Coffee, Cigarettes, and Aggression



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. 

An idea

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.

Collateral damage

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 consequence

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.”





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8 Responses to Coffee, Cigarettes, and Aggression

  1. cipher3d says:

    This is just too funny! You couldn’t have requested to be “downgraded”? My experience with KLM has always been phenomenal.

  2. No matter what anyone say, a french press is so much better than any other kind of coffee I’ve ever tested. If you have some of time, take a peak over to the french press guide we’ve put together at Thanks for the post!

  3. Hello could I reference some of the insight from this entry if I reference you with a link back to your site?

  4. Lauren says:

    What a great story! I didn’t realize there were still airlines that allowed smoking on board. Too bad the cup of coffee wasn’t bigger huh? Those airlines and their little cups

  5. Why on earth do people want to smoke? I’ve never figured that one out. My father always called it a a cancer stick instead of a cigarette ha. Whenever I see somebody smoking it just makes me sick to the stomach to think of what they are doing to themselves. Oh well, you can’t win them all. That’s my rant for the day lol.

  6. That’s unfair, smoking beside for non-smokers….. They just give you a big health problem though.

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