Q: I was returning to California with my wife and son. We had a layover in Las Vegas and were getting ready to board the plane as "early boarders."
Upon boarding, we saw that the first location with three seats together was seven rows back. As I approached those seats, I noticed a small paperback on the aisle seat. I assumed that someone had left it behind. When I reached for it, the man in the seat across the aisle (7C) told me it was reserved for his wife, who had a later-boarding pass. I said it was against Southwest policy to reserve a seat and asked him why she couldn't take the seat beside him. He replied, "Work with me, buddy." His demeanor made me really want to sit in the seat, but my wife and son told me to leave it alone.
After we were seated, I observed others attempting to sit in the "reserved seat" and getting the same treatment. Eventually his wife arrived and sat there. As the plane filled, he stretched out and appeared to even inflate himself. Incoming passengers looked at the seats beside him but figured there would be more room elsewhere, so they moved to the back of the plane. When I thought everyone had boarded, I noticed that this guy had the only empty seats left beside him. He had a look of victory on his face.
But then, the last passengers arrived -- a couple with a lap infant. You should have seen the look on my favorite passenger's face as they sat beside him. I have never enjoyed the sound of a screaming child, but I did that evening. Better yet, the baby vomited all over 7C. He demanded a new seat (can't blame him this time), but the flight was full. His only option was a flight attendant's seat in the rear of the plane. As he walked back to it, our eyes met, and I winked. I just couldn't help myself. Karma doesn't often appear in such an obvious fashion, but it did on that flight.
A: Nothing makes my day like a good travel-karma story. Thanks for sharing! If anyone else has a similar tale to tell, please send it in.
Q: My cousin is having her wedding in Napa Valley next September. She recently sent save-the-date cards. I thought, great, I'll try not to book anything that conflicts with her wedding. But I live on the East Coast and am not certain I'll be able to afford to travel out there. My mother happened to mention this to my aunt (my cousin's mother), who was highly offended. Apparently she thinks save-the-date cards mean, "You'd better be there." My mom offered to pay my way, but I'm a little ticked off. I'd like to be there -- I love my cousin -- but I'm just not sure I can. And I'm a grown adult, so I don't want to have my mother pay for my airfare and hotel just to keep her sister happy. What should I do?
A: Sending a save-the-date card is not like planting a flag in unexplored territory and claiming it for Spain (or England, or France, etc.). Save-the-date cards are intended as a way of letting people know about your wedding; they in no way obligate the recipient to attend.
Your aunt is totally out of line. I would thank your mom for her offer (which is generous of her), but tell her that if you go, you'd want to pay your own way. Assure everyone that you are keeping the date open and will try to be there, but you will not be able to make a decision until closer to the wedding date.
Email travel-etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at email@example.com.