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November 14, 2009

Please use your inside voices?

I was raised with the guideline that it's far worse manners to point out someone else's lapse than to be rude in the first place.

Today, an addendum:

Whether you believe that manners are merely antiquated, elitist conventions or that they actually born out of, and remain continually relevant to, some sort of social logic or utility, that guideline makes quite a bit of sense. Unless the offender is talking loudly. A seat away from you. About lash curlers. On a 6 a.m. flight. While you and everyone else are trying to sleep.

Then you can tell her to shut the eff up.

The situation was not quite that dire, but I did ask for silence on the flight from San Diego, and this is how it happened. (By the way, like most of my askings these days, it only dawned on me after the fact.)

The flight was full, and the general 'tude from about rows 10 to 25 (i.e. the front half of economy) was zen. People were in the mood for sleeping, reading, listening to ipods.

And they would have, were it not for the people in the row behind mine: two sisters who were headed to NY for the first time. Like, everrrr!!!

By the time the plane took off they had told their immediate neighbor and several flight attendants how happy they were, how old they were, what their jobs had, why their career paths are better than the alternative tracks within their fields, how long they hadn't been on a plane, how much they love lemonade, and the very same details about their girlfriend in NY, with whom they were staying.

An hour later, they were still going.

An hour later, I had registered a few exhausted gazes from people near and far. Some appeared sympathetic toward me, since I was sitting really close to them, but most were were just-shoot-me glares issued to anyone who cared to notice.

"I thought they'd be quiet by now," whispered the woman across the aisle. "But I guess not."

"Yeah," I whispered back. "I think they're set on talking the entire flight."

Later: Woman from about five rows back caught my eye. I shrugged as in, "Sucks, I know, but what can ya do?" and she shook her head defiantly, as if to say, "This is wrong. This is unjust. It makes me want to pull their spinal chords out through their prattling mouths and use them as props in the new indie romance I'm directing."

And that's when it dawned on me.

What if everyone stopped treating them like adversaries or low-life louts and treated them like what they were -- excited young women who hadn't flown in ages, and who maybe they had no idea they were bothering anyone.

I turned around and smiled. They immediately stopped talking and smiled back. And then I put it as gently as I could.

"I noticed? That people are looking in this direction a lot? And I think? maybe? it's because you're talking kind of loud?"

The older one, who had been talking about lash curlers, put her hands to her mouth in horror.

"I'm sorry!"

They used their inside voices for the rest of the flight.

And I finally got some sleep!!!
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