Bullying, Sexism, and Panic Attacks on Planes

Posted on
Aug 22, 2016
133

BAFlight

 

It’s a little past six a.m. here in Seattle, but I’ve been up for more than three hours, trying to sleep, but inadvertently writing this post in my head. We returned from Scotland yesterday, connecting through London to Seattle – the last leg of the trip now so familiar to us, I know the menus and the in-flight security video, and even some of the faces I see on the plane by heart.

And while I’ve taken that route many times before, yesterday’s flight was, without question, the worst flight of my life. It was not because of delays (there weren’t any), or screaming children (that’s what children do), or due to any fault of the flight crew, who were incredibly supportive and wonderful and kind.

Yesterday’s flight was terrible because I – a fully grown woman and pretty damn seasoned traveler – was bullied by another passenger to the point of a panic attack. I need to tell you all what happened, because I think it’s an important story to tell, and if I’m perfectly honest, I’m still terrified of this man. His words keep echoing in my head, and I’m not sure how to get them out. I’m hoping that if I write them down here, I’ll exorcise them from my head. That usually works. That’s what my friend Celeste would tell me to do, and she’s an expert at self-exorcism.

Before I begin, I need to include a trigger warning (yes, seriously. These damn events are triggering for me.) If you have panic attacks, please note that I will be describing mine in depth below. I will also be talking about emotional abuse, hostility, misogyny, violation of personal physical space and boundaries, as well as some latent threats, all at 36,000 feet. Whee.

I was traveling in World Traveler Plus with my beloved (yes, we splurged for a little more legroom!) in two seats off to the side – a window and an aisle on the right side of the plane. We had our in-flight meal, dozing now and then, and I’d noticed that I was occasionally having trouble reclining my seat – it would recline a little bit, then fully, then not at all. Rand seemed to be having similar issues.

I suspected something might be going on, then decided it was simply paranoia on my part. The overhead lights went off after dinner, the passengers around me began to drop off into snoozing or TV watching, and I tried reclining my chair. This time it didn’t budge. Weird.

“Can you recline your chair?” I asked Rand, gently.

“Yeah, of course I can,” he said, and to demonstrate, he did so. The second his chair reclined, the row behind us came alive. The man seated behind me began to bark at us. He was somewhat unintelligible due to his volume and slurring of words.

“Canyouputyourseatup?”

“Huh?”

“Can you put your seat up? Can you put your seat up? Can you put your seat up?”

The man spoke rapidly and harshly without waiting for Rand to reply and it soon became obvious that he wasn’t asking. I should note – he wasn’t seated behind Rand – he was seated behind me in the aisle. The woman next to him, directly behind Rand, wasn’t actually traveling with him. They’d been chatting on the flight, but I heard intros between the two of them.

“What?”

“I’m gonna need you to put your seat up.”

“Uh, sure,” Rand said, thinking it was just some temporary thing – that perhaps some item was caught that needed to be retrieved. People who travel a lot understand these things – the man in front of me just reclined his seat and cracked me on the skull (I’d been leaning over). That shit happens. It’s a plane, and planes are crowded places.

Rand gently pulled his seat up a little and the man behind us quieted down.

“Mine reclines fine,” Rand said to me, still unclear on what was happening. By then I’d started putting the pieces together, and was somewhat petrified. The guy behind us was not going to let us recline our chairs. And he was willing to be aggressive about it.

I was exhausted. I need to sleep. So I tried reclining my chair again. I pushed the button in, but nothing. I tried pressing back, and it would wiggle a bit, but wouldn’t budge.

“Mine isn’t working,” I said to Rand. He tried pressing the button without any luck.

“I’ll figure it out,” I told him. I kept trying for a while.

Finally, with sudden jarring, it reclined. I curled up, and the second I did, the man behind me shook the back of my chair violently. I started.

“You’re going to put your seat up.”

I looked at him over the back of my seat, confused.

“What?”

“This isn’t working for me. You need to put your seat up.”

I tried to understand what he was talking about.

“Wait, what?” I repeated.

“You need to put your seat up now.”

Was this actually happening? I’d heard about this sort of thing, but despite traveling roughly 80,000 miles ever year for the better part of a decade, I’d never seen it in real life. I certainly didn’t expect to be caught in the middle of it. I took a deep breath. I’m not great at advocating for myself. It’s something I struggle with in virtually every facet of my life.

“I’m sorry, but I’m very tired, and I need to recline to sleep.”

“No,” he said, shaking his head with a mocking grin. “You aren’t going to sleep. It’s 7:30pm. It isn’t sleepy-time,” he said, in creepy sing-song. Then his voice dropped. “Unless you’re three.”

“Well, I got up very early and – you know what? I don’t need to explain myself,” I said, after realizing I was starting to do just that. We were, after all, on a plane. People sleep on planes at all hours. And it wasn’t 7:30 in the sky somewhere over Nova Scotia. Everyone around me was asleep. THE OVERHEAD LIGHTS WERE OFF.

“I’m tired, and I have every right to recline my chair and sleep.”

I cannot tell you how difficult it is to say this sort of thing to an angry, irrational man who is literally locked in an enclosed space with me.

“Typical American reaction,” he said.

Here’s the kicker: while this was all happening, THE GUY HAD HIS CHAIR RECLINED. I kid you not.

We went back and forth. He continued to tell me that I wasn’t going to recline my chair, that it wasn’t time for me to sleep, that I wasn’t allowed, and that he wouldn’t let me. He occasionally returned to the mocking, sing-song voice.

“You know,” I said, “If you had asked me nicely, I would have been happy to make something work. But you’ve been so incredibly rude-”

Excuse me? I haven’t cursed at you once.”

“Wha …” I was dumbfounded. “You. Can. Be. Rude. Without. Cursing.” It was like talking to a seven-year-old.

“Oh, yeah, I’m the worst person in the world. I’m the wrong one here,” he said, rolling his eyes.

“I’m sorry, but I need to sleep, and I’m going to recline my chair.”

“Then I’m going to do this,” he said, grabbing the back of the seat and shaking it (and me with it) violently up and down.

And then he grinned at me, and. Fuck. Fuck. I can’t write this without losing it.

 

Deep breath, Geraldine. Deep breath.

 

He grinned, he looked at me, and he said the following:

“I can go all night.”

 

(And here’s where I take break, calm my breathing down, have a good cry. Maybe look and see if that jacket I wanted went on sale … Nope. Oh, well.)

 

Being a woman can be a terrifying thing. It doesn’t have to be, it shouldn’t be, but most of the time, it is. From the time that we are very small, whether we be male or female or anywhere on the spectrum in between, we are taught to identify what’s ours. When we are babies, our parents ask us where our noses are, and we gleefully point it out with various degrees of accuracy. Where’s your nose? Where’s your tummy? Where are your toes? When we are small, we are taught these things, and it carries with it an important lesson: your body is your own, and no one else’s. These parts of you are yours and yours alone.

But inevitably, if you are a woman, a stranger will make you feel at some point like that isn’t the case. And it starts when you are very, very young. I can speak in general terms about this: every single woman I know, I mean EVERY SINGLE WOMAN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE has had that happen to them. Some creepy comment from a stranger (or, fuck, sometimes not a stranger) received at an incredibly young age that makes us think: maybe everyone was wrong. Maybe these aren’t my legs. Maybe these aren’t my arms or my thighs or my butt or my breasts. Maybe that dude mumbling to me in the park has some claim to them, because he sure as hell is acting like he does.

Sometimes we cover these parts of us up, so that those people don’t see, so that we can pretend they are ours. We hide away ourselves, believing (erroneously, I should note, and that is part of the fucked-up-ness of it all) that will keep us safe. After all, that’s the impression everyone gives us. It’s why “What were you wearing?” was (and in some places, remains) the first question that some many women are asked after an assault.

(Here’s the worse part: we, as women, do it to ourselves. Because the second we accept the truth that this shit happens regardless of what we do, we lose one of those mental constructs we’ve created to help us feel safer. When I hear women’s stories of assault or abuse I immediately want to downplay it. Not because I don’t think she’s telling the truth, but because I know she is, and that scares the hell out of me. I try to come up with extenuating and mitigating circumstances EVEN THOUGH THERE ARE NONE, otherwise I can’t come up with a reason for why it won’t happen to me. Newsflash: there aren’t any. It happens to all of us.)

We walk away, we go someplace where we feel safer. We creep into our beds and hug our knees to our chest and we try to stop shaking and thinking about what was said. We try to create boundaries, we try to put physical space between us and them.

But what happens when you can’t do that? What happens when someone is literally inches away from you, telling you that the space you thought was yours – SPACE THAT YOU LITERALLY FUCKING PAID FOR – is not? That you aren’t going to sleep unless you do what he says? That he will physically shake you in order to make you do what he wants?

I know that people are going to tell me that I’m making ridiculous parallels here. That telling a woman she isn’t going to sleep on a plane doesn’t contribute to rape culture, right? Maybe not – at least, not as significantly as all the other shit we deal with. But it sure as fuck doesn’t help women, either. It’s pretty safe to say that this dude is not at the forefront of the feminist movement. He’s not listening when a woman presents clear boundaries.

Yesterday, while all this was happening, while my brain struggled to be consciously present, my body did something else.

My body was terrified. My hands were shaking uncontrollably. I could barely breathe. My heart was racing. Because it knew that it needed to be scared. Because it knew, even as my brain tried to calm it down, that this was very dangerous situation, and one that I couldn’t escape from.

Don’t believe me? Here is what my heart rate did as I sat in a fucking chair being harassed by this guy:

FitBitPic2

 

THE FUCKER PUT ME IN FAT BURN MODE WHILE I WAS SITTING DOWN IN A CHAIR. (And spare me the fucking jokes. I’d take six hours on the treadmill over him.) The point is: I had seen how this guy spoke to Rand. It was still rude, but there was a difference. He pretended like Rand had a choice. With me, he made it clear I didn’t. With me, he physically invaded my space. He shook me, literally and figuratively.

“You don’t get to talk to me that way,” I said. And again, “I have a right to recline my chair.”

“No, you don’t,” he said. “That’s not going to work for me, and you need to find a compromise I can live with.”

In other words: change your actions until I’m happy, or suffer the consequences.

“You are the rudest person I have ever met,” I said, standing up. It was all I could say. My words had long ago left me, and every one that I managed to get out was a struggle. “I’m going to take a walk to calm down and get away from you for a while.”

“Yeah, I’m the rude one,” he said, laughing. And then, then the clincher, the words every single woman has heard in some form or another while trying to stand up for herself:

“You’re overreacting.”

Of course.

You need to calm down. You’re hysterical. You are blowing this out of proportion.

I immediately walked to the back of the plane, shaking.  I told the flight crew what was happening. They crowded around me, concerned. They brought me water. They told me I was right to tell them. They held my hand.

Later, I would ask Rand why he didn’t check on me, why he didn’t say something to defend me when I was obviously terrified, and he told me that he had no idea that I was panicked. I seemed fine. He thought I had handled it well, and that I was simply walking away from “a dude who was clearly crazy.” We get so good at concealing our own terror – we don’t just succeed in hiding it from ourselves, we hide it from people who know us best.

I’ve complained about British Airways in the past, I’m sad to say. But after yesterday, I can’t imagine doing that again. The crew was amazing, if confused as to why I was shaking (later this week: an in-depth look at panic attacks on planes. FUN READING FOR ALL.) They went and talked to the guy who sat behind me.

I will hand it to him: he was nothing if not a consistent sack of shit. He told them point blank that if I came back and tried reclining my chair, he would do it again.

“Sir, I strongly advise you not to do that.”

The head of flight crew, a petite woman named Petra, came back not long after.

“He’s … he’s … HE’S SUCH A BULLY!” she finally said, shaking her head. “I can’t believe it.” She told me that her male colleague had to take over, because she was making no headway. The guy sitting behind me did not back down. He certainly wasn’t going to listen to a woman, even if she was in charge of the entire goddamn cabin. I heard the crew temporarily discuss whether or not they would need to have police meet us at the airport and escort him off the plane.

I listened, replaying everything that happened, trying not to drown in my own panic. There were hours of the flight left, and I was stuck sitting in front of this guy. I imagined everything he could say and do. How he had point blank told flight crew that he wouldn’t stop. I tried to stop shaking. But the thing is, if your body does something involuntarily, it’s really hard to get it to stop. I tried to stop crying. I tried to breathe. I couldn’t.

Another member of the flight crew calmly told me that they’d be getting me and Rand new seats – that the man was insufferable, and no one should have to sit through his abuse.

Later, I found out that the man behind me told Rand that he had done us a favor.

“I just got you upgraded,” he said.

Let’s just see exactly the nature of his favor. Here’s me before the flight, with Rand, in World Traveler Plus:

RandGeraldineBefore

 

We look pretty cute, right? Exhausted and running on 5 hours of sleep, but cute.

And here is me, post-panic attack, in Business Class:

GeraldineAfter1

 

GeraldineAfter2

 

Thanks for the favor, asshole. Here’s a brief chart for next time:

Business class with a panic attack < World Traveler Plus

Business class with a panic attack < Economy

Business class with a panic attack < Economy sandwiched between members of the US Olympic Synchronized Farting Team

 

To the crew of BA flight #49, flying into Seattle yesterday: Thank you. To Kelly, Petra, Suzie, Anthony, and Laura, I do not know what I would have done without your intervention. I am terrified just thinking about it. You went above and beyond and we are very grateful.

To those that say I am overreacting, that I should have told him before lowering my chair, that I should have compromised: No. I did nothing wrong. I was calm, I was clear, I was doing what literally every person around me INCLUDING THE ASSHOLE WHO HARASSED ME was doing. I was left shaking and crying and terrified and told that he did me a favor.

And in the end, he was left with a vacant seat in front of him. In the end, he got exactly what he wanted.

Leave a Comment

  • Josephine Robertson

    What an asshole. I’m so sorry and you were in no way wrong. You were exactly and totally within your rights. They flight crew should have reclined the empty seat and told him if he touched it they’d have the cops meet him at the jet bridge.

    • Everywhereist

      Thank you, Josephine! I like your suggestion – I actually had a similar one. 😀

  • Steph

    Who the heck asks before reclining their seat? That’s ridiculous – everyone should inherently expect that to happen.

    I’m SO sorry this happened to you.

    Some people in the world are just disgusting assholes, and you just can’t fucking win.

    You did WAY better than me – I would have flipped my shit, and everyone in that whole damn plane would know how much of an asshole he is.

    :'(

    • Everywhereist

      Steph – honestly, I was just so scared. It’s a plane, and I travel a lot – I wasn’t sure if he’d get violent, or if I’d get into trouble. I was shaking so much I could barely talk.

      I don’t know if I did “better” than you. I think being able to flip your shit when people harass/abuse/threaten you is a great skill. I’m working on it! 🙂

  • The guy got nothing? That kind of harassment was tolerated by the airline? With his bullying and outright disdain for people around him, he should at LEAST have spent the rest of the flight, face on the ground, and cuffs behind his back. Geez.

    • Everywhereist

      Thanks, AJ. I know they’re filing a report, but I don’t think police were called. I wrote up an account of what happened and they’ll be using it, but I don’t know what the outcome will be.

  • axelapalooza

    I had a similar experience years ago on BA (no shade throw in BA’s direction) while traveling with my parents between SEA-LHR. The gentleman in front of us was drunk and felt that his chair wasn’t reclining enough and blamed my Dad (who hadn’t touched the seat but that’s besides the point). At one point, somewhere over Greenland the other passenger freaked out, stood up, and started beating the chair until it broke – to the point we had to crawl over the aisle seat to get out because we couldn’t even shimmy out of the seats – it now reclined ALL THE WAY back. They had to separate all of us to get it sorted. We’re frequent travelers and to this day I have never seen something so crazy while flying.

    BA handled it as well as you can deal with a crazy person at 40k feet. We were upgraded on the way home (as our plane was fully packed and they had to send my Dad to another seat but couldn’t move all of us).

    I’m glad you spoke up and also v. sorry you had to deal with such a terrible person!

    • Everywhereist

      Alex, that sounds utterly terrifying. I am so sorry you had to deal with that, and thank you so much for your kind words of support!

  • kristibug

    My blood pressure rose just read it. I’m so sorry. Total jerk. Not over reacting. Glad you blogged about it!

  • Jennifer Harney

    Wow. I can’t imagine anyone going through that. I never recline my seat, like ever, for fear I will meet someone like him. If someone asked me if they could recline their seat, I would be so baffled by politeness that I’d probably cry. I’m so sorry you had to endure that asshole. It sounds like while he thought you were the entitled American, he was the one with the disregard to anyone around him….and crazy rampant entitlement.

  • Julie

    I am so sorry to hear that this happened.

    I had an experience that this reminded me of, at a restaurant once, when I was 10 years old, eating dinner with my mom and sister. I had a cold and had to blow my nose (I was 10 but I’d been taught basic manners so it’s not like I was being completely disgusting) and a man literally across the restaurant rose his voice so everyone could hear to say “COULD YOU STOP BLOWING YOUR NOSE?”.

    I couldn’t stop crying and my mom and sister tried to stand up for me with no avail – we left, restaurant management covered our meal costs, and the dude got what he wanted in the end, since we were gone. This was all on my birthday, I might add.

    I cannot imagine if something like this were happening in the confines of an airplane, continuously over the course of several hours, with no escape.

    • Everywhereist

      Oh, Julie, no. I am so, so sorry. That is awful. And that man is a monster. I hope they tossed him out.

  • I hope that piece of shit reads this blog post, and I hope that airline seriously does something about his actions. What a thug.

    • Even if he reads this he will probably not understand what he did wrong 🙂 That’s how assholes work.

    • Everywhereist

      I don’t know if he’s the “reading” type.

  • Sheena Schleicher

    This is so terrible. I’m so sorry you had to go through this. He should have been arrested for assault. What a POS.

  • I’m really sorry you had to go through this, and I honestly can’t believe he started shacking your chair. Jesus Christ, what a baboon.

    Also, I don’t think you’re overreacting at all… This type of behavior speaks volumes about the conceited nature & sense of superiority that SOME men have. I don’t think a situation has to take a turn for the (absolute) worse to draw attention… If a man is capable of behaving the way this guy did in public, I don’t want to think about what he does between closed walls.

  • Amanda Folsom

    My goodness this is terrible. Why did your husband Rand allow this continue to the point where you had a panic attack after such abuse? Why didn’t he step in with the bully or immediately get staff from flight service to intervene?

    • Everywhereist

      Because he honestly didn’t realize I was having trouble. I was doing my best to be calm, and he thought that I was actually calm and not that upset. When he realized how bad it was, he was supportive, as always. But basically I had the exchange, stood my ground, and left. I only broke down after I’d walked to another cabin, so he had no idea.

      • Amanda Folsom

        I’m not trying to defend this bully. Just seems like after a few seconds of violent shaking and verbal abuse your husband would recognize what’s happening and intervene on your behalf.

        • Everywhereist

          No, see, but I can’t even entertain that train of thought. It’s an airplane – it’s a very frightening place to begin with, and this guy was clearly not afraid of escalation. Rand was pretty out of it – and I’m glad he was. I don’t want to think what this guy could have or would have done to my husband.

    • jonathanwthomas

      I had the same train of thought but then I realized that she doesn’t need a husband around to guarantee she gets treated like a human. I don’t know what I’d do if this happened to my wife. She can stand up for herself and I’m a bit of a coward. I know she’d sure as hell stand up for me with nails drawn though.

      • Alena Northcutt

        I had the same thought. I don’t think it’s about her needing a husband in the way you say. This is just a terrible assault. If this same assault happened to her on the street with her husband next to her would it have just continued to this point? That’s what I don’t understand. With so many people around why did nobody try to stop that horrible man!

      • Everywhereist

        “She doesn’t need a husband around to guarantee she gets treated like a human.” Thank you for this, Jonathan. And for the record, you aren’t a coward. Escalating a situation to physical violence isn’t a brave thing. I’m disappointed at all the people on this thread who think it is.

      • Jack Duncan

        The gender is irrelevant…so is the fact that it’s husband and wife. For a friend, husband, or wife to “sleep” while some person is on the verge of physically assaulting you (at worst) and harshly verbally assaulting you (at best) and for no one else in the cabin to react is pretty sad.

        Under what conditions would you stand up for your wife? What if it was multiple people or just a bigger guy? It’s genetics, more times than not a man is just physically stronger…sure there’s pepper spray and firearms and whatever else for self-defense but still. You should at least try to. For you to say that you are a bit of a coward and are unsure if you would stand up for your wife (or husband if you happened to be gay) is weak. You’re partners, there’s nothing wrong with helping each other unless of course you’d rather not be helped and just be bullied so you can make some foolish point about “not needing anyone to blah blah blah”.

        Judging by the results of this awful episode the abuse was just taken over and over again. If you wait until the last possible moment in the heat of a near physical altercation to defend yourself or a loved one then Darwinism won’t work out very well for you I’m afraid.

        In either scenario…a significant other (gender aside) being verbally and just about physically accosted while the other one “sleeps” is just sad and weak and pathetic. You don’t stop bullies with hugs and flowers and pleasantries.

  • KatyMac3

    This made me cry reading it. So sorry to hear you had to experience the
    kind of person so completely devoid of character. I would react that way
    as well, and maybe that is because we are people who look for the good
    in others? I hope and pray I am always the kind of person who is shocked
    by that asshat’s behavior. Sad.

    • Everywhereist

      Oh, Katy, I am so so sorry that this caused you pain, too. I am sending you hugs.

  • I’m so sad for you right now. I hate when things like this happen that make us grown women feel so helpless. I’m so sorry for you but to be completely honest, it does make me a little relieved to know that I’m not the only one is susceptible to being made to feel this way. Here’s to hoping that writing it out proved to be therapeutic!

    • Everywhereist

      It really did – and yeah, I know exactly what you mean – it’s nice not to feel alone in these matters. I feel really supported by the wonderful women (and men!) on this thread and on Twitter!

  • Victoria Ruvolo

    I’m really sorry that someone made you so uncomfortable. You didn’t need to tell him shit. You were actually being quite polite from the sound of it. Unfortunately, lots of people in this world get off on trying to make other people feel weak/incapable/inconsequential. As women we get this behavior from everyone: strangers on a plane, boys in school, men at work, our family, etc. The airplane workers handled it completely incorrectly. He needed to be penalized for his actions. In my experience, fear of consequences is the only thing that stops a bully.
    When I was in HS, my sister started getting harassing phone calls from a D-Bag who threatened her with bodily harm (she was 14 at the time). Fed up, I picked up the phone and told the fucker I’d be waiting for him on my front steps since he was dead set on causing someone harm. I waited with a pipe and he never showed. Bully’s are cowards

    • Everywhereist

      Vic, you are amazing.

  • Holy shit. I hope he gets blacklisted by BA, and pulled aside for extra TSA security screenings every time he flies. I’m sorry, G. That is essentially my flying nightmare as well.

    I wish they would have sent his ass back to economy, in the last row of the middle, with someone reclining in front of him and no ability to recline his seat.

    • Also, I’m pretty sure this dude is genetically related to my asshat of a neighbor who made me cry last year while berating me for having a professional crew out to dig up my sewer line when it collapsed.

      My sewer line. On my property. Which just happened to be 4ft from our property line with him. He threatened me. He threatened the crew digging it up. He’s continued to threaten us ever since.

      • Everywhereist

        WTF? No. You should NOT have to deal with that. That makes no sense. It’s your home, and he has NO RIGHT to make you feel uncomfortable in it. What a shitstain.

        • frontstmaui

          You post a story such as this and then have the nerve to tell Emily W to defy her bully? Pathetic.

  • I’m sorry for you Geraldine. I’ve never experienced something like this before but can deeply understand your perspective by just being emphatic. It is clear that TAGFEE is not just for managing an organization, it should be a way to improve our attitude.

    I’m sure that British Airways will take care of this situation and ban him from flying with this company again! Not only for this company, there should be a centralized solution for all airways to get these kind of people out of planes to solve further problems!

  • Elle-Rose Williams

    Geraldine! I’m so sorry you had to endure such an ass-hat of a person. How he treated you is shocking enough, but that he didn’t even apologise or compromise when the plane crew got involved is beyond ridiculous. People like that aren’t safe to have on planes – if he can’t follow instructions and behave like an human, he shouldn’t be allowed to fly again.

    I think it’s probably best Rand didn’t get involved. When provoked, men like this will usually get more aggressive if another man gets involved. Rand staying out of it probably saved a whole lot more unpleasantness, so maybe it’s a good thing he misinterpreted you and didn’t intervene.

    I once had a man spit on me in the street after he winked at me and I didn’t return the gesture. Pad was walking next to me and when I asked him why he didn’t say anything, it turns out he didn’t even see it happen. In hindsight, I’m so glad he didn’t – imagine how awful this man would’ve behaved had someone stuck up for me, if not returning a smile and a wink is enough to get spat at.

    The world is a scary place sometimes. I think all we can do is be the best people we can be, and treat people with as much kindness as possible. This guy clearly needs some kindness in his life, maybe then he’d have a little more respect for those around him.

    Sorry for the super long comment. I was really pissed off reading this and wanted to let you know it’s not your fault. He’s a jackass, he’ll learn his lesson one day, and hopefully sooner rather than later. You carry on being kind and lovely and funny and beautiful.

    • Everywhereist

      Oh my heavens, Ellie, I am so, so sorry you went through that. That’s the reality that women live in: respond in a way that pleases the harassers, or it’ll get worse. Jesus H.

      I pressed Rand on the issue a bit more, and he finally admitted to me that he was half asleep for most of it. He noticed I left, and figured I was okay.

      And to be honest, I’m glad. I am sure that if it had escalated at the seat, he would have gotten involved, and I don’t know if the flight crew would have had as clear a picture of what happened to me. Besides that, you don’t know what people will do. You just don’t.

  • grace hensley

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. You were so brave! You handled it well by walking away, and getting help. But he’s still an asshole. I hope he gets arrested for assault, because that is what it is. “The crime of trying or threatening to hurt someone physically” – Merriam-Webster.

    I wonder what would have happened if you and Rand switched seats, grinning maniacally. Too bad he would still be an asshole, but maybe a deflated one.

    • grace hensley

      Only problem is that he would still be too close for comfort.

      • Derek Thomas

        Yeah, I could not have slept anywhere near this guy – “near” being relative on an aircraft.

  • Helen Davies

    So sorry you had to go through this! Some people are awful!!!!! Wish I’d been there, I would to have loved to have had ‘a word’ with him. I’ve come across a few awful men on my travels (I had to work with one for 2 months in Africa), it’s a horrible feeling. Hope you are ok and well done for sticking up for yourself. xx

  • jonathanwthomas

    What a truly appalling situation. I’m so sorry to hear that this happened to you. What baffles me is that – and I fly WT Plus often – is that there is plenty of leg room and you rarely even notice the person in front of you is even reclined. What a POS. I’m very pleased to see BA has handled the situation very well. They have the best staff. I’m reminded when I flew with my wife when she was newly pregnant 6 years ago. They offered her a drink and she declined obviously and said she was expecting. They proceeded to check on her every 15 minutes to make sure she was OK and if she needed anything. What sucks is now you’ll always have this experience with you, every time you get on a plane. The asshole who did this probably won’t give it a second thought.

    • Everywhereist

      I thought about that, too – this one is going to haunt me. And that jerk thinks he did me a favor. Ugh.

      So happy to hear that BA was so great to your wife. And I agree about WT Plus – there is SO much room. It’s crazy.

  • Poppy Goldsworthy

    You were awesome and dignified, and WAY above this crud! Losing our words at moments like these is because of the shock of encountering such assholes. We don’t go around prepared for it, and why should we?! I once drove a tiny bit late through an orange light without realising there was a small queue of cars around the bend and had to stop for a short time in front of a car waiting at the opposing traffic light. The guy stuck his head right out of the driver’s window and yelled “YOU STUPID COW!” which might’ve been ok except for the real look of anger on his face. Thankfully the cars in front of me started moving again and I ignored him, but later I thought it would’ve been good to shout back “SHUT UP YOU WIFE-BEATER!!”He might not be a wife-beater, but I’m not a stupid cow either, and with that horrible look on his face, he probably does bully his family. I hope I can have the presence of mind to say something like this to the next turd who abuses me.

  • ruthburr

    I read all the comments thus far ready to defend you from anyone who wanted to make this about whether or not reclining one’s seat on a plane is OK or play “maybe he was just…” and let me just say I’m proud of the commenters on this blog for not going there.

    As a fellow haver-of-panic-attacks-on-planes (and when-yelled-at-by-strangers) I know exactly how this feels. I’m sorry this guy was such an asshole, and I’m really glad the crew took you seriously and took care of you. You know I would Cut A Bitch for you, so just say the word.

  • Dani Fagan

    What an absolute fucking asshole. Totally relate re panic attacks. There’s nothing you can do to calm yourself in fact tryong to do that actually can make it worse. If it happens again brandy is an awesome water subsistute! But it won’t. Nobody shakes baby in the corner. Well not twice anyways! Thanks for sharing…BA should fork out for your next flights! X

  • J Tidrick

    You were physically and verbally abused on a flight and he was able to walk off that plane freely? Without handcuffs and police escort? I just can’t even begin to understand this- I’m not blaming you, at all ever. I’m surprised after he was abusive to the flight crew that they didn’t call the captain back, if he continued the pattern with him, he would have gone to jail. I’m glad you are both home safe.

  • Angela Taylor Hylland

    I soooo wish you would’ve gotten a picture of him and posted it. You could’ve had a meme contest and made it go viral. The idea that he got his way in the end makes my blood boil. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. How can people be such assholes? It astounds me.

  • Amanda Schaefer

    I totally would have wanted to say something like, “Listen here you self-entitled prick, you can go fuck yourself sideways because I will be reclining my chair and you won’t be doing a damn thing about it!” However, I would have actually had less courage than you did, and still would have likely ended up in a panic with my partner having to defend me and the flight crew stepping in sooner. You were very brave, and you handled this all so well. You were amazing and held the high ground, where this man has obviously never been.

  • Bernard Dunning

    It’s got fuck-all to do with the fact that you’re a woman. It’s got everything to do with you being totally incapable of dealing with a minor stressor that you could have taken care of by calling a stewardess. And yeah, the pics of you crying? You’re overreacting, if not outright acting.

  • I think the flight crew should have moved him and also had police ready for him when you landed. It is great that they were nice to you and that they moved you, but he just learned he can do whatever he wants and get away with it.

    I have to take a pill to even get on a plane and as a woman I would have felt the exact same way as you did, I know this because I have felt it many times before. I am so sorry.

  • Mr. Tiny

    The crew did the right thing by comforting you and removing you from the situation but they failed in not having the plane met by police. My sister is a flight attendant and I know for certain that neither she nor any of the captains with whom she flies would have ever stood for this assault. You are far braver than I; I would have been in tears from the beginning. In situations like this, I try to think that karma will be swift. I try to think that his punishment is living in misery with himself. I try to think those things but what I’m really thinking about is some dark, vigilante fantasy in which all the passengers onboard band together and remove him from the plane at 30,000 feet.

  • Anthropologal

    I was on a plane 2 weeks ago where we turned around and had a dude kicked off the plane for being belligerent to the flight crew because he tried to move to an exit row during taxiing and was told to sit back down and got pissy. I can’t believe this waste of space got to leave the plane of his own accord after that type of behavior! I’ve had a panic attack on planes before and it was the worst one I’ve ever experienced. Of course if I’d been in your spot my hot coffee probably “accidentally” would’ve spilled all over him when he jostled my seat the first time so the craziness might have escalated quicker…

  • AndreaPitts

    I’m not sure how to ask this without being a jerk, but where was Rand in all this? Why didn’t he take over for you? In my world this wouldn’t have been an issue for me to deal with. My husband would have dealt with it…and he would have been the victor and the only person having a panic attack would have been the douche shaking the seat.

    • Alena Northcutt

      This was my second thought. My first thought was just feeling absolutely terrible for her to be victimized like this so violently in a very public space, surrounded by so many people. I feel bad asking but what was stopping Rand from immediately putting an end to it or going right to get a flight attendant? The woman next to the bully just sat there while he was shaking the chair? What is British Airways doing about this assault?

      • Everywhereist

        HE WAS ASLEEP, OKAY? Jesus Christ. This happens and the first people ask is what was Rand doing? SERIOUSLY? HE WAS FUCKING ASLEEP.

        • Alena Northcutt

          I’ve read through the comments and my own comments. Everyone seems sympathetic and empathetic to your abuse. But yes seriously, this is a valid question. If the violence and assault you described didn’t wake him then that’s the answer to the question. If this assault happened on the street, in a park, in a Target, or anywhere else the same question would be asked, especially if you told the story publicly people are going to ask.

          • Everywhereist

            You weren’t there, so I don’t really know how you can assess whether or not it’s a valid question. But I’ll tell you: it isn’t. Trying to suggest that Rand did something wrong, or that the events didn’t happen as I said, because if they had, people would have intervened? That’s wrong. But perhaps it makes you feel better to think that things didn’t go down the way I said, because it makes you feel safer. And I understand and sympathize with that – we all do things to protect ourselves, mentally. But don’t for a second think that you are justified in asking that question.

            Oh, and the reason that all the comments here are so sympathetic is that I have deleted DOZENS of negative ones.

    • Joanna Lee

      Rand being involved or not is completely irrelevant. Everybody has the right to feel safe wherever they are, whoever they are with (or without). This man used bullying, intimidation and threats to get his way and to make someone feel like shit as a result is unacceptable behavior.

      • Alena Northcutt

        I completely agree with you. It is a logical question to ask why her husband allowed the assault and abuse to continue, and to ask why no one did anything to help her while this assault was happening on the plane. Standing by while a woman is being abused is unacceptable behavior too!

      • Everywhereist

        Thank you for this, Joanna. It is irrelevant. And people who bring it up are actually part of the problem.

    • karlranck

      I also don’t want to sound like a jerk but it might be b/c the blogger was over-reacting? If your travel companion didn’t see the situation in the same way you did (by your own admission when he didn’t jump in), isn’t it possible your perception might have been a bit off? I’m sure there are crazy people on planes (just like there are crazy people everywhere) but your story seems a bit unbelievable. I’m also failing to see how it immediately becomes sexism b/c you happen to be a woman and he happens to be a guy. He also told your Rand to not recline his seat either…I’m not a regular reader of your blog but got here by following links on another blog so don’t really know you but…jeez.

      • WOAH, victim blaming much? There is no such thing as “overreacting” when you are a human who is prone to panic attacks and anxiety. Your comment is extremely insensitive– just as insensitive as the man in this blog was.

        • karlranck

          Not sure there was a victim here. For an event that may or may not have happened the way she claims. Again, Rand didn’t jump in. The guy’s seatmate didn’t say anything. The flight attendants didn’t see fit to punish him in anyway (cuffs, cops, etc). Isn’t it also possible that it didn’t happen the way she claims? For example, the dude thought she aggressively slammed her seat back into him (= with sudden jarring, her seat reclined by her own admission) and he wasn’t polite to her and she is OVER-REACTING…

        • karlranck

          Also, a panic attack is by definition an over-reaction to non-threatening situations. It’s like the actual meaning of the term fyi. So there’s that

    • Josh Wilson

      I agree with you here! If someone talks to my fiancé that way, I wouldn’t just ignore it and say “you seemed to be ok”. That’s besides the point. It’s how that man was talking to you that’s the issue. That’s not ok. Boo Rand. Don’t be such a wuss

      • Boo Josh, why don’t you read the multiple comments where she explains why he didn’t say anything. Also why don’t you just accept that we SHOULD live in a world where a woman doesn’t need a man to protect her and where people don’t bully one another in general.

        • Everywhereist

          I think I deleted his comment because he’s an idiot. But thank you for this, Alex. You hit point perfectly !

    • Everywhereist

      You’re right, you can’t ask that without being a jerk.

  • frontstmaui

    Get over yourself. Is this, as a writer, your ONLY recourse to possibly fulfilling a deadline? Or is this simply your way of getting much needed attention. How did your partner Rand even let the first shaking of the seat go by without contacting the crew/captain. And most planes have security on them for just such occasions. Had he been as blatantly rude as you say to the crew as well, then contact the Captain and have him make the call to return the flight or stop and have the man removed. I apologize if I couldn’t read your rant further than your stupid heart rate monitor picture. But I would never have allowed that behavior to my wife or family.

  • Geraldine, you are braver than I ever could be for sharing your story and fighting back to the people who are shaming you elsewhere online for just doing so. (Your tweets about this post and your experience are gems.) As a woman who was physically and verbally abused for 18 straight years by her father, I do not take any abuse of any kind, by men, lightly. And yet, I still struggle with fighting back and have the same panic attacks you did here when it happens. If only more women were as brave as you, maybe there would be less situations to fear, less men to be abused by because maybe finally men would start to get it. But staying silent helps no one and nothing. Thank you for sharing!

    • Everywhereist

      So much love to you, Kirsten.

  • Lori Baker

    I’m sorry this happened to you. I’m sorry everyone sitting around him on the plane didn’t look over and ask him what his problem was to shame him into shutting up. I’m sorry he wasn’t escorted to the very last seat of the plane by the toilets and restrained until he could be escorted off the plane by the authorities. I’m hoping once he deplaned his wallet was stolen, the crotch of his pants busted out and everyone could see the track marks on his underpants. I hope karma is a real bitch to him.

    • Everywhereist

      Thanks for the kind words of support, Lori. As for why no one intervened, everyone was mostly asleep, and this happened in a matter of moments.

  • Stevie

    Oh, Geraldine. I am so sorry you had to go through this, and so angry knowing that this is not an isolated incident. I don’t even want to think how many other women have been abused by this man. I’m so proud of you for standing up for yourself, but I hate it that you had to do that in the first place. Thank you for writing and sharing.

  • Alena Northcutt

    What is British Airways doing about this assault? According to their passenger bill of rights it says the following. Now I am scared to fly British Airways if they allow this kind of assault to happen and he was not dealt with.

    behaved in a threatening, abusive, insulting or disorderly way towards the crew or other passengers or
    behaved in a way which causes discomfort, inconvenience, damage or injury to the crew or other passengers
    we may take any measures we think reasonable to prevent you continuing your behaviour. When the aircraft lands, we may decide to:

    make you leave the aircraft
    refuse to carry you on the remaining sectors of the journey shown on your ticket and
    report the incident on board the aircraft to the relevant authorities with a view to them prosecuting you for any criminal offences you might have committed.

  • albert

    Sorry for your experiences. I always hate to see this kind of story such that the bad one can stand and laugh till the end. And I feel shamed for your beloved one who didn’t stand up for you. But we all know things won change even he stand up. This kind of rude people is someone who always bully the weaker and fear the stronger, coward.

  • RyFromCanada

    How is it he was not arrested, or at least questioned by police / and airline officials for his behaviour. Shaking, intentionally, the chair, seems like assault to me. — It is amazing to me that he felt he could do this, but not surprising, as it has occurred for me, even as a male, who isn’t exactly small. The difference — It is subtle, and I can force the issue with physicality if I need to I guess, and that threat is always there. Wow. I feel so bad for you, and I have to say, your description of events got my heart rate going. All the best, and thanks for sharing.

  • Oh Geraldine I’m so sorry. This is awful.

    That man really should have been met by the police. I saw you’ve written a statement and I really hope it is used something happens to him.

    Lots of love — and please try to get some sleep!

  • Laura Molloy

    Holy s**t!! That infuriates me, you have every right to recline your chair, yes it might be inconvenient for him but that’s tough, he’s on a plane. Buy a first class seat if you have a problem with other passengers. And HE had his seat reclined!! I don’t know how you restrained yourself , I think I may have ended up throwing something at him. But yes it’s a terrifying world for women, we put up with this in everyday life. It infuriates me he got away with it too. You should of taken a pic of him and publically shamed him.

  • James

    1. Why it’s directly related to sexism and not just a man that is jerk which seats behind you?
    2. I’m not getting the point of last photos and why did you make them? It looks very strange “Hey husband, take a photo I’m have a panic attack”

  • You didn’t overreact. That first.

    If anything, you under-reacted to him, and thus forced your body to react with panic instead. When your amygdala senses a strong fight or flight situation, and isn’t happy with your response, it’ll decide its own action, and think that maybe having you fall over, or scream, or whatever is better than what you are doing. That’s not in any way a blame, just a fact that’s useful to know for future.

    You are old enough and smart enough to know about bullies. They are cowards. All of them. Not least because if he starts to be *seen* to bully a woman, there are at least 10 men who want to get him alone when that plane lands, and teach him something about manners and respect. Probably several women too. What’s he going to do? Cause a fuss that gets the story in public? Let’s his boss and coworkers know what he is? Lets the police get involved and give him *their* opinion of women-hating bullies?

    These are all weapons at your disposal. Show him what his future looks like if he doesn’t grow the fuck up.

    You need to stop telling yourself you are weak. You are not. Bullies are, and that is why they seek to dominate where they see an easy target – to try to cover their weakness.

    • Everywhereist

      Ammon, thank you so much for this, especially the first three lines, which spot on what a medical professional told me as well.

  • Amanda Broach

    Sending all my love and support your way. You are fantastic. He is terrible. I lose my faith in humanity sometimes (this is case and point). But then someone like you comes along and says exactly what needs to be said (again, case and point). Thank you for being you. Don’t feel down about any of this and how you could have “handled it better or different”. You handled it exactly how you knew how to at the time, and I personally think you did very well under the circumstances. Just continue being your bad-ass self! You are right, he will get his. It is headed his way and he doesn’t even know it. I am a firm believer in karma. I hope you get a lot of rest and I hope you have a nice day.

  • Amanda Broach

    Also, this should definitely be filed under the “dick move” category lol

  • Ronni Nimps

    I’m so sorry that he did that! (Actually, “angry and disappointed” fits better than sorry.)

    He put you in a no-win situation – either confrontation (not fun for normal humans!) or silent acquiescence. Give yourself props for doing the best you could.

    • Everywhereist

      Holy crap, this is exactly how I and Rand felt – there was a no-win situation!

    • Everywhereist

      This is EXACTLY what I said! Almost verbatim. Thanks for the support, Ronni!

  • I definitely don’t think you are over-reacting — I probably would have reacted the same way. In fact, I’m shaking a bit just from reading this. It disgusts me that people get away with shit like this all the time.

    Like many people below, I’m frankly shocked that the flight crew didn’t have the police meet him at the gate after landing — especially after you mentioned that they discussed the possibility. The man physically SHOOK the chair that you were sitting in — that’s assault! What if you’d had an injury that he had aggravated? Not to mention the verbal assault, which is just as physically harmful to those of us prone to panic… If I were in your situation, I think I’d contact the airline and question their reasoning for not having him arrested — not taking these situations seriously only leads to more situations like them in the future, and no one needs that.

    As for the people who think you’re overreacting… they should count themselves lucky that they’ve never dealt with a person so horribly vile that they actually think a situation like this could be exaggerated. I’ve met my fair share of self-entitled dickwads, so I definitely believe you. And, to anyone who thinks this is a simple matter of whether or not people should be allowed to recline their seats, they’ve completely missed the point. There is never an excusable reason to speak to another person the way this man spoke to you. Ever.

    • Everywhereist

      Thanks so much for this, Erika. You’ve said everything I’ve wanted to say.

  • RAH

    disgusting behavior and i agree that you had every right to be shaken up with anger and disgust and fright. i (as a male) would have been just as shaken when dealing with such a person. He is a kid, no more. Well done to you and your handling of it and it broke my heart to see your pic post-upgrade. may you 9and any decent human) not face such torment every again.

    • Everywhereist

      Thank you for such a kind and empathetic comment, Rah. I really appreciate it.

  • Nick Fisher

    Wow, I think the author fits the definiton of “whiny bitch” quite precisely. As for the girly man she was travelling with, well…. :O

  • I will just say, in the hopes that it provides even the slightest consolation, that this was NOT the end. In the end, this man is stuck with himself. While that might not mean much now, considering he’s obviously ignorant to his own fallibility, in the *end* end, when he’s alone at night in a room by himself, he won’t have what he wants. And, with even the tiniest bit of introspection, he might realize that he’s never really had what he’s wanted — that the seat in front of him will always be empty, so to speak. Because real life and love and laughter elude a person like that. And he will never understand why. Not, at least, until the very real end. Once you realize that, the only thing you’ll be able to feel when you think about him is pity.

  • pumpkin 22

    Rand is such a wimp

    • ckokopuff

      Hmmm. Hiding behind a made up avatar, insulting her husband. What a brave soul you are.

  • brizone

    Major, UNFORGIVABLE #fail by British Airways! I hope you’ll consider taking legal action against BA directly, and file a complaint against them with the FAA. I wonder what would be required for them to take something like this seriously? A passenger having a heart-attack and dropping dead as a result of such an incident? Would THAT get them to have the plane met by police? Good thing you apparently don’t have a heart condition…

  • Beth

    I can’t believe it. Horrible.

    And it is actually quite easy for me to see how Rand may not have noticed. As someone who has had a panic attack or two, I have often had to tell my husband what was happening. Its not at all obvious, even to a loved one.

    I’m just sorry you had to deal at all. I’m sure your heart was racing the whole rest of the flight.

    • Everywhereist

      Thanks for being so empathetic and understanding, Beth. I actually didn’t have the panic attack at the seat – it was much later at the back of the cabin.

  • Marshall Simmonds

    Yes yes I know violence is never the fucking answer but those boxing classes you took?

    Fist + Face seemed an appropriate response (and I’ll admit I was kinda hoping for that type ending).

    Then again….you handled it much better.

    +100 EPs for walking away.

  • Chlorine Allene

    That behavior is terrible! I had a less brutal experience also on british airways from london to SF in their regular economy seats. I tried putting my seat back ~30 min into the flight to feel it suddenly be pushed back up and the guy behind me loudly saying ‘no no no no no i need the room for my knees. you can’t put your seat back.’ I was in such shock (yea. just from that. no clue what I would have done in your situation!) I put it up and decided the best thing to do was just go to sleep. it didnt occur to me until after I was off the plane that I should have brought it up to the flight attendants! T_T

  • SmallBlondeChic

    I am so sorry this happened. Thank you for being brave and writing about it.

  • Everywhereist

    Thank you so much for this comment. Especially the last line. 😀

  • Everywhereist

    YES. Thank you for this.

  • Everywhereist

    I love you.

  • Everywhereist

    I am so, so sorry Kelly. The truth is that abuse can happen to anyone. Anyone. It doesn’t mean you aren’t strong or successful or wonderful or worth it. I am so sorry you are going through this – I hope you have a strong support system. I’m so glad that you are getting out.

  • Holly M.

    You definitely did the right thing, and from the sound of it you were very brave through the entire thing. I understand everything you’ve said here, as I have panic attacks and have had an experience like this too of blatant narcissism and abusive behavior; but never on a plane! You weren’t overreacting. He was being a jerk. Thank you for sharing this difficult moment with us, I know it couldn’t have been easy.

  • jetsetter

    out of curiosity – did you ask him why HE gets to recline his seat but you don’t? I would’ve loved to hear his response.

    I’m a flight attendant and definitely would have had police meet him upon landing. He’s an unruly passenger, unwilling to follow crew instructions. Should even be blacklisted from flying my airline in the future. I’m glad they upgraded you… but as I got up I would’ve left the seat reclined 😉

  • Kailynn

    I freakin’ hate that man – and I hate the unbalance between men and women. I know that fear you are speaking of- it nestles in the stomach and then surges to every inch of body. Thank you for sharing your experience – it creates a connection (although an unwanted one) between those of us this bullshit has happened to.

    We have to all keep standing up to bullies.

  • Mr. Smith

    This makes me so very angry. I’m shaking from just having read it. I’ve been trying all morning to complete a sentence that captures my anger and sadness that you had to endure this, and that there are people in the world who somehow think being that way is in any way acceptable.

    You are brave and smart and kind. And I’m sorry this happened to you.

    • Everywhereist

      Thank you, friend.

  • Georgia Brander

    I know exactly what you mean about being scared of escalation. A couple years ago I was on a bus to a ferry to take me home after a long day. There was a man on the bus striking up conversations with just about every woman, and I did not want to deal (ironically I had been at an event where Gloria Steinem had spoken about feminism and women’s rights!). I figured it was well within my rights as a human to decline a conversation with a stranger. He disagreed.

    When he realized I wouldn’t respond, he called me a bitch, an “ice queen”, asked if I was from outer space, and kept saying stuff like “you’re lucky there are cameras on this bus.” When I informed him what he was doing was harassment, he exploded. I walked to the front of the bus and totally broke down. The bus driver was amazing, called the ferry terminal and the police. The guy took off from the ferry terminal (and was eventually picked up by police – surprise surprise he was on parole for crimes of violence against women). I was terrified I would be stuck on a ferry with him. The ferry staff and security were wonderful and stayed with me until I got on the ferry.

    The whole time I was blaming myself for not just responding to whatever stupid excuse he came up with to talk to me so it wouldn’t have escalated, as if it was my fault. We are so trained to be polite no matter what. I totally understand your response, both during the confrontation and afterwards. Sorry you had to go through that, especially on a plane!

  • Geraldine- First of all, Aside from being livid, I’m sad that you had to experience that. I hope you can purge it soon and it never haunts you again.

    The attendant that said he is a bully is likely spot on. Odds are good that he has always been a bully. And bullies do what experience has shown them they can get away with, doing it to the people with whom they can get away with it.

    I’d like to also offer a few words to the small number of commenters that felt they needed to criticize or lay blame, too (thankfully, the vast majority are supportive).

    First, it’s very easy to say “you should have done this” or “I would have done that”. But until you are actually IN such a situation, you have no idea what you’ll do. So the best policy would be to keep your Monday morning quarterbacking to yourself.

    Second, to make comments about Rand not “stepping up” is totally out of line. First, he was asleep – a fact the asshole that pulled this crap probably realized, or he might not have had the nerve to do/say what he did. I’m pretty sure that if he had been aware of what happened, Rand would have stepped up and put a stop to it, in whatever way was necessary. Unfortunately, even if the other guy had started throwing punches, by even defending himself, Rand would have still been arrested upon landing. The federal guidelines and laws are pretty clear on altercations and their consequences.

    Finally, as angry as most of us are about this incident, a few seem to have lost sight of a very important aspect… a point Geraldine made in her post. Your mothers put up with this crap. Your sister may be putting up with this crap at this moment. Your daughter may have to put up with it tomorrow or next year. If it was rare, isolated instances (because there will always be some sick SOB that crosses the line), it wouldn’t be so bad. But it’s more than that… it’s a pervasive attitude that might makes right and women are weak and men should rule… is that really the sort of life you wish your sisters and daughters to live? Because by not helping to stop it, you are condoning it, and that pretty much assures that they’ll have to put up with it, too.

    So if you’re content to tell yourself that acting enraged on an online blog post or Twitter is doing your part, go now and tell your daughters what to expect… they can thank you later.

    • Everywhereist

      Thanks so much for this, Doc. I appreciate your support so much.

  • Jack Duncan

    So if a Jim and Jane are walking down the street and Jane is assaulted by someone else should Jim just stand there? Or if Jim is being assaulted should Jane just stand there?

  • William Russell

    Quick take my picture, I’m having a panic attack. FFS.

  • Rick Thomson

    I call bullshit, a flight from London to Seattle comes nowhere near Nova Scotia. Iceland, Greenland, Baffin Island, the Northwest Territories, Alberta, BC and then into Washington state.

    • Everywhereist

      Uh, okay? Rand was guessing.

  • ckokopuff

    What is amazing to me, beyond your composure on that flight, is your empathy toward others who are sharing their stories with you in solidarity. What a kindhearted person you are. Asshats are abundant. Kind souls are in short supply on this earth.

  • Johannah Harper

    First time commenter just coming to say thank you for sharing this story. I’m so sorry you had to deal with this. This seems like you handled it with grace, and with so much well-spoken assertion. <3

  • DrJustino

    Geraldine,
    I stumbled across your story from another travel site, and I am REALLY sorry you had to go through this kind of treatment, but I think you can be PROUD of yourself for how you handled it, you are a model human being! I can’t say I understand the feelings/experiences women have regarding everyday violence, aside from what my own mother has shared with me regarding her abusive 2nd marriage, and as a man, my own experiences with violent confrontations are colored by my own gender. The point is that violence, physical/emotional/verbal/other is never to be allowed/tolerated in a public space, against anyone, of any gender or background.
    What I am curious about regarding your horrific experience, is if this violent man had one of those seat-recliner blockers in place, or every time you were trying to recline, he was just pushing back against your seat? The seat recliner blockers are officially prohibited by all airlines, so if he had that in place, that was grounds for expulsion. Regardless of what was actually happening (and it’s not like you were taking notes in real time!), he was preventing you from operating the equipment of the plane, and doing it in a threatening/mocking/hostile manner. What I only say regarding that experience (and of course it’s easy to dissect it after the fact) is that you should not have hesitated to call on the crew the instant he raised his voice at you / got physical with you, because they are in charge of the cabin and have every right to take action with him.
    People can behave very poorly in public, I have friends that work for airlines and have shared all sorts of stories, and I’ve witnessed bad behaviors myself. Also, I’d like to add that I work in healthcare and have seen people act all manner of crazy at the hospital (which can be seen as similar to an airplane–a confined space outside of their home turf). Your panic attack was a true reaction, and a fittingly scary one for you, and makes this experience all the more damaging for you, because now just the thought of it could trigger more down the road. I would encourage you to share your experience with your healthcare provider, who may want you to explore a management of this experience and possible future ones, e.g. counseling/cognitive behavioral therapy.
    One last thought, regarding those criticizing your husband. Yes, you are a couple, but it’s not up to him, as the man, to defend you — those are dated gender roles. You two strike me as very modern and equal-minded, and from the sound of it, you did everything you should have done in that situation. I think you rightfully analyzed that if you had gotten him involved, it may have escalated even more, and made things worse for you (such that the crew might have treated the situation differently, with two men essentially fighting over the experience of a woman between them).
    Again, I am so sorry you experienced such despicable behavior from a passenger, and I am glad that you took the time to share it, so that others could talk about it and learn from it! I hope that British Airways acts as well–maybe they need to ban him, or take away miles/points (as it sounds like there were no police/security actions taken, but then that gets into another “can of worms” in terms of you pressing charges, legal action, court filings, blah blah, that ultimately may just hurt you more emotionally down the road, that that it excuses/condones his behavior in any way).

  • That’s too bad. I honestly just cannot stand bullies.

  • Emily Saunders

    I also suffered verbal abuse on a plane once for reclining my seat. You should have seen the look on the woman’s face as I got up to disembark. She had failed to notice I was 6 months pregnant – with twins! I know we can’t always use pregnancy as an excuse, but when in doubt stick a pillow up your shirt.
    But seriously, any disturbance while 30 000 in the sky is bad enough – being abused is shocking. I hope you’re feeling ok.

  • Bravo Bravo
  • Thomas

    To be able to prevent you from being comfortable enough to sleep while mostly everyone was asleep and while he was himself being comfortable, to be so unilateral as to ask you to be the only one to act for the benefit of him and only him, and to go physical about reclining your seat (noooo! not the seat! the seat! aaaaah the horror!)…

    That was a serious first-class moron.

    Overreacting is something real but sometimes it is just about that: reacting. It’s not like it’s your choice or anything. There’s always that dimension playing anyway. And he definitely knew it and played on that. This made him all the more ridiculous to feel you were overreacting when you walked away. As if he was such a delight to be around and you just couldn’t wait to help him since he asked you so graciously.

    You probably encountered not just any kind of first-class moron but the kind that competes in insufferable dickhead contest. This one seems like a winner. Which, in the end, makes him a loser. And still an insufferable dickhead.

  • Mikołaj Śliwiński

    First world problems. I’m a woman and I’m going to point it out very clearly in my article, so every one of my internet friends will be on my side.

  • Rachel Sullivan

    Love and solidarity, Geraldine. Yes all women.

  • I know I’m really late commenting on this, but wow. I am so sorry you had to deal with that jerkface. I hope you can find some peace on your next flight and never have to deal with someone like that again, but as you pointed out, that’s not likely because women deal with unacceptable behavior like that all. the. time. :'( Sometimes I get so angry and sad at the same time about the way women have been treated for the entire history of the world. It’s not right. Hugs and peace to you.

  • P.S. I wish you someone had gotten a sneaky photo so we could do some internet sleuthing and expose this guy for the jerk he is.

  • Sounds an incredibly unpleasant experience and one no one should have to go through. My two daughters both would prefer to sit in the last row of the plane i.e. with no one behind them, so that they can recline without feeling guilty. As expat children they have flown often since they were tiny. I guess we’ve all received intimidating glares or noises directed at us – which I presume wouldn’t have happened if we were male.

  • itstoospicy

    This is a horrifying story and I’m genuinely sorry that you had to interact with such a shitbag. I’m also proud of you – which maybe sounds weird from someone who is not your mom – for standing up for yourself. I would have immediately acquiesced to his demands and then spent the rest of the flight wondering if I’d really been in the wrong or not – I’m trying to get better at reacting in the moment, but it is so, so hard. What a fucker that douche is, and you are brave and strong. <3

    • Everywhereist

      Thank you so much for this. I really appreciate it. And you know what? I love hearing that someone is proud of me, whether they’re my mom or not. 😀

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