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How Being Too Polite Got Me Touched Inappropriately On A Plane

I have always had an issue with being too polite. It sounds ridiculous, and how exactly could this be a bad thing? Well, to be honest, I am that overly polite that it is almost annoying. My politeness, believe it or not, has actually gotten me into some really bad situations.

For example, I apologize to the point that I actually aggravate people. I have been totally wronged by others, but for the fear of someone being upset by my actions, I will profusely apologize for the wrongdoing. “Oh, you yelled at me for no reason? I am so sorry that I did something that would have caused your relentless anger. Please forgive me.”

In middle school, my friend tried to prove the point of how stupid this particular trait of mine was. During a particularly boring Spanish class, my friend decided to shove all of my books off my desk and onto the floor. She was trying to see what my reaction would be. Without missing a beat, I knelt down to pick all of my books up. I then apologized to all of the students around me for the disruption. I even apologized to the friend who shoved my books for… I don’t even know what, being inconvenienced? Not sure what the thought process was there.

I am also a chronic door holder. You know that one. The person who gets stuck standing there for twenty minutes. I say “bless you” even if it sounds more like a cough, because you never know. Some people have sneezes that sound like coughs. I have one of those sneezes and it really pisses me off when people don’t say “bless you” just because they don’t know. Rude!

I say please, thank you and you’re welcome in excess. I just can’t not say these things. They are ingrained in me, Pavlov dogs-style.

This problem brings me to the most recent sticky situation that my politeness has gotten me into. I was flying across country after spending Christmas home in New Jersey (a place where, after spending several months away, I realized is very hostile). I was flying Southwest on an airline that I commend for their sunny, happy and polite demeanor. As someone who has a fear of flying, it is nice to fly where the stewardesses are so friendly. My fear of flying is not a huge ordeal. I suck it up and get on the plane; all the while I am having an inner Bridesmaids panic attack whenever we hit any turbulence. Whatever. I went through that awkward Southwest experience of picking your own seat. I found a seat in between a college-aged guy and an older lumberjack construction worker-type. The latter helped me get my carry on back into the overhead. I thanked him profusely, of course.

The flight was pleasant. I read Judd Apatow’s issue of Vanity Fair and felt like an intellectual. Then, the lumberjack man got a Coke. Like every decent twenty something millennial I had my iPod in and was not paying attention – until I felt a cold substance on the outside of my right thigh. Lumberjack had spilled some of his Coke on me. Immediately he took his napkin to clean it up…all over my thigh. The exchange went something like this:

Me: Oh…uhm…thanks.
Lumberjack: So sorry about that.

All the while he was still drying up the already dry parts of my life. His Southwest napkin then moved inside my leg…no Coke had spilled here at all.

Me: Oh…that…

In my head I knew I should say “Uh, didn’t go there buddy. You literally just sprinkled some Coke on me. Remove your hand.” But I could not get the words out. For all I knew he was trying to be the last of the gentlemen; cleaning up after a poor helpless woman. Sure, he did not need to linger, but he did and all I could muster out was, “Yup. Thanks, you got it. Thank you so much.” The ‘so much’ definitely did not need to be added, but I went there.

I tried my hardest to shift as far to the left of as possible, but was physically trapped. The fear of flying issue caused me to be unable to take off my seatbelt under any circumstance while in the air.

Ten minutes later Lumberjack was asleep and fell onto my shoulder. I had to gently tap his head, “Excuse me…uhm…sir. Excuse me?” He eventually shifted over without a word and back to sleep.

I put my magazine away and felt physically uncomfortable. Did I really thank him for going to the inside of the thigh? Yup. That happened. Great. I had flashes of my North Jersey, no-holds-barred mother who makes scenes when people cut her off in lines for anything, getting ill at my polite composure while I got sexually assaulted. What a disappointment I have become.

I suppose this is what kind of struggle plagues the people of the Mid-West. I hope that at least they draw the line at some point. Maybe there is some sort of support group to join.

I am sorry that sounds so trivial. Thanks for reading, though. Sorry it was a little long. I really appreciate it, though. Thank you.

You can read more from Catherine Migel on her blog.

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