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How do you deal with an unwanted chatty seatmate?

By Nicholas DeRenzo
October 3, 2012
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Courtesy <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/shyb/63692776/" target="_blank">shyb/Flickr</a>

Earlier this year, Gadling.com posted an article about finding love on an airplane. A weird topic, no? I may be alone in this sentiment, but I like to think of airplane time as one of very few moments in life when I get to be quiet, to unwind, to get some reading done, and to generally not have to deal with friends, family members, or coworkers. I'm a friendly person (I swear!), but leave me alone on a plane.

I couldn't help but be reminded of the time when I was seated next to an extremely flirtatious older woman—easily old enough to be my great–grandmother—on a flight from Tampa to New York. Throughout the trip, she regaled me with stories of her newly awakened retirement community dating life and her list of current paramours. Then she asked me to adjust her seat belt for her and giggled like a schoolgirl when my hand accidentally brushed against her. Awkward. To escape what I perceived as her heavy flirtations, I put my headphones back on and turned to the seatback TV screen in front of me. Flipping through the channels, I passed by the movie Harold and Maude, a film in which a twentysomething young man and an 80-year-old woman fall in love. Identifying a bit too much with Harold against my will, I sped past the channel, but it was too late. "Was that Harold and Maude?!" she screamed. "That's my favorite movie—and I went to school with the lead!"

Whether or not I was reading too much into harmless interactions as a nervous teenager, one fact remains true: I'm not a fan of onboard interaction, romantic or otherwise. And I seem to always attract the chattiest seatmates.

I've developed a few non-verbal cues to try to give them the hint (in the politest way possible) that I don't want to chat:

- Always keep in at least one ear bud during the conversation. It's a good indication that you'd much rather be listening to Beyoncé on your iPod than talking about your neighbor's upcoming conference in Scottsdale.

- Keep your reading materials open to the page you were reading before being interrupted. This says: "I am only temporarily chatting with you, but I fully intend to get back to Harry Potter the second you stop talking."

- Break eye contact frequently and look longingly toward whatever else you'd rather be doing (a book, the TV, a magazine).

How do you deal with an unwanted chatty seatmate? Any tips or tricks to get a little peace and quiet?

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