March 20, 2023

Frequent Flier: Training the Dirty Harry Stare on an Unruly Flight Mate

After that, I knew I wanted to see the world. But I never thought I would be a member of the million-mile club. There was a time early in my career, and I’ve been with the Gerber Group for about 20 years, where I was one of those passengers who would listen for every noise and hang on to my armrests, and hated turbulence because I figured the plane was going to drop out of the sky or something.

Now, that kind of stuff doesn’t even bother me, but I still really don’t like heights.

Being in the food and beverage hospitality business, I can’t help noticing how companies treat people. It’s no secret that air travel has lost its luster. There’s a lot less of “thanks for flying with us,” and too much of “aren’t you lucky to fly with us.”

I have hope, though. On some recent flights, I’ve seen changes like seats being taken out so there’s more legroom, updated onboard entertainment, even a gratis snack. So maybe things are changing and who knows? Maybe on my next flight I’ll get a cookie.

But no matter how dismal things are, there’s no excuse for rude behavior. It’s amazing to me how crazy people can get.

I was flying from Los Angeles to Chicago, and the plane was absolutely packed. A man came on at the last minute. His seat was right behind mine. When he approached my row, he looked like he was going to blow a gasket. He got to his row and opened a bin and saw there was no room. He opened another, and that apparently was filled, too. Of course, he opened one more. Same thing. At this point, his skin tone turned what I would call a lovely shade of fuchsia.

Instead of asking for assistance, he decided to curse at what was now his in-flight audience and began throwing out bags from one of the bins. He threw one bag so hard it went about 10 rows up the aisle.

A crew member tried to help, but he wouldn’t have anything to do with her. He placed his bag in the now-open bin, slammed it shut and sat in his seat, still cursing and now looking like a beet. The crew member picked up the bags in the immediate area and found room for them. When I poked my head into the aisle to see what happened to the bag thrown up the aisle, I saw it was still there. It was mine.

So I stood up, got my bag, brought it back to the row, opened up the bin that had his bag in it and placed mine right next to his. There was room.

It was kind of funny because he kept looking at me like I was going to do something to him. I am so not that guy. But I kept looking back at him with my best Dirty Harry stare, which apparently worked. He stopped cursing and talking to himself and kept quiet the rest of the flight. That was great because it was Christmas Eve and no one wanted to deal with Scrooge.

By Oliver Kroll, as told to Joan Raymond. E-mail:

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