, law-abiding citizens and the thought of some idiot getting them thrown off a plane over some nonsense worries me. People are getting pulled off flights for speaking Arabic, watching the news on their phones, or being refused drinks because apparently airlines are serving weapons of mass destruction in the form of diet soda cans (which, to be fair, may be partially accurate). Once a person has passed airline security, they’re not a threat unless they’ve managed to construct a bomb out of the overpriced merchandise sold at Duty Free.
We all have a right to travel and be comfortable and safe when we do. Travelers need to check their hostility with their bags and just be civil. You’d be surprised at how pleasant the overall travel experience is when you adjust your attitude and choose to be pleasant and treat other people with respect.
What are some of the traveler complaints that you find annoying?
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