The Cone of Silence

21 03 2008

I don’t really consider myself to be anti-social, but when cornered I fight back with withering silence.

I can be gregarious and quite chatty, but only when I have an escape route. It’s not that I find my company so much more appealing than anyone else’s, simply that I am terrified by the thought of being trapped with someone for hours on end and hearing all about their life as an archivist at the Nail Clipper’s Hall of Fame. In other words, I am that person you’ve sat beside on your flight who has not so much as acknowledged your existence during the entire trip.

Over the years, I have perfected this solitude. Firstly, I choose a window seat and leave my bladder with the checked-baggage. I have a book - even if I don’t actually wish to read it. I take my seat, and carefully scan the aisle for the arrival of my neighbour. As soon as someone reaches for the overhead bin, I bury my nose in my book and never, ever make eye-contact with them even if they burst into flames or start to play the bagpipes. Should they not take the hint and actually try to start a conversation, their efforts will be met with a painfully fake smile, and a grunt - all without actually turning my head towards them. If their question is more complicated, they may also get a nod. As soon as we are airborne, the headphones are applied and the cone of silence is complete.

The longer the flight, the more diligently I follow my well-rehearsed routine. This anti-social behaviour also extends to the departure lounge. Granted I may only be sitting there for a few minutes and can escape to the sanctuary of the duty free shop if need be, but what if I find myself sitting next to my new best friend on the plane once we’ve boarded?   Best to avoid any interaction at all, I believe.

So, the next time you’re on a flight and the person beside you has their nose buried in a book and is extremely anti-social, introduce yourself to them: it may be me. Of course, you’ll never actually know because I won’t answer you!

Post by: Simon Vaughan © 2008