Upgrade to hell
Getting an upgrade to business class on a flight to Amsterdam en route to NYC seemed splendid. But I soon discovered that I was upgraded to one of the two rows for business smokers.
The person on my left
The person to my left smoked Camel cigarettes. He had a pack of cigarettes on his table and he smoked a cigarette every 20 minutes. It was disturbing and I considered asking him not to smoke. But this was his right! He bought a business class ticket to the smoking section. I was just an upgrade, but even as a full-fledged businessman I would not have had the right to ask him not to smoke.
I had another idea. When breakfast was served I had a cup of coffee on my tray, and the pack of Camel cigarettes was on my neighbors’s tray bordering mine. If I were to accidentally spill all my coffee on his pack, this may take the cigarettes out of action!
It was not an easy decision. Will it work? Is it morally justified? I hesitated for a while and then went for it.
The coffee spilled right on the pack and then found its way through the tray directly to the lap of the passenger to my left. The few minutes of hesitation made it less damaging, but it was still bad. I apologized and offered help. The passenger thanked me but rejected my help.
The damage to the cigarettes
I was curious to learn what the damage was to the cigarettes. So was my neighbor. The pack itself was soaked with coffee. When opened it turned out that one cigarette was completely ruined and 4-5 were wet. But there were still 10 cigarettes ready to be smoked.
The passenger on my left was nervous and he started smoking on the double, one cigarette every 10 minutes.
The person on my right
And then something really unexpected happened, the person on my right started smoking too. He had a strange way to puff out the smoke (through his ears?) that made big clouds of smoke all over me. Asking him to stop was not an option. It would only have raised suspicion about the coffee incident. I just waited helplessly to land in Amsterdam.
Telling it at home
Thinking that this story has a profound educational moral, showing the clear limitations of aggression, I told it to my family when I came back home. When I finished telling the story I noted that my children, ages 13, 10 and 6 at the time, looked very puzzled. “Children” said my wife, “this was a nice and funny story, but there is one thing you must realize. It didn’t really happen.”