I wanted to write this anecdote as a thank-you to Etiquette Hell, for helping me to deal with a situation I encountered last week while traveling home to visit family. Through reading the forums and suggestions, I have learned that sometimes silence is the best response to an awkward situation, particularly when that situation has made one angry enough to say or do something stupid. On to the story!
This happened in the security screening line in a small airport in the United States, in the not too early morning. It had not been a particularly long wait, and there had been no issues up to this point. I had reached the table where one starts to fill bins with one’s laptop, belt and shoes, etc., and had two bins for all my items. The woman in front of me had one bin and a carry-on. As we advanced, everyone slid his or her bins/bags along. When the woman behind me in line pushed her things, it moved mine ahead and bumped them into the bin in front of mine. The lady in front of me turned and hissed, “Don’t push!” and gave me a terrible look. She seemed incredibly agitated, furious almost, so I quelled my natural instinct to respond, even if just to say, “It wasn’t me.” I stayed silent and ignored her, thinking also that if an argument or altercation ensued, we’d probably get kicked out of line or worse.
I made sure to stay very clear of her things as we moved up to the screening equipment, and continued normally through the scanner and to where our things were coming out at the other end. I took my things and moved away from the security area, repacking my computer bag, and putting my belt and shoes back on. As I passed the woman who had given me grief, I caught her eye and quietly said, “Just for the record, it was the woman behind me.” She gave me a bit of a look and then replied, “I didn’t know that. It’s been a really bad day.” I responded that I was sorry to hear that and walked off toward my gate. She didn’t apologize, exactly, but seemed sorry. I saw her later at the same gate.
Keeping silent until we were through security seemed to be the best way for me to deal with the situation, since I avoided what could have been an ugly scene but still said my piece, politely I hope. At the time, I didn’t know she was going to be on the same flight, but in any case keeping it civil would have to be better than starting a fight about it. Imagine if we had turned out to be seatmates! I don’t know what had made her so agitated, and she obviously thought I was being rude by pushing her things with mine. Since I wasn’t, that made me angry, and I could easily have answered her back rudely either then or afterwards, especially after she excused her behavior by saying she was having a bad day. For all I know she was traveling for a funeral or something equally tragic. I hope the next time I make a snap judgment and say something to a stranger, he or she can give me a break as well.
Thanks for giving this a read–I know it’s not as exciting as some stories, but I’m curious to see what comments people may have, or if they have ever experienced any problems in the security line. 0523-12
Kudos to you! Isn’t it amazing how etiquette empowers you to have control over a situation?