Mind Your Space – Etiquette in the Jetset Age

Summer travel season is hitting its final furious weeks.  Airplanes are crowded.  Airports are crowded.  Rental car shuttles are crowded.  Even the local Starbucks where I blog each day is crowded.  And everyone is clamoring for the same precious every shrinking space.

Milton's cubicle seems spacious compared to some common area spaces these days....

Milton’s cubicle seems spacious compared to some common area spaces these days….

It can make the average day downright frustrating.  Today I got to Starbucks to sit down and do my normal blogging.  Only I couldn’t get in the door because the line was out onto the sidewalk.  When I finally got into the glorious air conditioning after standing outside for 90 seconds, I realized why – a couple of gentlemen had decided that they needed to maintain a 36″ degree of separation between themselves and the next person – and because of that, the line appeared longer than normal.

My frustration was just beginning though – I got up to the counter but couldn’t place my order because three people decided that the area in front of both registers was the perfect place to hold an impromptu reunion, blocking the entire line from accessing the registers.  Saying “excuse me” doesn’t always help either.  Yesterday it took two of those and a “could you please step aside” to get the gentleman standing in front of the food case to move over (he was too busy on his iPhone to notice that no one could reach around him or see what was in the case).

And then I had to find a seat.  My local Starbucks is a hive of local entrepreneurs and near to a couple of incubator spaces so its always filled with folks having meetings or plugged in and working.  I’m conscious of that so I try to avoid taking a table and instead find a chair in a corner or sit at one of the two long bars designed for communal work.  Today, however, most of the stools were taken… not by people, but by people’s stuff – or by people who had moved their stools to angle them so that they could claim a larger swath of bar space.  And no one seemed willing to move their things aside or move back into their normal allotted space to let someone take an empty seat.

I’m sure I’d see the same thing if I were in the airports this week, although I consider myself lucky that I usually can lighten my travel load in the summers and avoid some of the crush of amateur travelers.

When I’ve been in the gate areas lately, I’ve noticed that many airports no longer have enough seats for everyone so travelers are sprawled across floors – and that doesn’t even consider the fact that half those precious seats are occupied by someone’s bags or leftover food waste.

While we are all inclined to protect our own space, in these crowded areas it is also important to consider the people around us.

Mind your bags (which by the way belong under the seat in front of you, not under MY seat – something I’ve had to remind more than one of my seatmates recently) and try to stow them – in the airport or on the plane – where they take up the least amount of room and allow others to maneuver around them.

While you are minding your bag, take care that you know what it is doing as you haul it down the aisle of the airplane – your backpack or shoulder duffel can become a deadly weapon when it comes in contact with the heads of those you are walking past on your way to seat 37E.  (True story… I actually got a black eye last year from someone’s duffel hitting me smack in the face!)

As you are trudging through the airport, pay mind to the fact that others may be in more of a hurry that you.   Strolling five-abreast or standing and conversing on both sides of a moving walkway may be causing others to miss their connecting flights.  Don’t grumble when they say “excuse me” as they are running past you.

And for goodness sake… if it’s hot outside (or raining) or just if it’s Thursday, man up and stand in line like a normal human.  Don’t cut in line, don’t carry on conversing as if there is no one behind you, and don’t block my access to caffeine.  I thank you.  And those who deal with decaffeinated me thank you too!

What are your travel (or day-to-day life) pet peeves?  Do space issues bother you?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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