How do you tell an older gentleman that he has an airplane seat headrest cover attached to the back of his sweater?
You remember when US airplanes used these “disposable” covers on which you could securely rest the back of your head without the worry of cooties from prior passengers. Well, they still have them on Air India planes. And since the velcro part wears off, they fall off a lot and, in this case got stuck to this fellow almost as if some prankster patted him on the back with a “I am a dork” sign.
It’s unnerving to say anything, right? Not only is the language barrier a problem in this case, but how exactly do you start that conversation? “Sir, you’ve got something hanging on the back of your shirt.” Or, do you try to grab it as he walks by in hopes that he won’t notice and doesn’t hit you with a karate chop? It’s a no win situation. It’s like if someone is dragging a piece of toilet paper on their shoe or something is hanging from a person’s nose. You don’t want to intrude into their space, but the dorkiness will remain if you stay silent. What’s the civil thing to do?
Just the other day, before leaving for India, a buddy with whom I was breaking bread, said: “Don’t move” and then he proceeded to grab a string of cheese or something that was dangling from my beard. No offense was taken for several reasons: First, he is a friend and had earned the right to invade my space. Second the warning helped for if he had just reached for it I may have tackled his wrist with my left hand and planted a jab to his jaw with a right hook. Finally, I would hate to think that he’d have to stare at whatever it was for the rest of the evening. Of course the question remains—how often has food been hanging from my beard and no one did the civil thing to tell me. Is this why people often stare at me?
To give this a spiritual spin—in reference to the sin of others, Jesus noted how easy it is for us to see the speck in someone else’s eye as opposed to the board protruding from our own. He wasn’t saying that we should just mind our own business because He does talk about dealing with the sins of others. But the reality is that many of us have our own issues on which we should concern ourselves. Our intrusion into others might be a sin issue in and of itself.
By the fourth pass of my seat the headrest cover was no longer attached to the back of this gentleman’s shirt. Either someone was more civil than I and let him know or the velcro is really that weak. And now, it is probably attached to someone’s shoe.
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