I travel often and have learned how to pick out “air jerks” very quickly. They are not the people you might suspect — inexperienced travelers, families, or the elderly (these folks are often self-conscious and try to be respectful). It is the self-important, know-it-all, loud travelers who drive me crazy. They are usually people who travel often and have come to think of airports as their personal office or home and treat them as such. Those of us who dare to be in their space are treated with disrespect and disdain.
My husband and I purchased memberships in the Admirals Club, which is the American Airlines oasis in large airports. Since we spend so much time at O’Hare, LaGuardia, and other airports, it is a good investment in our sanity. The clubs are usually quiet spaces where we can get work done and relax without the typical stress, hustle, and bustle of the airport. The free drinks don’t hurt either.
Yesterday I was at the club in O’Hare, grading and responding to emails. I sat at a table and plugged in my laptop. There was a couch in front of me with a man sprawled on it, talking on his cell phone. I almost took another seat because I recognized this guy as an air jerk. He was loud and taking up too much space. Little did I realize the mind-boggling level of rudeness he would achieve. First, he never got off the phone. For 90 minutes he talked, talked, talked. I tried to ignore the droning but every once in a while he would do something that made me gasp with disgust. For example, while talking on the phone he sneezed without covering his mouth and turned toward me as he did it. My open coffee cup seemed to be his target and he was a good shot. I cringed and threw away my coffee. Later he began pacing and — as he continued to talk on his phone – reached down and picked his butt (sorry, how else to say that?), and then began rubbing his back up against a column, like a gorilla. I stared in astonishment. Did he mistake the airport for his private bathroom? Seriously?
A few weeks ago I was carefully maneuvering into the club holding a very hot cup of coffee and pulling my luggage when a man breezed by me, knocking into me and causing me to spill hot coffee on myself. He turned, looked at me, said nothing, and walked on. I was left there with my mouth open, staring at his back.
Countless times I have witnessed people using the speaker function on cell phones, thus exposing everyone to both ends of their conversation. One half of the discussion is irritating enough, but listening to the muffled, staticky other half is intolerable. Business travelers are especially fond of having loud conversations in the terminal, apparently hoping to impress the rest of us with their references to “bonds” and “big buys.” They also like to talk loudly on planes, where we are all captives and thus cannot escape the incessant chatter.
Because we fly so often we are usually upgraded. This does not guarantee an absence of air jerks. Some first-class travelers are anything but “first class.” These people are uniquely impolite with seatmates, haughty with flight attendants, loud eaters, and sometimes unbearably gassy. And they blithely bump their luggage, purses, and laptop cases into others with no apology. Once, long ago, a foreign businessman seated in front of me threw his used tissue over his shoulder, onto my lap.
I am always so happy to be on a plane full of good travelers. These folks are polite, friendly, and respectful. They try to stay within their space, they know that their music should not be too loud, they keep their voice down, and they do not expect others to cater to them. Thank you to all the kind and thoughtful air travelers out there. Let’s hope air jerks take some lessons from your behavior.
And please share your air jerk stories — or good traveler stories — in the comments!