“It is a great thing to know the season for speech and the season for silence.”— Seneca the Elder
I was on a business trip to Argentina a few years ago when I learned a travel hack that would change my life forever. A road warrior exec at my company taught me the secret of the “cone of silence.” Add this life-changing hack to your repertoire and change your travel experience forever. I consider myself a master of this dark art, but barely overcame an attack on the cone recently. For the first time ever, the cone of silence secret will be revealed, as well as the counter-measures I deployed in defense of the cone.
What is the Cone of Silence
Imagine an impenetrable cone (as in Get Smart) surrounding you, keeping out all the noise and chaos of the airport, airplane, and yes…other passengers. I know how this may come across, but there is a time and place for making friends, and a flight is not one of them (certain exceptions may apply).
Nothing like being in your own world. I love the feeling of switching on noise cancelling, pulling on the hoodie, closing my eyes, and listening to my audio book in peace. Add an eye mask to experience true bliss.
Here’s how it works:
- Have your headset on as you board the aircraft.
- Take your seat, and politely smile and nod if another passenger is already in your row.
- If you haven’t already, fire up that audio book, podcast, or music you queued up for the trip and sit back, relax, and enjoy the precious time you have to yourself.
- Close your eyes, or at least avoid eye contact.
- Be courteous and pass drinks, let someone out for the restroom, etc. but understand that nothing more than a smile is required.
- If someone tries to engage in conversation, put your finger up (one moment please gesture), and take a moment to figure out how to pause your device, slowly take off one ear of your headset, and say, “pardon me?” (making it clear you can’t hear anything with your headset on and that they are interrupting).
Bonus Tip: I was on a Southwest flight in the above photo. As Southwest has no assigned seats, I took an aisle seat next to someone who had already taken the window seat. Unless it is a full flight, when the cone of silence is activated, it is very unlikely someone will disturb you to take the middle seat.
While it is possible to implement the cone of silence by closing your eyes and/or using normal earbuds, the true experience cannot be attained without proper noise cancelling headphones. If you’ve never flipped the switch on a headset and had the sudden realization of how much noise pollution is bombarding you when you fly, you don’t know what you are missing. If I had to choose between domestic first/business class or a headset, I would choose the headset. It is a game changer.
I’m still hazy on how it happened, but somehow a sneak attack was launched, the middle seat taken, and I found myself in a nearly inescapable conversation. I realize you may not have sympathy for me, but this was not a normal conversation. It started with, “I was just released from prison for child abuse.” There was talk of being framed by her husband and the local law enforcement, felony charges, and much, much more. There was no pause to allow escape, but drastic measures had to be taken when a very thick photo album was pulled from her Barbie backpack.
As the plane started to taxi, I began to formulate an escape plan. I must somehow use the takeoff to my advantage…but how? I told her I get motion sickness (true…on occasion) and needed to close my eyes and listen to my book to relax myself (definitely true). The force field was again activated…phew…and nothing was going to take it down. There were numerous attempts to break the barrier including elbow bumps to get my attention and her phone put in front of my face to show me videos. All were handled with a polite smile followed by a re-closing of the eyes. I truly got so into my book and world of silence, that her efforts didn’t phase me.
Are you a cone of silence practitioner? Is it just plain rude? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. If you liked this post, please join and contribute to the Analytical Traveler community. Feel free to send me a message here if you’d prefer.