On the bus to Berlin, the man in front of me was not having a good time. The woman in front of him had tilted her seat back so far as to pin him in, and tilting his seatback into my knees sadly didn't give him more leg room. So he pushed at her seat, shifted about, a lot of heavy and exasperated sighs. I think he tried to talk to her but she didn't hear or she ignored him.
Finally when the attendant came through with hot drinks, he appealed to her for help. And she asked the woman to pull her seat up. The woman was also clearly annoyed at having been pushed and jostled and she said that well, no, she wasn't going to budge. And the attendant was perfectly pleasant, and calm, and she explained that we're all on the bus together, and could the woman tilt back slightly less so that the tall man behind her could be slightly more comfortable. And the woman agreed.
I'm thinking about when we were kids, and we were supposed to tell the teacher rather than escalate amongst ourselves. I'm thinking about when we call the manager, the authority figure who's supposed to be able to solve the problem to everyone's satisfaction. I'm thinking about when we call the police, and when (and why) we shouldn't. I feel like in general the inclination to appeal to authority to resolve a difference, a neutral and wise third party, is a good one. I just don't consistently feel that the authorities we appeal to are more qualified than we are, certainly not as qualified as the bus attendant was. I wish that were not true. That's all.
Oh actually p.s. I totally wrote a letter to the bus company commending the attendant for her excellent diplomacy.