Recently, I was sitting in a center seat on an airplane. The man on my left was self-important and oblivious. I could tell by his loud phone call that didn’t end until the flight attendant asked him a second time to turn it off, and worse–the way he subconsciously rubbed his elbow against my forearm every time he pressed the space key on his laptop.
I tried to ignore him. I tried to forgo an armrest of my own and place my hands neatly in my lap. (Passive.)
I tried to give him a stern look every time he elbow-rubbed me. (Passive-aggressive.) He didn’t notice, anyway.
After thirty minutes or so, I couldn’t take the rubbing anymore! So I wrote the girl on my right the following note just to make sure that I wasn’t being over the top in my irritation:
The guy on my left keeps touching my arm-ever so slightly-with his elbow. It’s happening about 5x per minute. I want him to keep his elbows in his own personal space! Am I being unreasonable? (Pro-active. A term made popular by the so-called skincare line.)
The girl next to me assured me that I was appropriately perturbed. I decided to be assertive. I said to the rubber, “Every time you use the space bar, you rub my arm like this.” Then I elbowed him–kinda hard. Kinda harder than he’d been elbowing me. (Aggressive.)
He stopped after that.