Lessons from hours screaming in a metal tube


An article from the Singapore Financial Times has given me the confidence to share some travel stories of our own from Clara’s and my recent Singapore and Kuala Lumpur trip. I’m not sure what we did to enrage the travel gods, but each leg of the trip was an adventure.

The flight from Sydney to Singapore was, in retrospect, the better one. We were seated towards the back of the cabin, but two shrieking infants close to the bulkhead fired on all cylinders continuously for eight hours. It was the most blood curdling crying I’ve ever heard, and it hit just the right note to trigger anxiety attacks, like I was overhearing someone being tortured and that I was next. I didn’t get any sleep, but the poor parents looked far more exhausted as I walked past them to get some exercise (not necessarily to avoid DVT, moving just does more to calm my nerves than anything else).

Between Singapore and KL on an Aeroline coach, we were sitting behind a tour group who were enjoying themselves so much, they had to shout all their stories between each other for the rest of the cabin to hear. In French, for four hours. We had brief respites when a few of them would take a nap, but a rest stop or food time would wake them all up, and they’d start again. I quantify it as shouting, because you could still hear them on the lower deck.

The worst was the bus trip back, where a small child who had learned enough words to speak a few sentences screamed them at his parents. I feel for the pain and stress parents must be under, but these ones were actively encouraging him the entire time. Again, fine for a bit, but by the four hour mark it had worn thinner than an appropriate analogy I would place here.

And then, who could forget the flight back, when a woman sitting in the row in front pulled out her phone and started playing movies with the external speaker. Not to be outdone, the woman sitting next to me began talking loudly to herself about inconsiderate people, in between racist slurs. This emboldened the woman with the speaker phone, and Clara and I were caught in the crossfire.

There are a few lessons here. The most obvious, I need to be less sensitive. The world is full of inconsiderate, obnoxious people who will never change; I can let them get to me, or I can become water. Two, I need some industrial-grade, noise-cancelling headphones. And three, I need to be more assertive.

I think the noise-cancelling headphones will be the most likely.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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