Going Going

I got up today (I’d say this morning if I believed for a second that 4:30am was morning) and staggered back to the airport, where I was seated in the chair that they’ve engraved my name in, I’m here so much. (That is totally not true but it’s got to be coming.) I was only been home for a few days this week, just long enough to talk to my family, snuggle a grandson, go to a Bike Rally meeting, nail a deadline and wash my clothes and put them back in my suitcase.  I like travelling, I really do, and for the most part I’m good at it. I sort of like hotels, and airplanes are good for knitting on, and I’ve always liked restaurants. (People bring you food and clean up afterwards. What’s not to like?) I don’t really get all that jet lagged, compared to some people I know, and there are usually interesting people and knitters and yarn when I get where I’m going. I know all this, and I can tell you that I am a professional and tidy traveller,  absolutely who you want to be behind in the security line, and I can make 9/10 border agents smile. I show up to the airport early so I can be the nicest person in the joint, and I amuse myself very well during delays.

Speaking of amusing, other than on instagram have I shown you what I’m knitting? It’s Autumn Lace – by Nancy Marchant, of course – and I’m charmed to no end while knitting it, I tell you that.  Two colours of mohair/silk, the green is my old friend Cracksilk Haze in Jelly, and the other is a Cracksilk Haze substitute, Debbie Bliss’ Angel in some brown colour that today I’m calling “ball label in suitcase”.

autumnlace 2017-11-09

I’m having a ton of fun knitting it, and the only thing that I don’t quite love is that every time I get off of a flight I’ve got so much greenish mohair stuck to me I look like I murdered a muppet.  In any case, It’s been me and this fluffy extravaganza on flight after flight after flight, and despite being really good at travel and mostly being cheerful about it, this morning I had another human just about spoil a 5 hour flight from Toronto to Vancouver (one more flight to go, and I’m almost at Port Ludlow) and I have absolutely no recourse but to tell you about it.

I got on my flight, and assembled my knitting, got out my headphones, selected a show, and established my craft zone.™  Everything was fine when buddy comes down the aisle, masquerading as a normal person, and plunks himself in the seat next to mine.  I nod politely, headphones in, and proceed to properly and studiously ignore him. Over the course of the next 5 hours, the following occurs.

  1. Before we take off, dude taps me ON THE LEG and asks me while I have my headphones in, if I have internet (I do) and if I will make a hotspot for him so he can text his sister. I am so stunned by this that I do so. I still can’t explain this.
  2. Dude interrupts me about a billion times (all while I have my headphones in which I thought we had all agreed was the international signal for not going to chat with you) to ask me separately, and always preceded by the tap on the leg –  the following. A) Where do I live?  B) Do I like that place? (This question comes 15 minutes after the first, as a separate interruption. C) Where did I get my glasses? (He has recently learned he needs glasses and is considering Walmart. This is not where mine are from.  D) Do I like the show I am watching? (You may all infer the internal answer.) E) does it bother me that it is a sexy show.  (It is The Handmaid’s Tale. It is not sexy, it is actually sort of the opposite.)  F) Do you have to purchase meals on this flight? G) A thousand other things.
  3. He manspreads his legs so wide that I have little room to exist, even though I am not very big.
  4. He leans towards me, shouldering into my space and forcing me to either cuddle with him or flinch against the plane wall. (Naturally, I choose the latter.)

Finally (although there was so, so much more) he tells me that his mother used to knit, and he thinks he could too, and then (holy cats I swear this is true) he proceeds to explain to me how many things he could make if he knew how to knit, and relates in intricate detail – all absent any actual knitting knowledge, how I could make a sweater if I wanted to. He tells me I would need a front piece, and a back piece, and some sleeve pieces, which I could “sew together” to make a sweater. He draws the shapes of these pieces on his tray table. He says he thinks (like he is probably the first to consider it) that you could likely make many things this way. Making shapes with knitting, and then fastening them together in various ways. He waits, at the end of this speech, for me to thank him (I do not, and it is a little awkward) before he tells me more about his knitting theories, and how many things he knows about it, because it is “common sense” that this is how it would all work.

He stops just short of patting me on the head and says that he could knit if he wanted to, but for (of course) that he has a job to do, and thusly, could not knit on planes, but maybe “some other places” but that most likely he doesn’t have time. You know. I somehow magnificently manage not to point out that he’s done absolutely nothing for the last 5 hours except bother me. Not read a book, not watched a film. Not napped or looked at the inflight magazine for the love of wool. Nothing. NOTHING I almost scream, and then I notice that I’ve been shedding green mohair all over him and for one perfect second, I hope he has an important meeting, and I am quietly happy.


347 thoughts on “Going Going

  1. OMFG WTF sorry to curse in your comments, but, really? Really? REALLY??? Gah. It’s almost like the time a dude mainsplained mansplaining. UGGGHHHHH.

    I am so sorry you had to endure that. I hope the mohair stuck to his clothes for a week. GAAAHHHHH.

    Love and hugs to you, and OMG so much alcohol, in whatever form is best agreeable to you.

    • The new “On Day at a Time” on Netflix (I really like it. Rita Moreno!) had Schneider mansplain mansplaining and I was like EXACTLY and shot daggers of meaning at my husband.

    • It would have been awfully karmic if he’d run into some micro-glitter on the way to his important event. That s**t doesn’t come off with a lint roller!

  2. Thank you for the delicious description of your annoying adventure. I’m travelling on Monday (with my knitting of course) so this struck a particular chord. I actually laughed out loud in my office.

  3. Five hours! Horrors! I don’t know why you think you needed to be polite to someone like that. I think I would have told him *(lying through my teeth) that there was an important lecture on those headphones on which I was being quizzed on at the other end of the flight.

    • Can we pretty please not condescend to women about how they need to behave when faced with misogyny? It doesn’t help – if anything, it just adds to the stress and anxiety to know you must react in the most perfect way, lest you be judged.

      • I didn’t mean to be condescending, and I wasn’t judging. And I am also Canadian. I don’t think Stephanie “needs to behave” in any particular way, and she certainly doesn’t need to be perfect. I was just fantasizing an alternative scenario to give myself some peace.

        • I mean, let’s face it–part of what we LOVE in your stories, Steph, is the vivid contrast between your outward reflexively polite behaviour and your internal state of outrage/thwarted plans for revenge and/or righteous correction of All That’s Wrong and oh-so-Ridiculous….we can relate!!

          And you really are such a genuinely decent person that your occasional urges to stick a needle through someone’s hand reassures us that we, too, are not beyond hope! =)

  4. AHHHH! I have also dealt with men like this on airplanes. Yuck yuck yuck yuck! It is awful and sometimes totally impossible to escape, particularly when travelling alone or for work…
    My best response, with years of travel behind me, (on an international flight,) when dude was touching me and smelled bad and really really took all my space, etc. was to get up to go to the bathroom, and my very large husband switched seats with me when I came back. DH shoehorns himself into my seat. Small stinky man was immediately squished into his own seat. Somehow, he refrained from touching DH at all. What a surprise… (ugh.)

    • I had similar situation on last flight.. I was sitting by window, husband next to me and then stranger man. Hubby and I got up to use washroom and hubby upon returning took window seat (fine, I always get it 😉
      Get off plane and ask husband if stranger mans legs touched his several times, did he sit near spread eagled and hog arm rest?? NO!!!!

  5. I would have guessed he was about seven years old but then I remembered you are magnificent with seven year olds. The whole thing was appalling. Please consider telling the flight attendant he keeps touching you and ask to have him moved if it happens again.

  6. “I look like I murdered a muppet” – this made me genuinely chuckle at a time when I needed a chuckle (I just finished posting the last of my first quarter grades and am bracing myself for the blowback that often occurs). And I share in your momentary joy that you shared your knitting with him in the same way he “shared” his lack of being able to read social cues with you.

  7. You know I adore you and don’t believe in blaming the victim, especially when she is the avatar of politeness under siege — but have you ever heard the term “freak magnet?” Thank goodness your superpower is transmuting suffering into story.

  8. I have had that happen. Only once have I had the nerve to ask the guy to please take his legs out of my leg space, because I did not want to spend the entire trip pressed up against him. He was embarrassed but it was so worth it.

    • Wow, that sounds so simple yet I’ve never been able to do that. I think I’ll memorize the “I don’t want to spend the entire trip pressed up against you” because that really is what’s happening if you don’t shrink away from them.

    • Sigh. Yes, crack presents a terrible social problem. So does murder. Which makes the “I look like I murdered a muppet” statement objectionable as well, I guess. Really, speaking for myself, I’m probably not going to stop using these terms….

    • There would be no blogs, no comedy, no interesting stories of any kind and certainly no humor should we go down the road of avoiding every topic, noun, adjective, verb or term that might potentially be slightly uncomfortable to someone.

  9. Should there be a special call button for ‘cornered by a mansplainer’? It feels as if there should. The captain would come back and explain to the mansplainer that he wasn’t to speak for the rest of the trip on pain of being thrown off at 20,000 feet.

  10. Well, you have certainly made me rethink my theory that I would be happy to talk to my neighbor if they wanted to talk about knitting! And the mere idea of a non-knitter mansplaining knitting to a knitter raises my blood pressure.

  11. It really does sound like POTUS. If he knitted, his knitting would be the BEST. He would be the greatest knitter, everybody knows that.

  12. Touch me on the leg once to get my attention – I will flinch visibly at the intrusion, especially if I have headphones in and am concentration.

    Touch me again, and I will LOUDLY accuse you of either violating me, or assaulting me, and this WILL draw the attention of the flight stewards. Oh believe me it will, because I am a loud person by nature, and I will only get louder (when I am speaking evenly and quietly, you should worry that I may be about to stab you).

    Otherwise… “You could make a sweater, you say? Goodness, that would set the entire clothing industry on its ear if you could knit a sweater. Like the one I am wearing, and that I knit for myself.”

    • I agree wholeheartedly. These people need to be put in their place immediately. I am NOT good at confrontation, but he would have been asked if he would approve of his behavior towards me if it were being shown/ done by a stranger to a significant woman in his life. Now think about that for 5 hours and leave me alone.

    • Too bad there wasn’t a handy copy of any YarnHarlot books, that could be whipped out in response… “You know that’s an intriguing thought, I read a similar theory in this knitting book that … oh wait! I WROTE this book. Well, gosh isn’t that funny”

  13. My internal assertive self is shouting “Stop being nice!!” I know shutting people like that down is uncomfortable, and some men will react badly, call you names, and retaliate, but telling them to leave you alone is the only way to get even a little peace. I used to be too nice about interruptions in public–people frequently interrupt my Netflix and knitting–but then I decided that it’s MY time, and I don’t owe them my attention. I will acknowledge them once, but after that I will ignore them or politely inform them that I am busy.

    It took a long time to get there, I will admit.

    • I’m with you – and I would immediately set boundaries about no touching! But hey, I’m in Iowa, we’re raised to be assertive!

    • People on the autistic spectrum are NOT defective. “But for the grace of God?” I have a child on the autism spectrum. She’s a great kid — and the best damn traveler you’ve ever seen. Puts on her headphones and listens to Pandora. Being autistic doesn’t mean you are an asshole. Yes –she doesn’t always pick up social cues. That doesn’t mean she would ever act like this. Not everyone is neurotypical — doesn’t mean they are defective. Do some research before you all make assumptions. Or better yet — go and talk to folks on the spectrum. You’ll find out folks on the spectrum vary as much as people NOT on the spectrum.

  14. Sorry about your ordeal but the description of your seatmate sounds like he is on the autism spectrum. You were patient and polite, hard as that was, and I give you credit for it. I always think , There but for the grace of God…

    • Exactly what I was going to say – sounds like he’s on the spectrum. He doesn’t seem to be aware of any social cues, he just wants to say whatever is on his mind. It’s not anyone else’s responsibility to help him deal with that, but a little compassion – even in retrospect – might be appropriate.

      • I was thinking Asperger’s (and getting a bit cross, actually). He may have been scare too
        My son’s girlfriend will read out loud to me ev er y one of the Terms and Conditions of a mail order website, when I only want the postage prices.
        PS I do love Steph’s blogposts, ‘murdered a muppet’ – spat my tea out!

    • Just what I was thinking, especially about him naming the things he could knit, and how each part could be put together. Sounded like my grandson who is on the spectrum. After not seeing him for about six months, my grandson came into the kitchen, jacket on, and within inches of me (while I was cooking) went into great detail about the Black Hole. I thought he was coming over for a hug! Or to say hi! First thing out his mouth (and for a good ten minutes straight) were Black Hole theories. Yes, “there but the grace of God go I.” I love my William. I’ve learned there are many ways to communicate and think. But it will always be a bit sad.

    • People on the autistic spectrum are NOT defective. “But for the grace of God?” I have a child on the autism spectrum. She’s a great kid — and the best damn traveler you’ve ever seen. Puts on her headphones and listens to Pandora. Being autistic doesn’t mean you are an asshole. Yes –she doesn’t always pick up social cues. That doesn’t mean she would ever act like this. Not everyone is neurotypical — doesn’t mean they are defective. Do some research before you all make assumptions. Or better yet — go and talk to folks on the spectrum. You’ll find out folks on the spectrum vary as much as people NOT on the spectrum.

    • I wondered about Autism too. Missing social cues, not understanding about personal space boundaries, sometimes chatty and overstating the obvious as they discuss thoughts that are occurring to them. Reminded me of some the charming autustuc students I have encountered over the years.

      • My first thought was also autism spectrum. I wonder at what point it’s acceptable to say something like, “I don’t want to chat”. My son is Aspergers and I have to be very up front about my expectations and needs with him.

    • For what it’s worth, as a teacher librarian with students in the autism spectrum (and as a human who encounters socially clueless other humans occasionally) I believe in the value of being blunt in a the kindest way I can. I.e., “Hey, would you mind moving your legs back into your own space so I have room for mine? Thanks so much.” and, “I’m sorry to cut you off but this is a really great book/show/song and I just want to focus on it right now. Thanks for understanding.”

    • I doubt *very* much that he was autistic. He sounds like a narcisstic but otherwise neurotypical adult. Sadly, there are plenty of those around. My son is on the spectrum and this doesn’t sound like someone on the spectrum to me. For one thing, usually if they’re going to go on and on about something, it’s something they are interested in (40 minutes about Napoleon, for example), not trying to tell someone who is doing something a better way to do it, or their own theories of how to do it.

      And certainly not all people on the spectrum want to make conversation with a stranger. On the contrary, I would think most of them would rather not deal with the exhaustive process of trying to talk to a neurotypical person. I know my son likes people but needs lots of time alone because trying to consciously read social cues or figure out why someone suddenly got angry or happy or whether he should be laughing at a joke or whatever is *exhausting*. He is great on planes. He wants to sit quietly with his thoughts, and he manages to not be too jittery. To be honest if I don’t knit I am way more jittery than he is on planes. To say this behavior sounds autistic sounds like entirely too much generosity to the person that sat next to Stephanie.

      I would say the thing that tips it towards not being autistic to me is that a) he kept initiating conversation in discrete points in time, rather than running through a script all at once, like kids who have gone through ABT or social skills training do (and I’ve seen lots of those kids, as kids and later as adults), and b) he talked about what she was doing, and the way he talked about it was not data dump, like, if you somehow ask my kid about history, an hour and a half later you will get a chance to get a word in edgewise. This person had theories but no facts. Asperger’s folks have facts, my friend. They know the compression ratio for a ’69 Thunderbird, or the exact distance along the shortest route from Mt. Rainier to Mt. Baldy. There were no facts, there were theories and ideas but no, “Computer code in its earliest form was for machines that were used for weaving.”

      I think this person didn’t read Stephanie’s social cues, but I think that isn’t only something people on the spectrum do. I think to some degree men are socialized to not care so much about women’s social cues, and this guy sounds like a pretty clear cut narcissist to me. He’s all, This is my idea of knitting, how it could be useful, here are the things *I* would do, if *I* knit. But *I* don’t, because *I* don’t have the time. That sounds like no person on the autism spectrum I’ve ever met. In my experience, they don’t talk about themselves like they’re the center of the conversation. They talk about what they like, and sometimes they’re not great at taking turns or realizing they’ve gone on too long.

      But this? this isn’t anything on the spectrum. Pure and simple narcissism. In my humble (but substantially correct) opinion.

      • I’m with you on this one Booa, my closest cousin (only 2 weeks older than I am) has what was called Asperger’s when we were little, and this sounds NOTHING like him. While he’s happy to talk for ages about the things he knows about and likes (I know more about BC’s Ferry system than I ever would’ve thought, but he’s my go to expert for travelling!), but something he doesn’t know about is another story entirely. Ry also would rather sit quietly on a plane and listen to music than ever talk to a random stranger.

        This does sound a heck of a lot like the guy who once followed me for multiple blocks on my walk to work one morning, continuously talking to me and completely ignoring all of my cues to leave me alone. Headphones in, not making eye contact, one words answers, and trying to walk quite quickly. The only thing that got me away from him in the end was I managed to beat him through a crosswalk and got far enough ahead in a populated enough area that he couldn’t catch up without looking like he was chasing me….

        This is of course just my perspective, but I’d always hesitate to jump to conclusions about strangers.

        Stephanie, you’ve got more grace than I can imagine! But then I once ‘accidentally’ poked a man with a DPN on a 11 hour flight because he couldn’t figure out how to keep his legs (of average length, I won’t judge extremely lanky people for minor space invasions, they’re rarely deliberate) in his own space, oops?

      • I agree with you 100%. My husband is an Aspie, & your description of what conversations with ASD adults are like, and how they’re different from what Steph experienced, are spot on. This guy just sounds like a jerk who doesn’t care about other people, and was trying to use another person to alleviate his own boredom. The ASD adults I know would never repeatedly initiate physical contact with a stranger – that’s the sort of thing that makes them really uncomfortable.

      • These behaviors she described are absolutely one hundred percent typical of Autism and the Autism spectrum. Not all Autists are afraid to initiate conversations and I’ve met far more that do NOT “data dump” than do.

        My own son will speak to whomever he wants, when he wants, about whatever he wants, b/c it’s really “all about him”.

        Over the years, we have discussed what is appropriate and expected and what isn’t. We have discussed that while a behavior might be comfortable for him, it might not necessarily be for neurotypical people and what signs he should look for to see that they are uncomfortable.

        Not every child (who is now adult…. especially who is now adult) had the benefit of therapy, books, interventions, etc.

        The vast majority of people with Autism will have a comorbidity of at least one other condition. In my son’s case, he has sensory issues and oppositional defiance. These comorbities will inform how their Autism presents itself to the world.

        So, while this might not have been your experience, it certainly does not make your experience “substantially correct” but, rather, merely your experience.

        I have a much hard time believing that a narcissistic male would a) care what the woman next to him was doing b) engage her on her “level” (her hobby, in this case)

        By the very definition of narcissism, he would have talked about himself, his hobbies, where he was going, what he was doing, what his job was, etc etc. Narcissists talk about themselves. That’s it.

  15. I am all for politely telling the truth – i.e., saying that you have published x books about knitting, that you look forward to travel as an opportunity to knit without interruption, and that he needs to stop touching you. If that doesn’t stop him – especially the touching – you tell him you will ask the flight attendant to call ahead to have him arrested for assault.

    • I agree. I am not Canadian, however, so I may not have done this politely and would probably have told him to buzz off right away.

  16. Does it help to think that the 182 other people on the flight are thanking you, for “taking one for the team”?

    No, it wouldn’t help me, either. I hate people always trying to find the silver lining when what we really want is validation.

    Oh, ironies: the robot-filter below is asking me to “Click or touch THE MAN”. Hahahaha. Gulp.

  17. This sounds like an encounter with my own grandson. He is verbal but has high functioning autism. He doesn’t get social cues AT ALL, especially personal space boundaries, and comes off as a bit “different” but looks very “normal.” Usually you need to be very blunt, like “Unless my headphones are off, I do not want to talk to anyone or answer any questions. This is because I need my time alone, not because I don’t like you.” There are many socially awkward people on this planet. I’m sure it was annoying, but my gut tells me this man honestly had no idea he was annoying you. I hope I didn’t come across as bossy or shaming. That wasn’t my intent. The story just hit home and sounded too much like my grandson, who truly has no clue unless each situation is explained and repeatedly reminded to him. (My daughter is truly a saint!) Better travels next time.

    • Thank you, I thought I was only one who had this thought. My son is a support worker for adults with autism and has to deal with people who don’t understand/realise their ‘differences’. I don’t want to come across as having a go at Steph tho, she is one of my favourite people in my computer.

    • Autism spectrum is totally what I was thinking as well. I think those of us who either love someone with ASD or work with people on the spectrum would recognize this a mile away.

    • Thank you for your views and information. It’s hard to read tone in comments, but I mean it sincerely. I hope that I can respond with clear but kind statements if I’m in a similar situation, and remember that the world is full of neurodiverse people.

  18. I am delighted that your project left murdered muppet evidence on him. He deserved it. By the way, murdered muppet made me laugh out loud! Scared the dogs. 🙂 Knit on, and hopefully your flight home will be more peaceful.

  19. SO MUCH UGH. Though I admit I have legit leg cuddled men on public transit who won’t stop their manspreading. I’m like, you’re the one that should move. I am DYING inside but I generally refuse to make room for them (in my space). It’s so weird.

  20. I’m so sorry that this happened to you, but so thankful that you are such a fabulous writer! I needed this laugh today.

  21. Next time, wipe your forehead and say, “I’m feeling really nauseous. I better stop talking. Is there a throw up bucket in your seat pocket?”

  22. I am sorry that you were cornered and subjected to five hours next to this awful guy, but I’m also near hysterical laughter at the thought of him explaining knitting and “sweater pieces” to The Yarn Harlot. That would be like me telling Stephen Hawking that I have a few ideas about physics and cosmology (because surely it’s really just common sense).

  23. Wow! Just wow! I think I would have tried to teach him to knit in order to make him be quiet while concentrated – anything to stop the talking. Anything.

    As for the touching, that will never be okay for people over 9. Never.

  24. You were far, far too polite. At the second interruption you should have just stabbed him with your knitting needles. They would have landed the plane and arrested you but it would have been worth it.

  25. I agree about the international sign of earphones. And I like Craft Zone TM.

    It’s weird that when people are rude to us, we too polite to be rude to them…

  26. Murdered Muppet! Oh dear, I’ve just (literally in the last hour) cast on for some top down mittens In a lovely mohair/acrylic blend in shades of purple/turquoise/green. I’ll end up looking like I’ve murdered *all* the muppets.
    Sympathy on your bad luck with the seat mate. I’d have probably been *very* sarcastic after the first few comments.

  27. Oh my. It sounds like he may have some real (and I won’t name here) social disorder. When people are THAT oblivious it is usually medical.

  28. It’s funny to me how many of you have Trump living in your head rent free. Steph, you were more than polite to a rude person who didn’t respect boundaries. Nothing wrong with being courteous. It reminded me of the granny who corrected you on knitting vs crochet that day. Also funny. I complimented a lady on her scarf today and asked if someone made it and she said she did, but it was crochet and she normally knits. Me too, I said and sat down to knit while waiting for my car to be serviced.

  29. Are you auditioning for sainthood? You could have asked the flight attendant if you could move to an empty seat (if there was one). You also could have loudly (so others could hear) told the jerk to keep his hands to himself. Or you could have just shouted something to the effect of: “You want me to do WHAT, you PERVERT?”

    Sorry you encountered such a jerk. Hope your return trip is much better.

  30. As an introvert and a fellow Canadian, I understand the urge to be polite or to at least not be rude, but dude, even I would likely have looked at him sternly and said, “You really need to stop talking to me now”. Seriously. I would have.

  31. Revenge is best served hairy. Heh.

    Many years ago, on a flight from San Francisco to Frankfurt (West Germany, that will tell you how long ago) I ended up between my traveling-partner uncle and another wide guy. For eleven long hours of manspread, I was folded in two. Oh, yeah, it was also a smoking flight.

    Today, my hips make me the spreader. Heh.

  32. OMG, what a creepy jerk. Years ago on a flight from London Heathrow to Montreal, I had a kid behind me with a fork the whole flight. Grrr! My last flight was with my husband and we had to figure out how to place our arms because of the lack of room. NB>Toronto>Atlanta, GA. Slightly squished

  33. I’m chiming in for team autism—and crying a little at all the impossibly cruel comments posted above. As the Mom of a delightful autistic boy, I invite you to learn more about the spectrum. I also advocate for kindness (creating a hotspot seems kind). But kindness can also include pointing out to someone that they’re invading your space. As long as you’re doing it out of real kindness! Stephanie, get to know some wonderfully quirky autistic friends and your world will be a better place!

    • Mother of an Aspie here – and he’s 28 which means he was diagnosed during a time when it was much less well recognized, so I’ve done my fair share and then some, of educating others on the topic. While I appreciate those lobbying for acknowledgement, accommodation, worldwide peace amongst those with different wiring, etc., it’s not always this.

      From her writing, Stephanie is a very accepting, patient and kind person (not saying she’s perfect, because who is?). In her very wide experience with other human beings, I am ready to bet that she has met people on the spectrum. Also ready to bet that if this person showed ANY signs of being “different” in any way, she wouldn’t have written this piece as she did.

      Some people just act like jerks and do not respect others’ personal space. It’s not necessarily a medical issue.

      • Thanks for writing this, Vicky. I was trying to figure out how to express something along similar lines, and appreciate you doing so. Well said.

      • Yes. Also, cannot everyone learn how to sit politely (ie, we don’t spread our legs onto others)? Not to touch strangers? Even when interpersonal cues are not recognized, cannot rote learning occur?

      • I agree. I wrote a longer comment above, and my son is a 19 year old on the autism spectrum, but…this doesn’t sound like autism. Think of your kids, do they go on and on about themselves, or about the stuff they like? How many times did this guy say “I”?

        I think this guy sounds like a narcissist. Pure and simple. Parents and relatives and friends of autistic and autism spectrum people need not be alarmed. This guy is neurotypical. He’s just a jerk.

  34. I’m so angry just reading that! I can’t believe you were stuck next to such an awful seat mate. Also, it was very Canadian if you to be so polite about it. Next time (please let there not be a next time) I say it’s still polite to say “Excuse me, but I really like to have quiet time on planes and not chat. Please allow me to continue”.

  35. In this telling, of course the story if awful. And I believe you when you say you had a creepy feeling.

    And yet the analytical part of me (and being analytical is an important part of my knitting life) wonders:

    Since this man obviously had some previous knowledge of knitting.

    Are there circumstances under which he would have been the hero of one of your charming anecdotes? If the whole Harvey Weinstein fallout (forget about Trump) hadn’t just happened, would he have seemed like a possible knitting convert and you would have taught him how to knit? Could he be “on the spectrum” and in fact genuinely interested in knitting and trying to practice being a social human being interacting with cool people?

    My conclusion at the moment–As a long-time fan of yours, I’m kind of turned-off by your attitude here.

    • Sometimes we have patience and energy to be gracious to people who invade our space and take away our peace, and sometimes we just don’t. Usually this determines whether we have a good day or a bad day. But more probably, it depends on whether we are having a good day or a bad day. I always admire people who respond to rudeness with patience and grace; I can’t always manage it.

    • Seriously? Let’s be ‘nice’ to a condescending mansplainer who invades our space and touches us repeatedly? Next you’ll be saying her skirt was too short and she deserved it. Oh yeah, and she’d be prettier if she’d just wear makeup and smile more. UGH! It’s time to stop being doormats for these people.

    • I can’t imagine why you’d be turned off. I was kind to him. I was gracious to him. I was welcoming as a human. I let him have my space. I gave him my hotspot. I listened to him explain to me about knitting. I told him where I bought my glasses. There is absolutely no way that he walked away from that interaction (all five hours of it) with less than a good feeling. There is nothing wrong with saying after the fact, that I didn’t enjoy the interaction – and it’s got nothing to do with Trump (why it would I don’t know) and I certainly don’t think it’s got a bit to do with Harvey Weinstein – I certainly don’t conflate bugging me on a plane with sexual harassment or assault. He was a plane jerk- I suppose it’s possible he was on the spectrum, but THAT’S WHY WE’RE NICE TO PEOPLE. We don’t know their story. My story for today though, is that I sat next to this guy, and this is what it was like. Inconvenient, and awkward. For me. I hope he had a good day.

      • Personally, given that you had to get up in the wee hours, I think you were positively gracious. I’d sit next to you on a plane any time and leave you alone. Not that it’s likely that I’ll ever sit next to you, given that you fly out of Toronto and I fly out of Montana (and hardly ever fly).

  36. Never let it be said there is no justice in knitting. As far as interference, perhaps next time, a sign on your shoulder that says, “I am deaf”. ???

  37. And to think that all I had to deal with in my 2 hour flight to Chicago was an annoying stewardess who kept watching over my shoulder while I knit a pair of cutest booties on the way and finished them and started a pair of socks on the 9+ hours at the airport it took to get home (storm delays)

    Here’s hoping he hasn’t gotten a lint roller and has to deal with looking like he had a cuddle with Oscar the grouch at a Very Important Meeting.

  38. I did not think for one second, that this man was Trump in disguise, but, I did actually think of using a knitting needle to poke him in the leg the 2nd time he even dared to touch me!

  39. “Had I only chose to learn I would have been a great proficient.” Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Pride and Prejudice. At least we know who he thinks he’s related to, and who knows? Maybe he’ll get tazed for a suspected muppet murder. We can only hope…

  40. I fly cross country for U.S. Thanksgiving soon and I shall bring mohair…..just in case I have a seat mate like yours. Payback is wonderful!

  41. 1) This is the most Canadian thing I’ve ever read.

    2) There was this one time when a kind person explained to me that “The Greeks invented the Olympics, you know.” I have a graduate degree in Greek archaeology – I faintly recall one or two or maybe a dozen professors mentioning that somewhere along the way, yes.

    3) Every time people look at me wistfully and sigh and say, “I wish *I* had time to knit, I always stare back pointedly and say, “What are you doing right now?” I am not as nice as you. (see No. 1, above.)

  42. Last May, I was on a flight to Maryland and knitting a sock. I put it down on my tray table to open a package of nuts and the woman next to me grabbed it and began knitting on MY sock. I was speechless. There was a language and cultural barrier so I just let her knit! I’m still speechless.

    • I can say “thank you” in several languages. I hope I would have tried them! Seriously, I’d be shocked, too, but I think I’d have been more pleased than anything to find a kindred spirit.

    • Maybe she thought the airlines handed out knitting to random passengers who need to occupy their time, and now it was her turn. Like, half the time they can’t even bother to feed you or be civil, why in heck would they give you something as delightful as knitting? I would have said, “That’s mine, if you don’t mind, and I’d like it back” with nods and smiles and spoke all very gracious, of course.

  43. I agree with Julie M. at 7:49. It is a real favor to someone with autism spectrum disorder or a processing problem that results in a similar inability to read social cues to politely and clearly set a limit, **especially** about inappropriate touching. As your story progressed, it became clear that you were not dealing with the usual garden-variety self-centered jerk. If he had been seated next to someone less tolerant, he might have been in real trouble without understanding why. Clearly and politely stating expected behavior is genuinely helpful to those who are innocently clueless (and is also a good policy when dealing with jerks).

    • Good point. Give a clear and kind explanation, and if it’s someone who needs that information, you’ve helped him. If it’s someone who knows perfectly well what the rules are and is just a jerk, you’ve told him off. Good either way.

  44. On the one hand, I am sorry you had to suffer this. But on the other hand, I am kind of glad we get to enjoy this story at your expense. Holy cow, guy! #TakeAHint

  45. If I were you, when this starts, I will just nodding for a while then next hour or two, I will inform him that I am deaf. He probably will shut up.

    I can’t stand this that he was babbling for hours and hours. Oh dear. Long day for you.

  46. The Autism comments above broke my heart and reminded me of the recomendation that we always be kind. You never know what some is dealing with. You are an example of what I aspire. Thank you.

  47. I both laughed and was outraged on your behalf…

    Then my husband suggested that perhaps he was a nervous flyer?

    But maybe he is just a jerk. Either way, it was a very entertaining read and you handled the situation very well, even after having to get up in the middle of the night! (Yes, it’s still night at 4:30… at least it is in my book!)

  48. Lol over the shed wool. The guy sounds lonely and/or nervous as the poster above mentioned. Enjoy Port Ludlow; rain is in the forecast – it’s November after all. I wish I could be there but schoolwork calls.

  49. Oh, thank you so much for telling us that story. I have had quite a day of mansplaining by Persons Above Me in the Hierarchy and was feeling pretty low until I happened to decide to visit your blog and your story cracked me up.
    Thank you. Thank you.

  50. I’m in the autism camp as well. He didn’t intrepret any of the non-verbal social cues that you were giving; headphones, watching your show, knitting and limited interest in his conversation. As a autism parent, advocate and friend to many different individuals on the autism spectrum, I thank you for your kindness and tolerance of his differences.

  51. O.M.G.!!!! How did you not poke him in the eye with your needles!?!?!? I think I might have asked to have my seat changed. You have the patience of a saint!

  52. OMG! You met the male version of Lady Catherine DeBourgh from the A&E Pride and Prejudice (the good one, in my opinion)! “But I should be a true proficient if I had ever learned”.

  53. Thank you for this. I have read it three times (so far) and literally laughed out loud each time. Plane mansplaining is a whole new level of awful!

  54. I think we should just canonize you right now, Steph, for your patience and courtesy. St Stephanie of the Needles, sounds good to me.

  55. I wondered why you didn’t just say “Please leave me alone”

    Then I remembered you are Canadian.

    My condolences and admiration for your patience.

  56. It would be wonderful if you had space in your bag to include your book “Knitting Rules” which is my favorite. You could have shared it with him, and if he is an Autism Spectrum patient, he would probably have enjoyed reading it.

  57. You would think someone would show more caution before repeatedly bothering someone with two vaguely pointy sticks in their hands.

    I hope he is allergic to mohair.

  58. Oh, dear, it sounds like I meant others would not enjoy reading “Knitting Rules”, which is not at all what I meant. Everyone would enjoy it, knitters or not.

  59. Oh my gosh – you must be a saint. I was chuckling out loud as I read your post. I could never have kept my mouth shut that long.LOL

  60. #1 was his testing of your boundaries. “Can I push this one around?” They all do that shit.

    Next time a man makes a completely inappropriate request of you out of the blue that he has no right to make, look at him like he’s a cockroach and say, “No.” With creeps like that, you need to put your foot down hard and early.

  61. I think he might be on the ASD spectrum, bless him. But that must have been the longest 5 hour flight in history!

    And I loved the comment about POTUS!

  62. When he touched my leg the second time I’d have called the flight attendant, and in the presence of that person told him that if he touched me again I’d have him charged with assault, and that I own the space in front of my seat. If the flight attendant didn’t offer to re-locate me, I’d have asked to be relocated. Putting up with this rot just encourages these jerks.

  63. Yikes! So many of the comments are directed at solving why this man behaved the way he did. Who cares why? He behaved badly (upon which everyone agrees).
    Stephanie rose to the occasion and was the bigger (kinder) person. (applause!) Isn’t that what we all should do in every situation where we are challenged by someone else’s behavior?

    Kudos, Stephanie, you have set a brave example.

    And extra points for the green mohair being shed on him.

  64. It seems to me that you rose above and beyond…having knitting needles in your hand, a pest for a seatmate and the control not to use the needles for murder. Earbuds in IS the universal symbol of wanting to be left alone. Any traveler should recognize this. However, the dolt you mention seems to lack any awareness of human decency in that regard. A smattering of mohair on him is a small price to pay. Loved your post.

  65. First, let me say how sad I am that you could not have peace on your flight. As an introvert that struck home for me.
    The other thing I want to point out is that this is a PERFECT example of how writing about an experience can leave a lot to interpretation by the reader. This person could be a jerk or someone unable to understand. Only you, as the one who was there, can decide which from all the details that can’t be conveyed in writing.
    This is where texting and emails CANNOT replace face to face communication. So much is lost.
    (PS I think #revengebymohair “covers it” nicely!

  66. You absolutely deserve a medal for not straight up murdering him then and there.

    But also, thank you for not murdering him, because obviously all others flying with knitting needles would be seen as terrorists, because we’re such a menacing lot.

  67. Some people just never have an unexpressed thought. Thank you for enduring it and then relating it with such good humour. It’s a great story and great stories often come at a great cost. OOHH I have to touch the airplane!!

  68. So sorry for your experience…makes me shudder. It also makes me extra thankful for the quiet barrel-chested man seated next to me on my flight home last night. The commuter turbo props have rather narrow seats and personal space, so I really lucked out. He even picked up my ball of yarn (with a silent nod and a smile) when it jumped off my lap onto the floor.

  69. I know you’re a knitter with Signature Stiletto needles. I think you would have been well within your rights if you just poked him a few times with them. Maybe then he’d have sat like a normal human being and minded his own dang business. What a jerk!

  70. I love your humor!! Murdered a Muppet. For your sake I hope he walked off that plane looking that way. Maybe someone asked him what happened to Kermit.

  71. I do not accept the whole “guys taking up more room” deal. I’m a bigger lady and I push myself right back up against them. I pretend to myself very very hard that this is my dog next to me, not some unknown dude. I’ve also been known to smile sweetly, hoist my purse/bag up on their tray and say “You don’t mind, do you?” as I rummage through it to find the perfect thing I need right that moment.

    Stephanie, I’m so sorry that boor almost ruined your flight. I hope he had a super important meeting and shed the mohair all over the boss!

  72. Oh… my… goodness what a freaking maniac! You must have the patience of a saint because I would have said something incredibly snarky before the flight was through.

  73. I honestly believe that if this should ever happen to me, I would call the flight attendant and politely enquire if the flight was full and if it is possible for me to change seats because the man next to me keeps touching my leg and he won’t stop. And of course I would ask loud enough to be heard by a few rows around my seat. Hopefully, that should take care of it.

  74. Laughing with all the POTUS remarks! I think the only recourse is to create a 64-page sweater pattern that talks you to death on the proper yarn, needles, gauge, sizing, sewing up and then wearing (probably the longest section) of the sweater. I’d call it the mansplainer. Naturally it would be a bestseller as many knitters are so left out of the dark on these things.

    Autumn leaves looking lovely! If I was next to you on the plane I would probably politely ask about working with mohair since I don’t use it and then work on my own travel piece while internally rejoicing at my good fortune. At least he wasn’t terrified about the immediate and irreconcilable danger of needles on the plane, so there’s at least that.

  75. How aggravating and you are so much nicer and more patient than I would have been..The only excuse I would have made for him was that perhaps he is an anxious flyer and his obnoxious behavior is how he copes. How interesting it would have been if you had pulled out a copy of one of your books, pointed to your name on the cover and then pointed to yourself. Of course, then he would probably asked if you mind being known as a harlot.

  76. Thanks for the laugh. Sorry the guy was so awful. He needs to be knitting, not talking. Your mohair looks awesome! Brioche is hard and yours is really pretty with the leaves. Enjoy your freedom from the guy at last.

  77. Oh, Steph. There’s being Canadian and then there’s ridiculous. What happened to, “Touch me or speak to me again and I will stab you.”??? You do know that as our traveling ambassador you owe it to knitters everywhere to set a firm example to flightarses everywhere, right?

  78. OK, new twist… Say this whole thing happened, and it was a woman. It was hard even imagining such a scenario, and I believe that I would quickly have had thoughts that she may be autistic or have some other social issues diagnosis. The next thought was how incredibly sad it is that so many of us so readily accept that a ‘normal’ man could and would behave this way.

  79. The very moment where any politeness would leave my body .. would be the moment that the guy would tap My LEG! No bueno, sir. Not at all. He would be on the fast road to being told off.

    Politeness has it’s good place but that was not one of them! Never be afraid to deflect someone, rather firmly if needed.

  80. Everyone (male and female) needs to learn to say in a determined voice, “DO NOT TOUCH ME!”

    No “please”. No “excuse me”. No “I’m sorry”.

  81. Knitting needles are the modern equivalent of the hatpin that Victorian and Edwardian ladies were advised to carry (wear) when forced by circumstance to travel alone. Under no circumstances would I allow a stranger to touch me without raising a complaint, and threatening further legal action. On one occasion when I was singing at a Legion, a customer grabbed me in a quite intimate way and I told him that if he didn’t unhand me I would break his arm. Something about my expression must have told him I was not joking, and he complied, with astonishment at my having misunderstood his grabbing me to be anything other than a vast compliment. The Bartender asked me if I was OK, and when I explained, he said “You should just have hit him.” I am Canadian, born and raised in England, so excessively polite; but I’m also an older, dignified and imposing person and I don’t brook any nonsense from anyone. The plane man would have been told at the first offence not to touch me, and if he persisted I would have summoned the flight attendant and insisted on his being moved. If not possible I would have insisted on his being informed officially that interfering with other passengers is not permitted. If he still didn’t get it, I’d have had him charged with assault. I don’t mind being considered inflexible and intractable at my stage of life; I’ve paid dearly for the privilege in the past. That being said, my style is not necessarily everyone’s, and we do what we do as best we may. But I would consider that I paid for my ticket too, and that it was not necessary for me be polite or pleasant to a boor.

  82. I am not a polite Canadian, but a somewhat polite US midwesterner. Would it have been wrong to say, “I’m sorry. I am a professional knitter, and I have a deadline to complete this project. I am unable to do that if I spend the flight chatting with you.” Simple. Polite. And mostly true.

    • Rhetorically asking, why is it considered an option to sacrifice truth? Courtesy can still be maintained without even small or white lies.

  83. Ugh, that sounds like torture. Honestly, if I didn’t know better, I would have thought that was my ex-husband. You described him to a T!

    I suppose you could get REALLY BIG headphones and write on them “do not disturb” or something. Maybe not be so polite?

    I hope that writing about it, as well the flight being over, has helped to shake off some of his ick. An experience like that can totally ruin a day!

  84. Many years ago I was on a transcontinental flight with a lap full of work I urgently had to finish. The woman next to me, who was seated a few seats from her husband, kept chattering and asking me questions, touching my shoulder to get my attention when I pretended to be asleep. (At one point she actually woke me by tapping me and asking, “Do you have any pets?”) I was at the end of my rope and just gave up and talked to her. When we landed, what seemed like countless hours later, she grabbed my hand and said in a rush, “Thank you so much for letting me talk to you. I’m always so afraid to fly, I have to talk to someone, and my husband is so tired of me talking.” Not exactly the same set of issues, of course. But it reminded me that you never know exactly what might be biting at a stranger, or why he or she might behave badly.

  85. I would have been asking the flight attendant if there were any other seats available (typing that thinking, it was probably a full flight). I’m sorry you got put through this.

  86. I don’t travel much, so it is always an adventure to me. I just returned from a trip that required 6 hours of air travel. The first thing I noticed on these flights is that I was CRAMPED, and I am not a large person. Anyone with any size is probably going to be touching their neighbor(s).

    With that in mind, I like to at least introduce myself to my seatmate(s), and at least know first name, where they are from, and if it is a business or leisure trip. After that, I observe the rule of headphones.

    The touching…well, he may have started the conversation, not gotten a response, and then touched. You responded (the desired response), and so it continued (My son would start with “Mom”, and if he didn’t get my attention, would call me by my given name. I recognize the pattern!) Not appropriate, but sometimes we need to set our boundaries, or remind others!

    Too hilarious his whole explanation of how to make a sweater…and he has no clue that he is now viral on someone’s blog. I guess you don’t get a lot of copies of your book…but, in my mind, it would have been so worth it to get his address….and send him an autographed copy!

  87. I SO hope he has an important meeting, and that he is allergic to mohair. Loved your story. You showed great strength in not decking him.

  88. As an introvert who loves ‘alone’ time on flights, this would have bothered me a great deal. I would likely have pulled out a book because I find that people are more apt to interrupt when you are Knitting as opposed to reading. However, at the second leg touch I would have called the flight attendant and asked for a different seat, or to have my seat-mate moved. I am a polite Canadian, but also like my space. I respect those who mentioned the autism issues, but agree with the commentor who said that it can be a kindness to point out situations to a person with autism. Finally, poking him with a Knitting needle would likely have got Stephanie into big trouble! Enjoy Port Ludlow.

  89. I so admire your restraint. I think there would have been a point when I would have YANKED off my headphones and said, “Look, this is what I do for a living, I’m on a deadline, I’m trying to enjoy my show, I don’t like being touched, especially by strangers, and I would really appreciate it if you would leave me alone and entertain yourself for the remainder of this flight. Please do not speak to me again unless the plane is crashing.” And then the headphones would go back on.
    Though, to be fair, I would probably think these things for the first couple of taps, and then I would say them. Because I *really* do not like to be touched by strangers/interrupted in my Zone/depended upon to be someone else’s entertainment because they couldn’t be bothered to freaking bring a book or something.
    And no, I would not be letting them use my hotspot. That is not on.

  90. I have a nephew with Asperger’s. I could totally see him doing exactly that on a flight–he just doesn’t always recognize social boundaries. He’s an incredible person–earned a PhD, got a fellowship in England and lives there on his own. But sometimes he just doesn’t recognize boundaries–especially if stressed (as travel will do to a person). I find that if I tell him, politely, kindly, that his behavior is making me uncomfortable and suggest a different way to interact or that I need more space, he gets it, and he’s not easily offended, so it doesn’t upset him that I’ve pointed it out. If that didn’t work, then definitely asking the flight attendant for another seat is an option.

  91. I agree with Sarah–totally tempting to use those needles for something else…

    But the reason I’m commenting is that I have to commend you on your line “so much greenish mohair stuck to me I look like I murdered a muppet.” Brilliant!

  92. To such people as your flight buddy, it matters not that your nose is stuck in a book or that your earbuds are firmly in place while you knit or sew or embroidery some thing or another. Such folks do not plan for ways to occupy their brains during a flight, so they expect their seatmates to do that job for them.

    Side note: Mohair Revenge would be a great name for a band.

  93. Ah Mohair, it just keeps on giving and giving! And seriously what a complete twit. As I say in retail to the person someone interrupted, I’m sorry, some people don’t realize when they are being rude. Good on you for tolerating the moron. I don’t think I would have been as magnanimous as you. (seriously though, that is one gorgeous piece of knitting. wow!)

  94. Ugh. How awful! That first touch on the leg would have brought on a sharp “don’t TOUCH me” from me, I think – but then maybe I’d react quite differently in the moment. I’m so glad your mohair shed all over him. It makes me think of a three-year-old “What does this do? Why? Why did you wear that?” etc, only much less charming.

  95. Oh I’m going to take some kidsilk haze with me next time on a plane, just in case…. what a nuisance of a man! Well done for not screaming at him.
    I’m absolutely in love with brioche knitting at the minute – working on a hat for starters but I’ve my Nancy Marchant book in the my Christmas list that hubby’s buying for me… Beautiful choice of colours.

  96. I will probably be stoned alive for saying you north Americans (yes, Canadians, too) are freakishly touchy about touching. He tapped her on the leg, sitting in a narrow plane seat to attract her attention because she was wesring headphones… for heaven’s sake, show some common sense and be a human of normal warmth. I’m sure this was not a pleasant plane journey, but the touching hysteria is so irritating. He did not grab, fondle, stroke or cuddle any part of her, he just tappedher leg, get real people. I don’t agree with his constant bothering or further behaviour either, but then I don’t like everyone glued to a device with headphones on, either… personal opinion.
    Now bring it on – bound to be some indignation, non?!

    • I agree with you. Yes, people should keep their hands to themselves and try not to bore people trapped on a plane. But advocating stabbing with knitting needles, threatening assault charges, wishing for bodily harm, smirking about covering them with lint? The occasional thoughtless encounter IRL is part of RL. Dang knitters, remind me not to talk to you in public lest I bore you or interrupt you and get stabbed for it.

    • My distaste is for the touch *on the leg* – a much more intimate touch than most of us are looking for in our seatmate on a flight. I think generally accepted appropriate touch is on the shoulder, or the arm – enough to get attention, not enough to be misconstrued. I would be extremely uncomfortable if anyone but my boyfriend or close friends/family touched me on the leg, especially if it happened in a place where I had no way to move out of reach. And I think most people responding would feel the same way. I don’t agree with those saying retaliation with violence or accusations of assault are warranted, but I do think his behaviour was completely out of line.

      • I’ve been reading the comments, and I really think (at least I hope!) that the comments about stabbing with knitting needles are meant jokingly!

    • But seriously, I might have been tempted to hand him a sock in progress, showed him the basics, and let him prove what an amazing knitter he could be.

  97. Here is what might work as a tiny antidote to your story:

    I’m knitting on a mitten in – I think? – a grocery store where I shop often. A big burly guy come up, complete with tattoos, and asks me politely not if I am knitting, but what I am knitting – a mitten. He then tells me that he recently started knitting. I ask him how it is going, and he replies that he started with a scarf, and it’s going well. I ask him if he is enjoying it, and he answers that yes, he is, and that he had started cross-stitching about a year ago and enjoyed that, so then decided to take up knitting also. Then he was off to finish shopping.

  98. Seriously, mansplaining knitting to the Yarn Harlot. Argh! I’m waiting for my flight as I read this and hope my luck is better than yours. I am knitting with mohair, but I haven’t noticed that the silk cloud is shedding enough to provide revenge.

  99. Lordy. If I hadn’t been reading your blog all these years I might wonder if you were making this up!! This is one of those cases where the truth is stranger than fiction!! So sorry you had to put up with this awful, awful person. You showed remarkable restraint.

  100. Hysterical story! The Seatmate From Hell! Kudos for holding on to your patience throughout–I couldn’t do that! I would have at some point had to take pleasure in modestly mentioning that “I am THE YARN HARLOT and he could look me up in Wikipedia if he didn’t know about that. I’ve published umpteen books and articles and a (approximately?) 15 year blog about knitting and have probably knitted about 500 sweaters, as well as 5000 other garments and accessories. But enough about me–how would YOU suggest I continue?”

  101. Could you have pulled up your blog or list of your books from Amazon- and asked him if he thought this woman would have any helpful hints about knitting sweaters? I would have been far less polite; I admire you!!

  102. You should have Kinneared him so you could put his picture in the urban dictionary next to “mansplaining”.
    You are perhaps kinder than I am, because I did once say to an overly intrusive man sitting next to me (who wanted to tell me all about his divorce, because I am a lawyer – even after the first time I politely said “well, I don’t really know anything about divorce, I do real estate.”) “It’s been nice talking to you – I’m going to listen to my audiobook now.” And then turned my shoulder and faced away. It did actually work.

    • I was thinking Our Harlot had invented another word, this time “mohairing”–to subtly take revenge on another. Two words are a great beginning for a Harlot Dictionary.

      HA! I have to touch the airplane!

  103. Ah, Port Ludlow. Visiting my husband’s family in Washington state, we went through Port Ludlow on the way to Port Townsend. Cute little yarn shop was closed (just my luck) so I followed along a geocaching jaunt. I swear, we found the woodsy trail where all local killers stash the bodies…

  104. After reading the Wikipedia description of The Handmaid’s Tale, I find it scary this guy thinks it’s sexy. How does he treat women?

  105. Stephanie, I want to shake you. Were you worried about offending him, even though he was offending you by intruding on your space. You’ve given birth to three lovely ladies; run a business doing something you love, which has allowed you to travel and meet like minded people, and you have the courage to get up and speak in front of people; bike a lot of miles/kilometres in all conditions; raise money for charity, etc. but you can’t tell a person to back off and get out your space for fear of offending them, why do you care what he thinks? First time polite and after that f**k off. (And people keep you hands to yourself, if you must, you can touch an arm, nothing else.)

    • I can only speak for myself, but it’s easier to feel cross and offended, rather than speak up and risk getting into a confrontation. Even the clearest, politest response can be taken as an affront if it isn’t what the other person wants to hear – particularly if it is a jerk you’re dealing with. That applies equally to men and women! I once got such a torrent of abuse from a woman for the politest “Can I sit down here” on the bus.

      And I must say, I want to shake myself after every encouter like this I’ve had.

  106. I tried to not comment, but I feel my ten cents is just as worthwile:
    Stephanie, I’m sorry you had to put up with such an intrusive person for 5 hours. I’ve taken public transportation, to & from work, for for 3 years now, so I can relate. But lets keep our sexist/prejudice selves in check, yes? Autistic or not this is 2017, people. Although I will grant that women in certain countries are still fighitng for well deserved rights, that is not so much the case anymore in Canada or the U.S. I have been harrassed by men on the bus more than once (& made them back off with direct eye contact & a clear “Leave me alone” remark), but I have also witnessed women encouraging men to harrass them in order to start a scene. My sole – & only point – is that we (human beings) need to understand that it is not a battle of the sexes, or races, or generations, but that we are all in this together. It is people harrassing people. Stephanie, please be honest: would you have posted this if it was a woman (or even a woman whom you assumed was a lesbian) who “manspread” her legs & invaded your space – forcing you to cuddle with her or lean uncomfortably near the window – for 5 hours? I doubt it; yet you continually shame those you think are being “close-minded” in your opinion (like the woman who judged you for knitting rainbow booties for your grandson, or the man who wasn’t aware that AIDS was, “still a thing”). This is not a rant to demean or put you down. I admire you in so many ways. I want you to truly be be that awesome person you strive to be! This is more my way of encouraging you to rise above each & every tricky & sneaky stereotype by giving you my opinion. So he was a jerk; get over it. It’s not his fault because of what’s between his legs but because he has chosen to be a domineering ignorant human being. Do not be a hypocrite, please. A woman could have just as easily invaded your space (I have fought that too). We still have a lot of the animal brain/”instinct to dominate” within us.

    If you want advice: next time something like this happens, (& I know you’re Canadian, but sometimes politeness doesn’t work) turn to the person, look them straight in the eyes & tell them firmly, “Do not touch me again.” You have every right in the world these days not to put up with ANY kind of harassment from anyone (again, this is 2017, not 1917). Then, when we go to read your blog, we can hear more about your beautiful & adventurous scarf & less about some ignorant person.

    • P.S. “The Handmaid’s Tale” is masochistic. Why don’t we start using sci-fi genres properly & watch/be the change we wish to be, instead of indulging in our worst nightmares. Watch the new Star Trek series, or the new Wonder Woman, or ANY new JLA/Marvel movie! Get away from that melodrama; it only serves to boil your blood & make you feel powerless. Please, let’s stop playing for points & start truly making a difference by curing IGNORANCE IN GENERAL & not SEXISM. “FIGHT THE REAL ENEMY!!!”

      • “The Handmaid’s Tale” is mysogenistic. It’s a description of a possible future as imagined by the author if certain behaviors and beliefs currently accepted in some portions of society are not changed.-Reading- it may be masochistic if you get off on things that cause you discomfort. I read the book soon after it came out, and am still disturbed by the picture of society Atwood paints.

    • Two things.

      1. I have never had an encouter like this with a woman. It has happened several times with men. We have a social structure that teaches men that they’re allowed to buttonhole women in this way.

      2. I know the phrase “Do not touch me.” It’s not that easy to be assertive, it’s more complicated. Again, isn’t this part of the problem, part of the way women are ‘taught’ by our society and culture not to stand up for themselves?

      • 1. I have. And are you going to let society continue to tell you what to do? Or are you going to “be the change you wish to see in the world” & make this a better place to live by setting that example of true fairness & equal opportunity, even if that means defending your personal space & rights, BUT not chalking someone’s choice to be ignorant (via lessons of our social structure) up to their gender/race, etc. If one continues to victimize themselves & blame their victimization on sexism, racism, bigotry, etc, they are no better than the person to whom they point their fingers. We are all victims of IGNORANCE, & that can be overcome through knowledge & compassion.

        2. Again, this is 2017, not 1917. If we (as a race) never abandoned what we were taught, we would not have come as far with the rights & equal opportunities we have gained so far. If you continue to perpetuate these lessons, then you are no better than the “mansplaining” guy who is perpetuating his, & are doing just as much of a disservice (Stephanie, this is partly what upset me so. You’re trying to make a change in this world & that’s awesome. But stop backpeddling on this topic by encouraging the very thing you hate: sexism). Again, “fight the real enemy!” Fight the social structures that teach us such terrible things, the ignorance, the petty gender/race/etc. battles! Not each other. And I agree, standing up for yourself isn’t easy (walking away &/or ignoring the person/people entirely also counts as self defense. I’ve done that too); but then again, nothing truly worthwile is.


  107. GOOD LORD! You Canadians are so damn polite! God made knitting needles pointy for a reason! you should have given him a good jab when he touched your leg the first time! LOL!

  108. OMG! I hope I would have remembered my mother’s best wisdom, imparted to me when I was in my 40’s (it wasn’t safe to share sooner) “there is no need to be polite to people who are rude”

    It would have been OK to smile nicely, point at the earphones and not answered. And to get more firm with “please leave me alone” if that didn’t work.

    Or ask him what he did then tell him how you could do it better if you weren’t so busy knitting.

    But this did make a funny story, if that is any consolation. And the green fuzz on him – wonderful!

  109. Funny, funny story, Steph! Sorry you had to go through it, but thanks for sharing it in your screamingly funny style. After reading through all the comments, they seem to mostly fall into two camps: 1) those who felt impelled to tell you what you should have done; 2) and those who felt qualified to diagnose your seatmate’s behaviour as placing him on the autism spectrum or as having another mental issue such as narcissism.

    Undoubtedly, as an experienced traveler and self-confident woman, all of the suggested actions also occurred to you during your five-hour ordeal, yet you chose not to cause a scene to shame him into better behaviour, however much he might have deserved it. You also didn’t descend into name calling, belittling, or lumping him into a category reserved only for men–instead, you told it in such a way that everyone, especially those who have experienced similar problems while traveling, can empathize and yet get a good laugh out of it, too.

    Great story! Have a terrific time at Pt. Ludlow this weekend with your retreaters, stormy weather and all. See you at Madrona, Best, Terri M.

  110. Goddess willing, he was on his way to a most-important-client meeting with no time to spare, no handy lint-roller, and in his rush to arrive, spilled his name-brand $15 coffee drink, heavily sugared, all over his newly-mohaired sartorial splendor. Mansplain that, rude dude.

  111. From the safety of my home hundreds of miles away, I think you should have told him off. No risk to me, of course, only to you. Probably best that you didn’t

  112. I think it’s interesting all the comments,but I didn’t see and I might have missed it, but I didn’t see anyone say this. This guy must have been flirting with you ! He kept trying to get your attention and tried to impress you with his knowledge (hahaha) of knitting. I think he was trying to get you interested in him! I do agree with most of the people that you ought to figure out a polite, of course, way to say, I’m busy leave me alone. Several suggestions above. If you can’t figure one out, ask at Canadian knit group. Or maybe if you have a little sign you can put hang on your tray as soon you get settled? Or get up and ask for a different seat explaining why. Love to see you posting more regularly. Last Christmas I decided to go back to the beginning and read all of your blog from the start. I finished this summer and it’s been like being on a diet! I’d read a month a day and now I eagerly look each day to see if there is a new post…each one is like a treat for me! Hugs and yarn forever.

  113. Stephanie,
    I do so love how you can take an annoying encounter and turn it into a funny experience. The green mohair comment makes the whole incident, not really acceptable, but endurable.

  114. Talk about space invaders! I would have simply looked him & in the eye said firmly and loudly enough, PLEASE do not touch me. Then when he kept talking, I’d have said I really can’t chat,as I’m a knitting (insert fave word here) -teacher, expert, lecturer, author, all of the above… and I really need to listen to my headphones and complete this project I’m knitting on, as it’s my JOB. If he kept bothering me then I’d ask a steward or stewardess for help.

  115. I will add it depends on the situation. I’ve been knitting in public forever and often have people comment or ask me a question. I don’t mind that.. one time in a doc’s waiting room an elderly man came over to me and said my “crocheting” (I do crochet too, but I was KNITTING) reminded him of his mother and five sisters. He said his mom taught all of them including him to crochet and he hadn’t done it in forever but watching me brought back memories of his mom and sisters who were now gone,and he actually got all teary. THAT didn’t bother me at all. I didn’t even correct him that I was knitting. But someone disturbing me for five hours straight especially getting in my face like that would make me nuts! That’s when I’d have to say something.

  116. Well done with your mohair! I’ve had this happen a couple of times, and I just overwhelm them with information – cast-ons, bind-offs, different increases and decreases, construction options, benefits of the Kitchener stitch, fibers, yarn weights, and I keep going until they glaze over. Very satisfying.
    xxoo, Jen

  117. Very interesting post! On a flight from London to Boston I was seated in the middle of a three seat configuration with my husband on my left and a middle-aged woman from India on my right. We exchanged only brief pleasantries pre-flight. As the plane rumbled down the runway, I started reading, which is my distraction of choice for mild takeoff anxiety. Without any explanation the woman reached over, took and held my hand. (Would I have freaked if it had been a man?) When we reached altitude, and the plane leveled off, and she started breathing again, she explained that she was terrified during take offs. I wondered to myself whether it was a cultural difference, or sheer terror, that allowed her to hold hands with a total stranger: either way I decided it was okay with me.

    I tend to agree with those commenters, who are guessing that the gentleman could have Asperger’s syndrome. That would be consistent with his detailed explanation of knitting and sewing a sweater. I am heartened by those who expressed compassion for both travelers.

  118. You were unfortunate to be seated next to a bozo. POTUS and POTUS Jr. are not the only ones, though they are prime examples. Your mistake was letting him continue. You should have firmly, but politely, said No and then called the flight attendant if/when he refused to back off.

  119. I just flew home from Europe and was very happy to be upgraded to a premium seat. The man next to me was wearing sunglasses and completely hogged the bin above, but I thought at least he is staying quiet, unlike your situation. Then he got out his iPhone and started looking at pictures of naked women. Ugh.

  120. Did it ever once occur to you to tell him to sod off and keep his hands to himself or suffer a knitting needle that somehow, by accident, ended up planted in his thigh?

  121. How does someone like THAT end up sitting beside you on a 5 hour flight instead of someone like US who would worship you silently, admire your knitting quietly from the next seat, hope that some of your humour would magically transfer to us and then pray that some of your muppet mohair would land on us so we could take it home and frame it with the caption “This is mohair from The Yarn Harlot!”

  122. First thing that came into my mind was that he sounds like he may be differently-abled in terms of social/communication skills. Second is that as grownups, surely after having been bothered a few times by someone we are stuck with, it’s perfectly okay to simply turn to them and say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to talk.” But your experience does make for a good story!

    • I was thinking the same thing. Many people who look quite ordinary and who are highly educated and well paid do have an inability to read social cues or behave appropriately in social situations. He may not have understood that earphones mean “don’t talk to me.” He may also had low impulse control. I’m sorry you had an unfortunate experience but looking at it objectively, he might not have been able to help himself or know that what he was doing was considered rude.

  123. I agree with the post about maybe this man doesn’t know he is being rude. However, get a grip and either tell the man not to bother you or call the stewardess and have her deal with him. You are not doing him or yourself any favors by putting up with this kind of behavior, As well as the flying public.

    all though not all flights have any extra room, most of them do, Ask for another seat

    I could go on and on, but , , , I love everything about you and your blog, but this
    seems like poor manners on your part. Knit a pair of big girl panties and take better care of yourself,

  124. *Sighs*

    I am gobsmacked by this story. Not so much by the man’s behavior as by yours. How on earth could you allow someone to harrass you for hours on end? Tell him politely, tell him rudely, notify airline help via the call button, make an idle comment about how sharp your needles are and goodness wouldn’t it hurt if one stabbed him in his tender bits – do anything but remain a victim!

    You have the power to stop this kind of thing; please, please use it. I’m sorry he treated you this way but there are better defenses than mohair.

    • As someone who is often perceived as strong (so good at speaking up on someone else’s behalf) I am amazed at how often I feel that power slipping away when I am the “victim” in the situation. Yes we have the power but using it in the moment is so very hard… please please don’t blame the victim for not being able to speak up on her own behalf. I’ve been there it feels like moving mountains even though from outside it looks so simple.

  125. Oh, people on planes. I don’t know what it is that makes one go absolutely bonkers the minute they enter the steel tube, but it’s got to be something.
    Thank you, though. I was getting a bit paranoid they would try to take my needles away from me, and I have twenty-five hours on planes ahead of me!

  126. Oh, but I have to ask (sorry, I know I’m sooo late to the party): did you consider whether they guy could actually have been on the autism spectrum? Could that be the reason why he was so completely out of line – you happened to get in the seat beside you a highly functioning individual with a bare minimum of socials skills who tried desperately to interact with you because he’d heard/read that that is what people do in such situations…. (Mark Haddon’s novel “The curious incident of the dog in the nighttime” has a protagonist on the autism spectrum – I understand it’s a very well-observed rendering of how that diagnosis may manifest itself. In any case it’s a brilliant book, AND provides ample food for thought!) All the best, and wishing you peace and quite on your next flights! 🙂

  127. I met a very attractive woman once that traveled a lot for work. On planes, if someone tried to talk to her, she looked them straight in the eye and said “talking in flight makes me air sick, and I can’t always aim for the little bag. For all our sakes, don’t talk to me.” And if that wasn’t enough, a terrified gagging face at every word directed to her ended it.

  128. I AM STEAMED. I thought the worst was when I was on a flight with the window seat (that i had paid extra for because lighting determines whether I have a good flight or not, so I need to be in charge of the window) and the fellow in the middle seat reached across me and opened it while I was sleeping with my head against it.
    I’m usually right there with you on everything, but five hours and you didn’t say anything? I’m a little frustrated with you, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Famous Canadian Knitter (this is what I have called you when I talk about you to friends and family for the past thirteenish years).
    If someone touches your body, say “Please do not touch my body.”
    If someone continues to interrupt you while you have your headphones on, say “I see that you’d like to chat but I’m busy right now. This is my work, and I use flights to work.”

  129. I don’t know how I missed reading this until now but thanks so much for the laughs!
    P.S. Saturday in Billings, MT I got to tell Ann Budd I’d just been at Strung Along and she said: aren’t you lucky?! and I could tell she meant it. And I was lucky and I know it. Thanks for a great time and great teaching and what you endured to get there!

  130. I am catching up on your blog while I recover from surgery. This entry made me laugh (which hurt, but it was well worth it). I also hope he had a very important meeting to go to. I further hope he had no lint roller with him!

    I continue to hold you and your family in my thoughts.

  131. How on earth did you manage NOT to stab him with your knitting needles while he was mansplaining to you how to knit a sweater??? You are a much better person than I.

  132. OMG I love you. This is exactly like flying alone is always like for me. The only thing missing was getting told that knitting needles are dangerous, and getting berated for bringing them on the plane…

  133. How did you keep your cool? I would have lost it after, oh I don’t know, probably the second interruption. So glad you were working with mohair so you could get that teensy bit of satisfaction

  134. Autistic? I don’t think so. I think it’s more likely this guy was just clueless. Good for you, Stephanie for dealing with a difficult situation with as much grace as you could muster.

  135. Stephanie I LOVE this!!! As a fellow small knitter who travels a lot I’ve been victim of almost this kind of man before, but your guy TAKES THE CAKE!!

  136. Hi, I would like to let you know that I am using this blog post in an undergraduate paper for my business degree. I wanted to demonstrate that knitting (and many other yarn arts) are able to be practiced nearly anytime and almost anywhere. Thanks!

  137. Sounds like autism to me. Recently met a man working as a gas station attendant who would stand closer to people than the standard distance and ask a lot of unrelated questions. Saw a woman’s hackles go up until she realized that he mean no harm and let him run her credit card for her. He then came over and asked me about our dogs (I was sitting in the car with the windows up). It was probably the most secure gas station in the city because of his natural propensity to get in everybody’s business. I am aware that this was a different scenario than your experience, but the interaction actually made my day better.

  138. Seriously, just think of all the good karma points you earned for dealing with him…. Perhaps karma understands and the green mohair fluff was karma having a giggle 😉

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