When you spend a good part of your life travelling you become protective of your personal space. I was on my way home after one very busy work trip. It was one of those weeks where I was working non-stop fourteen hours a day, the type of day where a trip to the bathroom was an inconvenience; eating was more akin to grabbing a few peanuts; and the four hours left for sleep was interrupted by bouts of insomnia. In addition, I could feel the beginnings of a cold creeping into my head. You know the signs: your throat is a bit itchy, your cheeks burn a little red, and your nose begins to drip.
All I could think about was getting to my seat and sleeping during the five-hour flight home. I settled in and was just about to drift off when I heard the faint rustling of papers. I looked over and saw the man next to me reading printouts of his emails – about 100 pages. I didn’t think anything of it, and settled into my seat, eyes closed. Then I heard a loud rrrrrrrip! My eyes popped open; the man was tearing each page in half after he read it. I couldn’t believe it. Was this guy going to rip 100 pieces of paper in my ear? It wasn’t like there was a rhythm to the ripping, either. Some of the emails were long, some were short, and his ripping seemed to mirror the length of each. I would start to nod off and then hear one long rrrrrrrrip followed by two quick rips (rip-rip).
I looked at him. He looked at me. Then: Rip. Rip-Rip. Rip-Rip-Rip. What do you say under those circumstances? Stop ripping your paper? Call the flight attendant and lodge a complaint? I play out the scenario in my head: After hitting the “help me please” call button the flight attendant arrives and asks how he can assist me. I protest: “This man is reading his emails and then ripping the paper. I can’t sleep.” Flight attendant’s pretend response to the offender: “Sir, do you mind refraining from tearing your paper in half after you’ve read your emails?”
Response: cold stare and: “Rip.”
Instead I turned to my seat mate and said: “Sir, do you mind?” Response: Straight ahead stare and a rip. The worst part was that the plane hadn’t taken off yet. I still had five hours with this menace who likely tortured his colleagues and staff with his self-importance and “I don’t care about anyone else” attitude as if ripping up papers like a 2-year old is somehow normal for an adult man. Right – we’re the ones with the problem. I don’t think so. Most of us just throw the paper away suppressing our urge to destroy.
I hope this person reads this blog, or better yet, someone who knows him reads it and sends it to him (because no doubt he has done this while travelling with co-workers). I can hear the office whispers now: “Hey Carl, I just heard you have to go to Chicago with Evan. Don’t forget your ear plugs. He just told his admin to print his emails – all 347.”
If you are this person, please stop.