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Ssshhhh, Quiet Please!

I was on a flight from San Francisco to London last week—that’s a ten-hour flight, may I remind you—and I found myself with a curious problem. In all my years of flying, I’d never seen—well, heard-–anything like it. And so I didn’t know how to deal.

The problem? The people sitting behind me would NOT. STOP. TALKING.

Seriously, they just wouldn’t stop. There were three of them and they were chattering as we sat on the runway. Then they were chattering as we took off. Then they were chattering while drinks were served, then they were chattering while dinner was served, and then they were still chattering while the shades were drawn and the lights were dimmed and everyone else in the cabin took the hint and went to sleep. And they weren’t chattering quietly—or even at a normal level, come to think of it. These people were loud.

Perturbed, I tried giving them a meaningful look. (A tad passive-aggressive, I know, but it’s my tried-and-tested method for dealing with seat-kickers and armrest-stealers, and it usually works like a charm.) Nothing happened: the talking continued. Loudly. I put my earphones on and tried to watch a movie instead.

The kicker? I COULD HEAR THEM TALKING OVER MY MOVIE.

And so I turned around.

Readers, I am sorry to say that I lost my patience. A whole five hours of listening to these people talk at top volume (about nothing! they weren’t even having a juicy conversation I’d be happy to eavesdrop on!) had just about done me in.

“WOULD YOU PLEASE BE QUIET?” I said. “I’M TRYING TO WATCH THIS VERY POIGNANT MOVIE, I’VE GOT IT TURNED UP AS LOUD AS IT WILL GO, AND I CAN STILL HEAR YOU TALKING THROUGH MY HEADPHONES!”

Well, they sort of toned it down a little after that. Not a whole lot, mind you, but it was certainly a marked improvement.

It got me thinking though: was I wrong to ask them to be quiet? Talking is, after all, kind of a basic human right and who am I to ask a person not to do it? That said, though, most of us are keenly aware of the close quarters on planes and adjust the volume of our voices accordingly. Perhaps if you need to be asked to shut up, you absolutely deserve it.

What say you? Would you have toughed it out with the talkers, tattled on them to the flight attendant (trust me, I considered it), or turned around and dealt with the situation yourself? Inquiring minds want to know. But shhhh, give me your answer quietly.

(Image courtesy of Son of the South)

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Comments

Sheryl
Reply

Because I’m a big chicken, I would’ve told the flight attendant. Talking is a basic right, but low voices are a common courtesy.

Charlie
Reply

Holly,

Hell no, I wouldn’t have toughed it out. The same thing happened to me from Helsinki to New York. There were four middle-aged women, all apparently long-time friends, sitting in the middle row directly behind me. They talked the ENTIRE flight, getting drunker and drunker. Finally, I shot them a look which prompted them to ask me if I had something to say. Not only had they been talking, but they kept leaning over one another to chat, bumping my seat in the process. So, yes, I had a few things to say.
Despite my attempts to be gentlemanly, I could only stand it for so long and, judging by the looks from other passengers, I was not the only one perturbed. Now, they were speaking in Finnish so I’m not sure what they were saying, but it can’t have been so interesting to have gone on for over eight hours. I’m with you; after a while, give everyone a break: shut up.

Great post, and nice job letting them know what’s up.

Phil
Reply

Perhaps they should alternate seating, so that there is a buffer of perfect strangers between people who know each other.

TSA already has the necessary information about who knows whom in their passenger profiling database, so it’s just a matter of seat assignments.

Just be thankful they weren’t all yakking on cell phones. I can’t wait for that.

Anne
Reply

In situations like this, I would definitely say something as you did. At least they weren’t talking to you! I had a memorable flight – the second leg of a 22 hour flight from Sydney to New York – next to someone who would not stop talking..even after I firmly explained that I needed some sleep. I think she was still talking as my feigned sleep became the real thing.

pam
Reply

I really wish people would be more sensitive in the public/private spaces that are airplanes.

I’m sure the talkers weren’t aware of the racket they were making, it’s almost guaranteed. Just like that kid doesn’t realize he’s kicking you in the kidneys. The passengers behind you can’t see you, aren’t really aware of you, and you only matter to them when you recline your seat.

So I’d say, yeah, it’s okay to remind them, kindly, patiently, that they are not alone.

Ellen
Reply

I admit to strongly disliking chattering on the plane – I am the quietly-amuse-myself-or-sleep type. Several hours to myself to just read, watch a movie, journal, or nap, is something I actually cherish.

Therefore, I have no problem asking people to be quiet. They have the right to talk, but if you can hear them over a movie, they are too loud and need to be told so. As long as there was no profanity involved in your request, I think you’re in the right and quite within the bounds of etiquette!

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