Barry Kaufman | June 21, 2016 3:49 PM ET
Yeah, But What Would You Really Do?
As the political season has shown us time and time again, the science of polling isn’t an exact science. Even beyond the standard margin of error, there’s also a very human impulse to answer survey questions with the absolute ideal of how we think we would respond.
What I’m trying to say, politely, is that most of us are filthy liars.
This was driven home to me when I saw the results of the Travel Leaders Group survey on passenger behavior. This is not to cast aspersions on the survey itself, or the wonderful professionals behind it, but rather this is my own doubts about the honesty with which people are capable of answering questions like this.
In the calm atmosphere of the survey, we might view this platonic ideal of a nasty airline situation and forecast our actions as that of the cool, collected mature adult. Of course if we see two passengers involved in a fight we’re going to summon the authorities, not get involved, and do our best to help create an atmosphere of peace and harmony.
That’s how we answer the question, anyway. According to the survey, 73.3 percent of respondents would alert a flight attendant if they witnessed passengers fighting during a flight. According to reality, 100 percent of them would whip out their smart phones and film it for YouTube.
In the same survey, 54.8 percent of respondents said they would summon a flight attendant if they noticed a child behaving badly. My experience tells me that if “Give the parent crazy side eye and mutter a bunch of passive aggressive remarks about discipline just loud enough for the parent to hear” were an option on the survey, most people would have chosen that. If they could be that honest with themselves.
“Say something directly to the person” was the overwhelming response given to questions about people reclining their seats into our laps, listening to music without headphones and tapping on the touchscreen in our seatback.
I’m sorry, but no. You might think you’d say something directly to the person, but what you would most likely do is bury your face in your Kindle, silently seethe with misplaced rage, then rant about it on Twitter afterward.
Maybe I’m cynical. Maybe years of traveling with small children and an admittedly low tolerance for other people have corrupted my own data set here.
All I can say is I hope so. I hope in these situations most people would do the right thing — summon a flight attendant to diffuse a bad situation, be direct with fellow passengers who are bothering them — and be the person they tell themselves they are in survey responses.
Because the last thing the world needs is more filthy liars.
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