Ask Mr. Etiquette Guy

The self-entitlement fairy has been working overtime the last few years, as more people barrel through life like society's rules don't apply to them. So Mr. Etiquette Guy is here to answer all your questions and help you feel superior to your ill-mannered family and friends who breathe with their mouths open and still say "liberry." Let's check the mailbag.

"Dear Mr. Etiquette Guy, when I flew home for Christmas, I requested a window seat so I could enjoy the view. The person in the aisle seat demanded that I close the window shade because he wanted to sleep. It was 1 o'clock in the afternoon! Then the guy in front of me leaned their seat back so hard, it bruised my knees. Was it inappropriate of me to whack them with my lunch tray? Signed, Grounded in Albuquerque."

Dear Grounded, Wait, you got lunch? Seriously, the state of the airlines these days. I can barely get a drink and a snack on my flights, and here you're getting an entire lunch? Air travel is not what it used to be. Still, if they bring an airline seat, you bring a lunch tray. That's the Chicago O'Hare way.

But that's not your question, is it? So I'll say, yes, it was inappropriate of you to beat your fellow passengers.

Having said that, it was completely wrong of the first passenger to demand that you close the window shade. Demanding is rude. At the very least, he should have asked nicely so you could politely tell him to eff off.

You selected your seat for the view — majestic mountains, the rolling plains, the Great Lakes — which Aisle Guy wanted to deprive you of. Closing the shades is like flying in a coffin; you might as well fly in the middle of the night. And if the other guy wanted to sleep, that's what he should have done.

The only people who sleep at 1:00 PM are babies, the unemployed, and people who work from home with the phone ringer on high. You weren't in the wrong to want the shade to be open, he should have bought a sleep mask. They're for exactly this purpose.

The jerk who smashed his seat into your knees was also wrong. People don't seem to realize, or conveniently ignore, that most people only have an inch or two between their knees and the seat in front of them. When you lean your seat back, you're actually physically hurting the other person.

Given the airlines' fetish with cramming additional seats into their cattle transports, I think people shouldn't lean their seat backs at all. But if you want to, you should politely ask the person behind you first. If they say no, then that's your tough luck. And if someone does it to you, politely ask them to lean their seat up.

Better yet, stick a full water bottle in your seat pocket so they can't lean back at all.

Next time, Grounded, take the train, which it sounds like you'll be doing for a while anyway.

Next letter:

"Dear MEG, I recently got married and asked my guests to not bring their young children to the wedding. I put it right there on the invitations. Despite that, one couple brought their 4-year-old and infant to the wedding and reception, so my event planner asked them to leave. This caused some hurt feelings, and the couple retrieved their gift from the gift table before they left. Were we wrong to kick them out? Signed, Low Tolerance for Noisy Kids."

Dear Lo-Tonk, what was the gift? Was it expensive? Maybe you should have—never mind. You were not in the wrong, the knuckleheads who ignored your request were. Your wedding is your wedding. You're only going to have three or four of these, so you want it to be special.

Many of us have been to a nice restaurant where some feckless parent lets their kids run around screaming, ruining everyone else's dinner. It's completely understandable that you want the most important day of your adult life to be brat-free so you can avoid a similar experience.

When my wife and I got married, we asked that people not bring their small children to the wedding. We had a couple people get upset with us, but on the other hand, our ceremony was not marred by the caterwauling of a child whose mother was too self-absorbed to take the kid outside. And if someone didn't come to the wedding out of protest, I honestly didn't notice. My mind was on more important things.

The self-entitled parents who brought their kids thought the rules didn't apply to them, especially on a day that wasn't about them. You were perfectly within your right to ask them to leave. And I suppose all things being equal, they were entitled to take their gift back. You're better off without it and them.

(Mostly them. I'm still wondering what the gift was though.)

That's all we have time for this week. If you have more questions for Mr. Etiquette Guy, please post them to and we'll answer them to the best of our ability. In the meantime, use the commonsense your mother raised you with and be nice to each other.

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