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An Interesting (and slightly gross) Etiquette Question

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AmberGretchen

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Hello lovely people of Pricescope, I''ve been wondering about this situation for about a week now (ever since it happened), and I thought I''d post and get some opinions.

About a week ago I was on an airplane, seated in the dreaded middle seat, and was settling in for my 4-hour flight from Houston to San Francisco. A young man came and was seated beside me, and upon his sitting down, my window-seat companion and I looked at each other in horror. You see, this individual had some of the strongest and most offensive body odor I''ve ever experienced. I know that it was particularly strong because I had a dreadful cold and was extremely stuffed up, but every time he shifted his position, the smell was nearly overpowering, and my seatmate looked as though she might be sick.

So my question is, what would you do in this situation? For me, it depends on the rest of the situation. Obviously, if there had been other available seats, I might have attempted to switch, however, it was a completely full flight. If the person had appeared clueless or unaware, I might have said something, however, this individual looked as though he had just come from an extended outdoor adventure/trip of some kind (I realize I''m making many assumptions here, but they are based on his dress and the items he was carrying with him). In addition, if the individual had seemed friendly or receptive at all I might have attempted to mention the situation (though I''m not sure how). Instead, he was gruff and borderline rude to myself and the other seatmate, encroaching on our space, leaving his iPhone on after the stewardess specifically asked him to turn it off, and otherwise showing a general disregard for those around him.

Thus, I said nothing, and suffered (with my head turned away as much as possible) for the rest of the trip, then got off the plane and washed my clothing and myself as quickly as possible. Did I have another option? What would you have done? Is there an established etiquette in these cases?
 

tlh

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Ettiquette is simply trying to make people feel as comfortable as possible, and not make them feel uncomfortable.

Since there was nothing he could do to clean himself during the flight- you did the polite thing by not saying anything. We never know someone else''s situation... and he may NOT have had access to a rest area to clean himself.

Now the joys of manners is that if EVERYONE asked themselves this little question of comfort, this wouldn''t have happened. That is what I mean when I say, people think manners are stupid, and that people who preach manners are stuck up. I just think people don''t understand what manners really are. I wish more people cared... because this wouldn''t have happened.

That said, the dude was rude, and honestly based off your description HAD you said anything... he might have enjoyed the trip with arms behind his head, and his pits OUT... letting the stink flow....
 

miraclesrule

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It''s one of those things in life AmberG that you have to grin and bear. I always tell myself that it is just a scent, and that it won''t last, as yours will soon be experiencing others senses.

I felt the same way at a recent memorial/celebration of life service. I sat next to a young man who came alone and my friends on the other side of me. I had engaged in conversation with this young man, and when he spoke, his breath was so bad, it permeated the space around me. Not only was it extremely strong and foul, but I was afraid the people around me would think it was me. My first thought was to offer him some gum which I had in my purse, but I thought it was not appropriate given that the service had just begun. I had to put mind over matter and hope he didn''t speak again, but I didn''t want to ignore him so I just spoke with him anyway. I have to say that I was relieved after he left about 3/4 through, because it was dominating my thoughts, which I didn''t want during the celebration.

In your case, I would have pulled out some of the small perfume vials that I always carry and put some on me, my temples and maybe a dab on the end of my nose.
 

Lorelei

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Date: 2/1/2009 11:48:10 AM
Author: tlh
Ettiquette is simply trying to make people feel as comfortable as possible, and not make them feel uncomfortable.

Since there was nothing he could do to clean himself during the flight- you did the polite thing by not saying anything. We never know someone else's situation... and he may NOT have had access to a rest area to clean himself.

Now the joys of manners is that if EVERYONE asked themselves this little question of comfort, this wouldn't have happened. That is what I mean when I say, people think manners are stupid, and that people who preach manners are stuck up. I just think people don't understand what manners really are. I wish more people cared... because this wouldn't have happened.

That said, the dude was rude, and honestly based off your description HAD you said anything... he might have enjoyed the trip with arms behind his head, and his pits OUT... letting the stink flow....
Arrrgh! My keyboard got yet another wettin'!!!!



* stomps off muttering to get my damp cloth again...*

Amber, sorry you had to go through that - yuck! I have no suggestions apart from breathing through your mouth or stuffing cotton wool up your nose....


This story reminds me of years ago when I was on a flight and the man in front of me fell asleep and kept popping off noxious gases which made me feel sick to my stomach and beyond
. Thankfully the plane was relatively empty so I was able to get another seat.
 

Skippy123

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Ugh, I had something similar happen once on a plane ride too. I don't think there is anything you can do; I am sorry
ick!
 

platinumrock

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AG, I''m so sorry that you had to experience this during a long flight. What else could you have done? You have nowhere else to sit, it was a full flight, and saying something might have made the situation worse.

I would have held my peace, just like you, and tried to turn my face the other way. Thank goodness for blankets. Like Tlh said, eitquette is about making others as comofortable as possible. You did just that. You sacrificed your own comfort to spare the other passenger''s feelings.

You showed a lot of class!
 

neatfreak

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Ugh AG, that stinks (literally!) But I think you did the right thing, I don''t think there was any polite way to go about it except possibly mentioning it to a stewardess and seeing if they could get you a new seat. But since it was a full flight, I think you did the only thing you could have besides offering him some soap!
 

purrfectpear

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It could be worse. I once flew from LA to NY next to a 250 lb. guy in hand and ankle cuffs being escorted by a US Marshall. Now that was a fun seat companion.
 

platinumrock

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Date: 2/1/2009 12:14:43 PM
Author: purrfectpear
It could be worse. I once flew from LA to NY next to a 250 lb. guy in hand and ankle cuffs being escorted by a US Marshall. Now that was a fun seat companion.
Oh wow....how did you survive that flight?
 

iheartscience

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Wow, yikes. That is disgusting! I don''t know...I think I would have probably done the same thing and just not said anything to the guy. Although I would not have allowed encroachment in my area! (I am HARSH about enforcing the personal space rule on airplanes! And my elbows are very pointy.) If I really couldn''t stand it I would have complained to a flight attendant, although on a full flight I doubt there''s much a flight attendant could have done.

I''m pretty sure that on that TV show about Southwest Airlines the same thing happened, except for the ticket agent or flight attendant noticed how smelly the passenger was. If I recall correctly, they made him go wash up in the bathroom and gave him a SW Airline t-shirt to wear before they would let him on the plane.
 

AprilBaby

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Pray that you take off on time and land as quickly as possible!
 

jewelerman

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I agree that there was very little you could do,but its a shame that the air line attendant didnt think of your and the other passengers by saying something before sitting the passenger down beside you!after all each of us have unpleasant situations in our jobs dealing with the general public.
 

Circe

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Feh! I think the only thing to do is to thank the gods you''ve got a cold, and/or get a clothespin ....
 

Tacori E-ring

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I agree there is nothing you can do or say. Still makes for a horrible plane ride!
 

sba771

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Yuck, I hate that. My weapon is DKNY Be Delicious- it comes in a 4 pack of small carry approved sizes. I always keep it with me that way if I start to think I might not be smelling so hot I can use it or in this case I would have just sprayed it in the air in front of me.
 

princesss

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8,035
There really needs to be some kind of product you can dab discreetly onto your upper lip and not have to smell these people. It''s happened to me before, and I really think you handled it the best way possible.
 

Rhea

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I don''t think that you could have done anything. That does stink (ah ha ha ha).

I sat next to an older gentleman on a 9 hour flight. His breath smelled and all the poor old guy wanted to do was chat. He had to lean in really close because of his hearing. I was so glad when that flight ended.
 

Porridge

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Gross!

In that particular situation, where he clearly showed signs of rudeness and disregard for his fellow passengers, I would have had no problem requesting a seat change, or spritzing a little perfume over my scarf and covering my nose and mouth.

Do you wish you had done anything different in hindsight AmberGretchen?
 

lyra

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You could have rubbed Vick''s Vapor Rub under your nose?
 

DiamanteBlu

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Ooh. I know how you feel. I had a similar situation many, many years ago but in an office. It was a cultural issue. Jeez - I can still smell the guy!

I told my "boss" at the time that I could not sit in the same room as the guy [one of our grad students from India] and that I was going home and to let me know when he left and I would come back. He called me when the guy left and I came back [we were developing software for radiation oncology applications so we had "whenever you want to show up" hours! LOL!]

You will find that sometimes, people from other cultures do not have the same "smelling nice" priorities that we do. While it is accepted in their home environment it is not accepted here and we get into scent "issues".

Of course, if the guy was from the US there may have been other issues at play that you did not know about. This reminds me of a story that Steven Covey once told me and also related in his book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". Here is the link. The part I quote is about 2/3 of the way down the page.

" I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly -- some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene.

Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.

The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people's papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.

It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, "Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn't control them a little more?"

The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, "Oh, you're right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don't know what to think, and I guess they don't know how to handle it either."

Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, and because I saw differently, I thought differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn't have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man's pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. "Your wife just died? Oh, I'm so sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?" Everything changed in an instant. "

There could have been extenuating circumstances - or, of course, it is possible that the guy was just a slob.

What to do? I guess I would have tried to get a bit more information before formulating any strategy of what to do.
 

AmberGretchen

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Messages
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Date: 2/1/2009 11:48:10 AM
Author: tlh
Ettiquette is simply trying to make people feel as comfortable as possible, and not make them feel uncomfortable.


Since there was nothing he could do to clean himself during the flight- you did the polite thing by not saying anything. We never know someone else''s situation... and he may NOT have had access to a rest area to clean himself.


Now the joys of manners is that if EVERYONE asked themselves this little question of comfort, this wouldn''t have happened. That is what I mean when I say, people think manners are stupid, and that people who preach manners are stuck up. I just think people don''t understand what manners really are. I wish more people cared... because this wouldn''t have happened.


That said, the dude was rude, and honestly based off your description HAD you said anything... he might have enjoyed the trip with arms behind his head, and his pits OUT... letting the stink flow....
LOL tlh - I think you may be right about what he would have done if he was informed of the problem by myself or my seatmate...
 

AmberGretchen

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Date: 2/1/2009 11:49:33 AM
Author: miraclesrule
It''s one of those things in life AmberG that you have to grin and bear. I always tell myself that it is just a scent, and that it won''t last, as yours will soon be experiencing others senses.


I felt the same way at a recent memorial/celebration of life service. I sat next to a young man who came alone and my friends on the other side of me. I had engaged in conversation with this young man, and when he spoke, his breath was so bad, it permeated the space around me. Not only was it extremely strong and foul, but I was afraid the people around me would think it was me. My first thought was to offer him some gum which I had in my purse, but I thought it was not appropriate given that the service had just begun. I had to put mind over matter and hope he didn''t speak again, but I didn''t want to ignore him so I just spoke with him anyway. I have to say that I was relieved after he left about 3/4 through, because it was dominating my thoughts, which I didn''t want during the celebration.


In your case, I would have pulled out some of the small perfume vials that I always carry and put some on me, my temples and maybe a dab on the end of my nose.
Thanks Miracles - that''s a good idea on the perfume things. I actually just ordered some travel sizes of some of my favorite Jo Malone scents, I think I will never travel without one ever again (and for that matter I think one will have to live in my purse at all times, for situations such as you describe...)
 

AmberGretchen

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Date: 2/1/2009 11:52:35 AM
Author: Lorelei
Date: 2/1/2009 11:48:10 AM

Author: tlh

Ettiquette is simply trying to make people feel as comfortable as possible, and not make them feel uncomfortable.


Since there was nothing he could do to clean himself during the flight- you did the polite thing by not saying anything. We never know someone else''s situation... and he may NOT have had access to a rest area to clean himself.


Now the joys of manners is that if EVERYONE asked themselves this little question of comfort, this wouldn''t have happened. That is what I mean when I say, people think manners are stupid, and that people who preach manners are stuck up. I just think people don''t understand what manners really are. I wish more people cared... because this wouldn''t have happened.


That said, the dude was rude, and honestly based off your description HAD you said anything... he might have enjoyed the trip with arms behind his head, and his pits OUT... letting the stink flow....
Arrrgh! My keyboard got yet another wettin''!!!!




* stomps off muttering to get my damp cloth again...*


Amber, sorry you had to go through that - yuck! I have no suggestions apart from breathing through your mouth or stuffing cotton wool up your nose....



This story reminds me of years ago when I was on a flight and the man in front of me fell asleep and kept popping off noxious gases which made me feel sick to my stomach and beyond
. Thankfully the plane was relatively empty so I was able to get another seat.
OMG Lorelei - that is just unimaginably gross. Although at least there he is unconscious, and so he can claim that he can''t control it...


I think if I''d been in that situation I would have just had to keep taking things out and putting things back into my seat back pocket, VERY roughly so as to keep him awake (unless I could get another seat!)
 

AmberGretchen

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Date: 2/1/2009 11:55:08 AM
Author: Skippy123
Ugh, I had something similar happen once on a plane ride too. I don''t think there is anything you can do; I am sorry
ick!
Thanks Skippy - that certainly seems to be the consensus, that there is nothing to be done...
 

Bia

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Joined
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Messages
6,181
Happened to me!

Know what I did? I put some of my minty-medicated chapstick under my nostrils and it worked.




Watching all the episodes of Law & Order really paid off!
 

Brown.Eyed.Girl

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Date: 2/1/2009 11:40:42 AM
Author:AmberGretchen
Hello lovely people of Pricescope, I've been wondering about this situation for about a week now (ever since it happened), and I thought I'd post and get some opinions.


About a week ago I was on an airplane, seated in the dreaded middle seat, and was settling in for my 4-hour flight from Houston to San Francisco. A young man came and was seated beside me, and upon his sitting down, my window-seat companion and I looked at each other in horror. You see, this individual had some of the strongest and most offensive body odor I've ever experienced. I know that it was particularly strong because I had a dreadful cold and was extremely stuffed up, but every time he shifted his position, the smell was nearly overpowering, and my seatmate looked as though she might be sick.


So my question is, what would you do in this situation? For me, it depends on the rest of the situation. Obviously, if there had been other available seats, I might have attempted to switch, however, it was a completely full flight. If the person had appeared clueless or unaware, I might have said something, however, this individual looked as though he had just come from an extended outdoor adventure/trip of some kind (I realize I'm making many assumptions here, but they are based on his dress and the items he was carrying with him). In addition, if the individual had seemed friendly or receptive at all I might have attempted to mention the situation (though I'm not sure how). Instead, he was gruff and borderline rude to myself and the other seatmate, encroaching on our space, leaving his iPhone on after the stewardess specifically asked him to turn it off, and otherwise showing a general disregard for those around him.


Thus, I said nothing, and suffered (with my head turned away as much as possible) for the rest of the trip, then got off the plane and washed my clothing and myself as quickly as possible. Did I have another option? What would you have done? Is there an established etiquette in these cases?



I'm so so sorry you had to go through that! I have a HUGE issue with people not practicing common courtesy/etiquette in enclosed places like planes (seriously, I'm protective of my space - I also have sharp elbows like thing2of2
) and (sorry for people who have children - this isn't a dig at you) but I get really irritated when children kick my seat (it always happens...I don't know why it's always me!). Plus the smell issue - you can't even avoid that easily since the smell kind of spreads out
Anyway, Amber, I sympathize you poor thing!
 

Brown.Eyed.Girl

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Date: 2/1/2009 11:52:35 AM
Author: Lorelei
Date: 2/1/2009 11:48:10 AM

Author: tlh

Ettiquette is simply trying to make people feel as comfortable as possible, and not make them feel uncomfortable.


Since there was nothing he could do to clean himself during the flight- you did the polite thing by not saying anything. We never know someone else''s situation... and he may NOT have had access to a rest area to clean himself.


Now the joys of manners is that if EVERYONE asked themselves this little question of comfort, this wouldn''t have happened. That is what I mean when I say, people think manners are stupid, and that people who preach manners are stuck up. I just think people don''t understand what manners really are. I wish more people cared... because this wouldn''t have happened.


That said, the dude was rude, and honestly based off your description HAD you said anything... he might have enjoyed the trip with arms behind his head, and his pits OUT... letting the stink flow....
Arrrgh! My keyboard got yet another wettin''!!!!




* stomps off muttering to get my damp cloth again...*


Amber, sorry you had to go through that - yuck! I have no suggestions apart from breathing through your mouth or stuffing cotton wool up your nose....



This story reminds me of years ago when I was on a flight and the man in front of me fell asleep and kept popping off noxious gases which made me feel sick to my stomach and beyond
. Thankfully the plane was relatively empty so I was able to get another seat.



ick. What a horrible situation!
 

bee*

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Messages
12,170
I would have done the same as you AG and not said anything. That''s awful though!
 

Italiahaircolor

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Dec 16, 2007
Messages
5,184
I ditto everyone who said there is nothing that can be done...but the thought of if makes me sick right along with you
 

AmberGretchen

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Date: 2/1/2009 12:01:06 PM
Author: platinumrock
AG, I''m so sorry that you had to experience this during a long flight. What else could you have done? You have nowhere else to sit, it was a full flight, and saying something might have made the situation worse.


I would have held my peace, just like you, and tried to turn my face the other way. Thank goodness for blankets. Like Tlh said, eitquette is about making others as comofortable as possible. You did just that. You sacrificed your own comfort to spare the other passenger''s feelings.


You showed a lot of class!
Thanks platinumrock, that''s a really sweet thing for you to say - I certainly didn''t feel classy (actually, I mostly felt sick like a dog
) but I do agree with you and the others - there really isn''t anything else to be done.

I think though I would feel better about having spared someone''s feelings if it was someone that appeared to have any consideration whatsoever for others'' feelings...
 
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