Big Brain Little Brain Fasten Your Seatbelt SignThere is so much to deal with when it comes to traveling these days and there are so many opportunities to let our Little Brains get activated. This is the first of many comments to come, on the subject of travel.

Listening to a good friend talk about her recent flight highlighted just a few things that could cause some problems when flying.

On a 9:20 am flight from New York to Los Angeles my friend, who was at the end of a long business trip, opted to trade her aisle seat for a window seat hoping to get some rest on the flight. It was almost time for the doors to close and the middle seat next to her was empty. For a fleeting moment she was thinking how lucky she would be if the seat were to remain empty… it was not to be.

A few minutes before the doors closed, the last passenger stepped onto the plane, sloshing his briefcase, magazines and two freshly made chili dogs. He sat in the middle seat next to her. The smell of the chili was powerful and the odor carried throughout the plane. Her Little Brain wanted to say something “Really, 9:20 am and you’re eating chili dogs.” But her Big Brain helped her say nothing.  She sat trying to rest her head on the window to get some rest as the odor wafted over from the culinary feast of her fellow passenger.

Then he took his shoes off. Again her Little Brain wanted to say something “Really? Chili dogs and your shoes off. Are you trying to kill me?”  But she said nothing.  She sat in quiet.  Her Big Brain reminded her of how long the flight was and that there were no exits at 30,000 feet. Then the Pièce de résistance : He was a nail biter, the entire flight.  I can’t repeat what her Little Brain wanted to say here.

For 5 hours, she sat taking in as much air as that tiny little nozzle above her seat would expel.  It was not enough.  Finally they landed. As she sat waiting for the passenger next to her to leave, she vowed two things: The first was to never give up her aisle seat for a window again; The second was to petition for the return of odorless and tasteless airline food.  She laughed at her own comments in her mind.

Smells can easily activate the Little Brain, the same way poorly chosen words or tones can.   My friend, to her credit, did not say anything on the plane. She realized that, given  all the other things she was dealing with, had she started the flight with a comment, she would have created more tension that would not have helped.   Although she would have felt good saying it in the moment, the legacy results would have been one of the worst 5 hours of her life.

When you are traveling keep in mind that what ever you are dealing with will soon be over with because you are traveling and not stuck for too long.

© 2011 Kevin T. McCarney. All rights reserved.



3 Responses to Airplanes and Little Brains

  1. Yes Kaye,

    You are absolutely right.
    Sometimes we just don’t think about it in the moment. The other concern would be on a full flight who would volunteer to sit there?

  2. Kaye Winter says:

    I actually think she could have asked to be reseated in this situation. This other passenger was not behaving in a reasonable or even civilized manner. Airplanes, of all places, are where civility and compromise are paramount.

  3. wilberfan says:

    Could there have been an appropriate BIG brain comment at the END of the flight? Or is this just one of those “no win” situations?

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