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WIBU to ask her to stop, and WSBU to refuse?

(34 Posts)
queasynow Tue 20-Sep-11 09:57:32

I was on a plane coming home yesterday evening - short-haul, 3 hours. The woman next to me got out loads of papers as soon as she sat down and was making notes from them immediately, with the individual light on. Her male companion was sat across the aisle from her.

She'd obviously been attending some sort of conference as the heading of the notes was CHILD ABUSE and the various subject headings were fairly grim as was the text she was reading/making notes on.

Now, I had a very abusive childhood and have had years and years of therapy to try to deal with it. When I saw the papers - and she kept spilling them out onto me, she dropped them on me at least twice - I could feel a panic attack was coming and felt awful. I was in the middle seat (she was in the aisle).

I thought maybe she'd put away the papers when we took off (she didn't, she put her tray table up spilling more papers on to me and then put it back down immediately we were in the air), or when they brought round drinks etc but she said no to refreshments and kept on.

Then she started discussing child abuse over the aisle with her companion. As she had to raise her voice to do so I could hear what she was saying very clearly. By this point I'd been trying to stay in control for almost an hour and couldn't stand the thought of doing it for another two. I very quietly explained that, while I was pleased she was working to raise awareness and support the victims of child abuse, as an adult child of an abusive family I found being near her very triggering (I usually hate that word but it truly was), and suggested that either I swapped places with her male companion or she did. I was very very polite and spoke extremely quietly.

She refused and said that her work was important and she needed to make her notes, she didn't want to move or swap with me, she was 'comfortable', and "what do you want me to do, not ever work in public in case it upsets someone?" She also said "you've obviously had a lot of therapy to feel able to talk to me, I applaud you for that", but kept right on.

I got very distressed and ended up asking the person next to me (in the window seat), to swap with me which he did despite being completely bemused. The rest of the flight was terrible and I have had a really really bad night.


NinkyNonker Tue 20-Sep-11 09:59:37

She was being insensitive I feel.

LyingWitchInTheWardrobe Tue 20-Sep-11 10:00:02

You're being unreasonable OP. The woman should have kept her papers to herself but you didn't have to read them, did you? I would have thought a heading like 'child abuse' would have had you reaching for your novel or lying back and having a snooze or anything other than focusing on what she was writing. confused

NinkyNonker Tue 20-Sep-11 10:01:26

And surely she shouldn't be working on cases in public anyway?

LyingWitchInTheWardrobe Tue 20-Sep-11 10:04:16

She wasn't though, NinkyNonker. It was from a conference. As long as the OP's personal space wasn't invaded (I suppose it was by the dropping papers and talking to her colleague around the OP), then how is it anybody's business?

I regularly hear things I don't like, I just have to tune them out.

fedupofnamechanging Tue 20-Sep-11 10:04:37

I think it would have been good manners for her to either stop working or swop seats with you.

She might well have a right to work on the plane, but she doesn't have a right to invade your personal space by spreading all her work out for you to see.

I also think she might be in the wrong job, if she can't show any sensitivity towards victims of abuse. Do they stop mattering once they are adult?

diddl Tue 20-Sep-11 10:07:08

Why didn´t you ask her companion to swap with you?confused

NinkyNonker Tue 20-Sep-11 10:07:34

There is a difference between something you don't like, and something inherently disturbing to others. The subject of child abuse falls into the latter, even for those who haven't suffered it. As this lady was sat next to someone who was a victim, I would expect her to show more empathy if she works in the field.

I don't think she was unreasonable on terms of the papers, just the conversation.

ICantFindAFreeNickName Tue 20-Sep-11 10:08:27

Poor you, she should have taken up your offer to swap seats with her companion.

queasynow Tue 20-Sep-11 10:10:59

I didn't feel able to talk past her over the aisle (I'd've had to raise my voice pretty loud), to her companion. It took a LOT to say something to her and that was just over a whisper. What if he'd asked me why I wanted to swap or been horrible? It would've made it much worse for me.

It's difficult to describe but I was literally sick with adrenaline.

FetchezLaVache Tue 20-Sep-11 10:11:00

FIrstly, I'm so sorry this shit happened to you in the first place and that you were put into this situation.

I think she WBU. You might have been able to avert your eyes, but she was discussing the subject in a loud voice- how are you supposed to ignore that? In a setting like that, she can have no idea who might overhear and be affected by it.

You didn't ask her to stop work, you simply asked to swap with either her or her colleague in order to get away from a situation that was distressing you. She strikes me as the kind of person who does terribly important work in the field with conferences and pieces of paper, but doesn't seem to have much empathy for actual abuse survivors.

F5 Tue 20-Sep-11 10:11:51

You'd think that someone who attended a conference on child abuse would be slightly more sensitive to a victim of it though? Surely?

diddl Tue 20-Sep-11 10:13:09

Could you not have asked her to ask her companion to swap?

auntmargaret Tue 20-Sep-11 10:14:13

What Fetchez said.

FetchezLaVache Tue 20-Sep-11 10:14:42

diddl, haven't you read the OP

"suggested that either I swapped places with her male companion or she did"

diddl Tue 20-Sep-11 10:14:50

Or really that should have occured to her.

If she couldn´t be arsed to move, she should have at least made it possible for you to.

And people talking across an aisle for a whole flight is generally rude bloody annoying.

raspberryhead Tue 20-Sep-11 10:14:58

Agree with karma, she's in the wrong job if she can't show a little kindness when it's asked of her. I work in this area and am really careful when travelling by train etc not to wave my work (clearly only training materials) around. Just as I would be if I was a surgeon looking at graphic pictures in textbooks. It's not everyone's cup of tea and we need to respect that.

I think YADNBU. If it had been me sitting next to you I would have been mortified I had upset you.

TheVermiciousKnid Tue 20-Sep-11 10:16:48

I have just come back from a conference. The topics were admittedly not as harrowing as child abuse, but on the whole still very sensitive and potentially upsetting to some. If I had been discussing any of this with a colleague on the train home (for example - I wasn't!) and somebody had raised concerns similar to yours, I would have been (a) mortified that I had upset them in the first place!, and (b) stopped talking, toned down the conversation or moved as appropriate.

She was very insensitve and seems to lack empathy, especially considering the area she works in!

diddl Tue 20-Sep-11 10:17:17

"suggested that either I swapped places with her male companion or she did"

I completely misread that as either OP or annoying woman actually swapping places with companion, not AW asking her companion.

chinam Tue 20-Sep-11 10:23:16

I don't think you were BU, and as others said you would imagine people in this line of work would be more sensitive in dealing with people who have lived in abusive situations.

TotemPole Tue 20-Sep-11 10:23:40

I think it's inappropriate of her to discuss child abuse in that situation. It's a sensitive issue, you don't know who can hear.

I would have thought it easier for them both if they were sat next to each other anyway. I don't understand why she didn't agree.

bringbacksideburns Tue 20-Sep-11 10:27:31

No yanbu. You asked her politely. The woman is an arsehole and devoid of empathy.

Hardgoing Tue 20-Sep-11 10:30:41

She is just horrible. She could have swapped, kept her voice down, or done any number of things not to upset you. Rationally, she has the 'right' to do her work like that. At a human level, she should have responded to your very quiet request. I'm sure she goes to lots of conferences and talks about empathy and hearing people's 'voice', when actually confronted by it, she's an old bag!

dreamingbohemian Tue 20-Sep-11 10:38:52


I work/study in a field that is generally upsetting to others (along the lines of war crime victims) and I'm often reading or discussing things in public that would especially be painful for people from certain countries or with certain experiences.

I always try to be subtle when doing so, and I would immediately stop if asked by someone. I mean, immediately, no question, of course.

This woman was beyond rude, there is simply no excuse other than she wanted to show off how important she is, or something -- I honestly can't explain it, it's so rude.

You should be proud that you managed to say something to her and that you managed to keep it together, however sick you felt on the inside. I'm sorry you had to go through something like that.

queasynow Tue 20-Sep-11 10:58:20

Thanks guys. It really helps to hear from other people in 'sensitive' professions too.

I did think that if the situations had been reversed I would've been utterly mortified and stopped right away. Even if I was talking about cats and someone's cat had just died, I'd hate to cause someone pain however inadvertently!

I am proud of myself for saying something and not totally breaking down but I am having a really bad day today.

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