Grumpy Old Man

December 5, 2009

in Senior Stories

Recently on an overbooked flight from Atlanta to Milwaukee my spouse and I were assigned separate seating. The gentleman to my left and I struck up a conversation discussing his life and mine, trips, foreign languages, etc.

About 30 minutes before landing, the man to my right pulled off his Bose noise reduction headphones, turned to me and said: “I’m about to be rude, I’m a 64 rude crabby old man. You have not shut up for more than 4 seconds since you got on this plane. I can hear you through ear plugs and my Bose headphones. I immediately apologized, he kept ranting, 2nd apology, kept ranting, I finally asked if a 3rd apology would make him feel better. He said no just shut up.

I turned to the gentleman I was chatting with and apologized. His response was no, I was talking too and enjoyed our conversation. I was livid but knew this was not the time nor the place to make an uproar. I read my magazine. Ten minutes later the man to my right took off his headphones. Be aware we were right behind the port side engine. I turned to him and said: “Sir, neither…” He said “What I can’t hear you!” I raised my voice and said: “Sir, neither age nor disposition is reason for your rudeness. Had you told me earlier on in the flight that I was bothering you, I would have honored your request.” He then went on to say that he knew more about me than he ever wanted to, etc., that I don’t listen, etc. I then told him my seatmate was going to Germany soon, his profession, etc., and said I do listen.

I turned back to my magazine. Then 5 minutes later I realized that he had said “What.” I put my hands over my mouth and hunched over and started to laugh, just on the inside which made me feel better. Upon landing I told the story to my spouse. He was in the back with a group that was chatting away across seats and aisles. I told him that instant Karma would be that the man get his bag last.

My spouse then went to help a co-passenger with her luggage to get her to the curb and a hotel as she’d been on standby for 2 days and had arrived without her spouse. The man began walking past me and I kept ignoring him. Another man seeing my spouse help a stranger stepped up to talk to me. Glaring across the luggage carousel was the angry old man.

His was the last bag off the plane. I realized that this was a person that loves to get angry and yell at folks, otherwise he wouldn’t have waited with 30 minutes left in a 1 1/2 hour flight.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Cam Tompkins December 5, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Never apologize.


Hugh December 7, 2009 at 12:28 am

I agree…you did nothing wrong. You are certainly allowed to have conversations on the flight, and obviously you and the other seatmante were having an enjoyable chat. I would have ignored the grumpy old guy, but I certainly would not have apologized.


ATR December 9, 2009 at 1:33 pm

While the grump's tirade was deplorable, and his refusal to accept a brief apology was beyond the pale, I do admit to a certain amount of sympathy. Returning to DC from London, I was seated beside a very pleasant young man. His attractiveness didn't go unnoticed by the pretty Asian Londoner across the aisle, and she flirted nonstop, in the most outrageous Valley-girl-meets-Liza Do0little nasal patois, for six – or was it seven- hours.

She, like, shared, like, y'know, her entire life history and every, like, thought that crossed her, like, vapid little mind, hardly pausing to draw a breath.

Soon I was like, O. M.G, y'know? Tried to keep track for a while, tallying the likes and y'knows, but ran out of space in the margin. Half a lifetime later, we were at the gate, the seatbelt sign went off, and my seatmate, who had his briefcase in his lap, shot up the aisle as if something were chasing him. The little Brit chickie was all, like, "Aeww, I, like, um, didn't, like, get his e-mail. Ohmygod, he was, like, SOOOO cute, y'know?" She continued in this vein, yakkity, like OMG, yak as we slowly moved toward the exit…. and I stifled the urge to let out an agonized scream.

Note to self: bring earplugs next time. And walkman. And sleeping pills.


Kad December 16, 2009 at 2:37 am

Funny story, and I can empathize. Good time to bring your own headset, so you can at least listen to whatever vapid programming the airline has specially selected, and which hopefully results in vapid-noise-canceling.

Welcome to cattle-car-coach at 5 miles up! Always a new adventure.


Kad December 16, 2009 at 2:48 am

Yeah, never apologize. Most of those old guys will back down pretty fast.

Treat them like 5 year-olds having a tantrum. Worked with my Grandfather for years. If you 'really' weren't being disruptive, he will use his magical senescent-sleep-powers to ignore you.

A very minor amount of pushback is much more preferable than stumbling all over yourself apologizing. I know it sounds harsh. Some people just don't play well with others though. I hope I never turn into that grumpy old man.

Consider this: in a theatre once with my nephew (some mindless movie I remember nothing of now) a young man thought it would be cool to give this odd kind of goat laugh every 20 seconds. After 10 minutes I stood up and told him to shut up. Instant hero to my nephew. Worst case scenario: I get kicked out, go home.

On a flight from Cuba (yes I be Canuck, we can do that) I had to listen to two 13-year old girls like, talk totally, about, ya know, the awesomeness of Cuba…..Worst case scenario: I say something, the plane lands, I end up in a US immigration jail (because it's a flight from Cuba), and potentially miss several months of my life.

I chose to watch (for the 2nd time since the library hadn't been changed in over 2 weeks) The Devil Wears Prada.

Perfect noise cancelling tech exists. You just have to find it. And pick your battles. But 30 minutes from the end of a flight? Tell the old codger to go f*** himself.


Leave a Comment
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post:

Next post: