She Was Exhausted and Wanted to Sleep on The Plane, but An Autistic Man Repeatedly Bothered Her – Was She Impatient to Request a Seat Change?

A 19-year-old woman boarded a flight, which was set to last for 11 hours. She was exhausted from traveling and was ready to catch up on some much-needed sleep, but an on-flight distraction was set to make this difficult for her. 

An Unexpected Seatmate

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The woman’s flight took an unexpected turn when a man in his 20s occupied the seat next to her. He immediately started a conversation with the woman, revealing that he was autistic. “He kept asking me if I like K-pop music and talked to me non-stop, rarely giving me a chance to speak”, the woman explained. 

Being Polite

Being Told To Smile 
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The woman was at first tolerant of the man’s friendly chatter. “I tried to be polite because I have ADHD and I understand how social cues are difficult, so he probably can’t tell I’m not in the mood”, she recounted. 

Struggling to Communicate

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Tired and wanting some rest, the woman was finding it difficult to communicate her need for solitude. She explained to the man several times that she really wanted to sleep, and whilst the man would become quiet for a few moments, he would resume talking each time after just a short period. 

A Short-Lived Nap

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At last, the woman managed to catch up on about four hours of sleep, but her hopes of uninterrupted rest were short-lived. Upon waking up, the man resumed his conversation with her, failing to notice her obvious fatigue.

Requesting Alone-Time

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The woman’s patience was wearing thin. She informed the man again and again that she wanted to watch a show and that she wasn’t interested in chatting at the moment. She suggested they could talk later when she felt more energized.

A Desperate Apology

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In response to the woman’s request for some personal space, the man went into a self-deprecating rant, expressing remorse for his behavior. The woman, feeling sympathy, reassured him that it was okay and that she just needed some time to herself.

The Breaking Point

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Despite the woman’s efforts to set boundaries, the man continued to engage her in conversation. Exhausted and overwhelmed, she put her headphones on and decided to ignore him.

An Unfortunate Outburst

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This choice proved to be a tipping point for the man. He got up from his seat, moved to the aisle, and began yelling at the woman. His words conveyed his frustration, as he questioned why she was ignoring him and pleaded for understanding.

Seeking Help From the Flight Crew

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The woman, feeling extremely uncomfortable and on the verge of a panic attack, seized an opportunity to approach a flight attendant. She requested a seat change to distance herself from the man.

Reflecting on the Situation

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The flight attendant managed to find a new seat for the woman, away from the man’s presence. Now in solitude, the woman couldn’t help but reflect on the events. She felt torn about her actions, questioning if she had been too impatient and whether ignoring the man had been unfair.

Sharing Her Thoughts 

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The woman decided to share her thoughts on an online forum, opening her story up to criticism or validation from others. However, the woman was relieved to discover that she was only met with validation. “Being neurodivergent doesn’t entitle someone to your time, or your attention, nor does it entitle them to harass you”, wrote one commenter.

Moving Was Smart

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One reader chimed in with their highly relevant perspective as an autistic traveler. “I’m autistic and honestly the last plane trip some non-autistic guy was doing the same thing to me”, they wrote. “He kept touching me too!!!! Literally touching me… Urghhhhh I didn’t think to ask about moving. I will do that next time.”

High-Functioning Autism

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Another reader made a point that many people agreed with: “Someone who is Autistic who is high functioning enough to fly unaccompanied, is able to understand a social boundary when it is explicitly pointed out to them”, they explained. 

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