I texted my daughter an unkind remark about the woman, which the woman saw; she would have had to make an effort to see what I was writing.
The woman became upset, and I felt terrible.
I apologized profusely. The flight attendants even got involved.
We were both silent for the rest of the flight.
At the time I chastised myself for writing something snarky about my seatmate, but the more I thought about it, I wondered if I needed to feel so bad.
After all, the remark had not been directed at her, and she took it upon herself to read a private communication.
What do you think?
— Testy Traveler
Testy Traveler: Your seatmate failed to “read the room,” but some travelers are nervous or excited and choose to distract themselves through chatter (I have now trained myself to respect my seatmate’s privacy until at most 10 minutes before landing).
Your seatmate also failed to read you, as someone who knows how to smile and act politely without actually being polite or kind.
You have the right to think whatever snarky thoughts you might have, but when you commit them to writing, your thoughts will take on a life of their own.
No, she should not have read your text, but she did read it. (I’ve seen this referred to as “shoulder surfing,” and you’ve probably done it.)
Your question to yourself should be: “Should I have written the text in the first place?”
If your middle school child reported to you that she wrote a snarky note about a fellow classmate, but the classmate intercepted it, read it and responded badly, would you encourage your child to justify her own actions the way you are doing?
Generally speaking, if you feel bad about your own behavior, then go ahead and lean into that feeling, because there is a high likelihood that you behaved badly.
If you want to move through a world that is gentler, more respectful and kinder, then the better behavior might as well start with you.
And — while I’m at it — let us acknowledge the often thankless role of flight attendants, who are there to see to our safety, but end up using their valuable time and energy negotiating this sort of nonsense.
Dear Amy: I suppose this is a minor matter, but I've lost touch with some very close friends during the pandemic. Honestly, I was just feeling down (fortunately, not sick). I wouldn't describe it as depression but more as just not having any energy.
I'm feeling much better now, but I'm a little unsure about how to pick up the pieces of these friendships.
Distant: I believe that your situation is probably extremely common, as many of us seem to have been in a state of torpor.
I prescribe ... postcards!
Write out a sincere message. Here’s a start: “Dear Friend, I’m sending this postcard from my couch, where I seem to have spent the past year or so. I am so sorry that I seem to have fallen off the edge of the world, but I am emerging now. I hope you will forgive me for not being in touch, and I am crossing my fingers that you’ll still take my calls, so we can resume where we left off.
I’ve thought of you so often and truly “wish you were here!”
Dear Amy: "Worried Dad" was concerned about his 9-year-old son because the boy's mother (Dad's ex), commented that he was "getting a belly."
As a retired K-8 school nurse, I was keenly aware of the kids' body images during puberty. I'd like to remind people that this boy is near the prepubescent age when children often gain weight and become chubby before the growth spurt of puberty, after which they usually return to their more normal weight pattern.
This could be a teaching moment for the dad and a way to help his son feel okay.
Maybe an understanding dad will help bolster the son against his mom's sharp tongue.
— Former School Nurse
Former School Nurse: I appreciate your insightful “diagnosis.” Thank you!
2021 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency