Jelly snakes on a plane
A recent Aeroplane Etiquette Study by Expedia.com has resulted in a list of the “worst type of airline passenger”, from The Seat-Back Guy to The Armrest Hog. While there are few surprises, The Aromatic Passenger was the worst nightmare for 55 per cent of respondents. I am guessing these offenders are not just guilty of going amok with cologne testers in the airport duty-free stores but could be on the frankly whiffy side.
It is intriguing, too, to see Pungent Foodies offending 30 per cent but are these galloping gourmets who board with little picnic baskets and proceed to roll out the Munster cheese and onion marmalade? Or do they just reek of last week’s bouillabaisse?
There must be dozens of such lists but the eternal pest is the chatterbox. We’ve all been seated next to mouthy types who introduce themselves the minute they sit and proceed to talk about their life histories, frequent flyer plans and how much their ticket has cost, which sod’s law dictates will have been tons cheaper than yours and if you are in a premium cabin, and paid handsomely for your seat, they will have been upgraded at the gate.
I was thinking of the survey and that type of traveller last Friday as I took a train trip of about 75 minutes north from Sydney’s Central terminus and, horrors, there were no seats left in the designated quiet carriages. So I had to go to the gasbag compartment where phones trilled and passengers yapped at fever pitch. It made me realise I would pay extra for a seat in a quiet zone, train or plane.
So, airlines, how about it. With sleeper pods and civilised touches in first and business-class cabins, there would be little need for such measures. But why not take a zone in economy class and section it off for those who do not want to speak or be spoken to. Enforce volume control on headphones to suppress the kind of ambient noise that suggests a zillion cicadas are on the loose. Issue gags, if necessary, like the Japanese airlines that hand out surgical masks to those with colds and sniffles.
Ah, but then there are the snorers and snufflers. So we would need a pillow menu with an anti-snore model. Would circulating a tray of nose pegs be impolite? Cabin staff could communicate with passengers via nods and smiles, Japanese-inspired bows and the odd whispered comment. Leaping up on a night flight and opening and then banging shut the overhead lockers would also be taboo. And why hasn’t someone invented a noiseless catch, a pressure pad perhaps, that enables those compartments to be closed politely and reasonably silently?
Children would be allowed but only with strict parental control. Most junior jetsetters, even toddlers, seem glued to their baby iPads and various devices and rarely converse. On last week’s train, as we cleared the innercity stations and seats emptied, I swapped to a quiet carriage and then a schoolboy promptly flopped beside me. He looked about eight and was beautifully mannered, as it turned out. He produced a packet of jelly snakes and proceeded to chew and chew. It was a soothing, all-consuming sound and made me smile. “Here you are,” he said, waving a red one at me. Oh yes, don’t mind if I do.
You can’t speak, actually, with a mouthful of gelatine. So, jelly snakes on a plane? Might not be such a stretch.