Snakes (and social dilemmas) on a plane!

Robin and I got on board the plane back to Seattle from O’Hare, as usual, getting in line a little later rather than earlier since we see no point in waiting in line to board. Anyway, I know what the point is now, I guess… to be a jerk and claim crazy overhead bin space.
When we got to our seats we noticed that someone was already sitting in one of our seats. That was easily cleared up by looking at the woman’s ticket. What was troubling was that there was little room in the overhead bins for our fancy new carry-ons (mine a backpack/roller thing and Robin’s a pretty green roller thing).

Looking around, there was a very nice spot right above our seats that was taken up by a little laptop bag. It was an awkward space, though–one of those mini-compartments only big enough for one standard size carry-on. I saw plenty of other places near-by where the little laptop bag could fit, thereby making room for my carry-on. So I picked up the laptop bag and announced that I was going to move it. I didn’t want the owner to freak out when he or she couldn’t find the bag when we got off the plane. Unfortunately, I guess I should’ve been a little more tactful than just announcing. The owner freaked out and argued that he got there first and that it was my tough luck that I couldn’t find space for my bag.

Here’s a difference in the way I think and the way I think a lot of Americans think (lots of thinking going on here). To me, everyone on the plane is in a trip together and it was our collective task to make the journey as bearable as possible for everyone. To him, well… I think he didn’t give a shit about anyone but himself and was overly protective of his property. I dunno, maybe he had government secrets on his laptop or something.

So anyway, he got bitter but offered to put his bag near his feet. When I said thanks, he said “anything to suit you, buddy.” Whatever. I wasn’t going to press it since people were waiting and we succeeded in getting my bag up there. But Robin called him out and said that he was giving us attitude. Tensions were high, but nothing happened out of it.

A girl who we sat next to offered to let us move her bag so that Robin’s could fit. That was nice of her, but we didn’t need the space. Since the guy was sitting right behind us, however, I didn’t feel comfortable talking, so I didn’t talk to the girl much even though she seemed really nice. High school student near Seattle who’s dad is a superintendent and mom is a teacher. Oh well….

Here’s an example of how social dilemmas are socially situated. By the numbers, this was a classic social dilemma. The guy was only interested in himself and was making decisions based on his self-interest. I was interested in getting the plane going. My choices were much more cooperative, yet, in the end, enough people behaving the way I did actually benefits each of us individually more so than being selfish would have. Only… being selfish did benefit him in the sense that he didn’t have to exert any energy in cooperating and still benefited from enough of the other passengers behavior. (He was a free-rider…) But I wonder how much benefit he really had… I mean being an asshole all the time seems like it would take a lot of energy and add undue stress in life.

But maybe I am projecting.  It is possible the reason he gave issue was because he thought I was also being selfish.  That I just wanted to put my bag near where I sat.  I could see that, but it is sad when your world-view is jaded because you are jaded.

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2 thoughts on “Snakes (and social dilemmas) on a plane!

  1. Pingback: Me rude? « Mark Danger Chen

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