Why Do People Come Up Right Next to Me?

W arning: if you are looking to read an article whose topic is of a significant issue, then — pardon my poor grammar — this article ain’t it.

One thing I did not mention while I was waiting outside approximately one hour and 45 minutes for the shuttle to take me from the airport in Madrid to the hotel at which I was staying is that one person decided to sidle right up to where I was sitting before lighting up a cigarette and smoking it — despite there being many other places he could have stood…

…and this was not the first airport at which this has happened to me, as I have experienced this similar phenomenon at Chicago O’Hare International Airport and other airports around the world — even in areas where smoking is not permitted.

While watching a short movie in what was otherwise an empty small theater in Yorktown in Virginia to find out more about the history of one of the first colonial settlements in the United States, several people decide to sit in the same row as me; and almost right next to me as well — despite having a choice of seats, none of which are basically any better than the other. Why did they decide to sit close to me?!?

On an airplane where only middle seats are all that are available; time is short and the flight attendants announce that passengers still boarding can take any available seat; and the last few passengers are boarding, one of them inevitably decides to sit next to me — whether I am seated in the window seat or the aisle seat.

If I am seated in an airplane where the load of passengers is rather light and I am in a row of two seats, there have been times where a fellow passenger would reposition himself or herself to sit in the unoccupied seat next to me — often for the remainder of the flight.

Why Do People Come Up Right Next to Me?

“So I have an upcoming AA flight in a few weeks time (nothing exciting, just a domestic run between MIA and BOS)”, posted FlyerTalk member pmanchuk. “The first thing I found interesting was when purchasing the ticket a couple weeks ago, none of the 16 F seats were showing as occupied, so I happily had my choice of absolutely any seat. Granted I realize that occupied on the seat map does not equate to the actual booked tickets, although I do find this route to usually be fairly popular up front (and most seat selections made per the seat map well in advance) — for example, my BOS – MIA return a week later is only showing one seat up front available for selection.”

When pmanchuk took a look at the seat map again when attempting to order a meal prior to the departure of the flight, “low and behold, aside from myself, there’s now one other seat that’s been selected… the aisle seat right next to me.”

Although the aforementioned experiences I have imparted were in person, I have also experienced this virtually as well multiple times where I would check the seat map of an airplane and find someone seated in the middle seat next to me.


There are those rare times where the middle seat next to me remains empty for a flight — but they are few and far between.

This is not a problem for me by any means — unless a smoker is right next to me; and the corollary is that I am always downwind from the smoke no matter where I move — but it has happened to me often enough for me to wonder why people either stand or sit near me multiple times when they have a wide choice of other places which they can occupy.

I am not complaining — I just find it odd; and yes, I realize there are significantly more pressing issues in this world to discuss. I can understand if the other person has nowhere else to go; but when there is plenty of space, why come next to me of all places? I do not find anything about myself to be extraordinary — as in similar to a scantily clad and shapely woman who draws men to her like a magnet…

…so perhaps I am far from the only person to whom this happens — as with FlyerTalk member pmanchuk — which prompts me to ask: has this ever happened to you? If so, with what frequency?

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

20 thoughts on “Why Do People Come Up Right Next to Me?”

  1. colleen says:

    Between “Debbie Downer” at Bern’s and “Mr. Cranky Pants – Hey you kids get off my damn lawn” here, are you just having a bad day today?

    I wish you better times. There are a lot worse off than us this week.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      You are absolutely correct, colleen — there are a lot worse off than us this week…

      …but I can assure you that I am not cranky or having a bad day — just honestly imparting my thoughts and observations in two separate articles.

      Hmm…“Debbie Downer”…I hear that muffled instrument playing “wah waaaa” now in my head. I have not watched Saturday Night Live in years.

      Thank you for wishing me better times, though. I wish the same to you and everyone else as well — and I sincerely mean that.

  2. Vik Murthy says:

    You might want to consider inserting the words “Up and Right” between the words “Come” and “Next” in your headline. Then again, you might generate more clicks with the current headline.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Thank you for your suggestion, Vik Murthy. I have taken you up…er…I mean right up on it and changed the title.

      I honestly do not think that way when I write a headline for an article…

  3. Adam says:

    Sometimes I am forced to choose a seat next to someone when the 2nd row aisle of first class is taken. I always take the second row window on the D side. Weird, right?

  4. A says:

    I’m guessing that you are almost always near the front of the plane, and people prefer that. And you probably give off signals you’d be a decent seatmate-not playing loud music, talking on a cell phone, being significantly overweight, or smelling bad.

    As far as the smoking thing, humans are social animals. When I was a cashier, it was surreal how often there would be no lines and then all of the sudden we’d be hammered. Smokers seem to be more social than most (so many small talk conversations over breaks) and if you hadn’t gotten kicked out of place for smoking, then it must be ok. Or they could pin it on you, at least.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I am not a smoker; so I never really thought of smoking as part of being social, A.

      As for always being near the front of the airplane: I have thought about the flights on which I was a passenger in the past several years; and I have not always been seated towards the front of the airplane…

      …but I did notice on one crowded flight that one person had an entire row to herself in the very last row of the airplane; so that makes sense.

      As for me giving off signals, you might be right: not too long ago, in this article I wrote…


      …I stated that “Come to think of it, many people also approach me to take their photographs with their cameras. I, of course, comply with their requests; and they are usually quite grateful.”

      Those are some good points, A. Thank you. I appreciate them.

  5. caveman says:

    Have you ever thought why bees flock around flowers and flies around honey. May be you are so sweet that people cannot resist staying away from you.

    I read somewhere that the best way to keep seat next to you empty is to wear a disposable dust mask. No body wants to risk sitting next to cold and flue.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      You know, I initially thought you were kidding when I first read your comment, caveman — but you might actually have a point.

      Regardless, the point of the article is more of curiosity than seeking advice as to how to keep people away from me. I already wrote that it is not a problem for me and I am not complaining about it — I just wonder why I experience what I experience…

      …although — come to think of it — I am not sure I want to be the type of person which people purposely avoid, either.

      I must admit that when I used to experience contracting colds years ago before I learned how to properly wash my hands and avoid being sick, I could be sneezing, constantly blowing my nose and look like death warmed over — and yet people still wanted to shake my hand.

      That, I will never understand, as that is the best way to spread a contagious illness such as the common cold…

  6. Phoenix says:

    Maybe, JUST MAYBE, you’re a handsome, strappin’, sexay dude that appeals to both sexes SO MUCH people can’t help but throw themselves at you? ;D

    In all seriousness, as caveman hinted at, some people just give off a kind, genuine aura that others just subconsciously pick up on and are attracted to. I’m not even sure if science has an explanation for it beyond pheromones and somesuch, but I’m pretty certain it’s there. Sounds like you might just have this.

    So I’m a bit jealous Brian. Just a little.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Yeesh, Phoenix — even I almost threw up a little in my mouth after reading that first sentence!

  7. Abdul says:

    Maybe you smell good?!
    I don’t know, I’ll show myself out…

  8. smittytabb says:

    If you are ever in Madrid again, don’t ever wait for a shuttle. Barajas Madrid is one of the cheapest and easiest airports to reach the city center. You can take a metro for a couple of Euros straight from the airport. You can take a renfe train to Atocha station and then a metro for a couple of Euros or you can take a 5 Euro bus from the airport to Atocha and then a taxi or metro. It has incredible public transportation options!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Thank you for the helpful tips, smittytabb. I appreciate your input.

  9. Captain Kirk says:

    I suffer from the same problem. I just don’t get it. All the room in the world and they sit/stand/converse/smoke/eat right on top of you. I just don’t get it. Another one I don’t get, people who try to shove into an elevator/tram/subway train even before those getting off can take their first step. I say right to them when they try “Let us get off FIRST!” The older I get the more ignorant/selfish/stupid people I see in the world.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I cannot tell you how many times I encountered what you described when I rode as a passenger on the New York City subway system for years, Captain Kirk — especially at rush hour, when it was really irritating.

  10. DUDE!!!! You look like Matt Damon! That’s why everyone wants to gets near you!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      How many times do I have to tell you that I do not look anything like Matt Damon, Ramsey’s Rants, Miles and Points Secrets?

      Please keep posting here, as I enjoy reading your comments.

  11. Jeannine says:

    In Europe/Asia I’ve watched the old “stand next to person in front of line and start smoking like crazy” can often make person in front leave, thus placing smoker in front of line.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Interesting, Jeannine.

      If that ever happened to me, I would stand my ground and cover my nose with my shirt…

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