Game Theory in Action

Here's the scenario:

You're on a flight with your screaming 3-year-old son. You're in the window and center seat in a 6 seat row. Though he loves you, he wants his mother. And he's letting the whole plane know it.

Unfortunately, his mother is sitting in a middle seat on the other side of the aisle. Airlines hate you.

The entire airplane is watching you. They are either disappointed in your lack of parenting control, grumpy about the noise or hopeful that some benevolent stranger will sweep in and rescue you by offering to switch seats with your child's mother so she can sit next to your screaming 3-year-old.

The stranger with the coveted seat-ticket comes down the aisle and lands gently in the coveted aisle-stop-the-crying seat. You can tell by his briefcase that he travels often.

You ask him if he would be willing to switch seats.

And he stares at you like you spoke to him in Elvish. "Trade my aisle seat for a middle seat?" he asks, finally making sense of your Elvish. "That's not going to happen," he says.

What do you do?

This morning, in this scenario, I closed my eyes and prayed and sighed. I then started planning how I was going to make this guy's life a living hell (switching seats with the 3-year-old so he's screaming in the guy's ear, giving the 3-year-old a lollipop without supervision, asking the 3-year-old to use his outside voice to tell his momma "I'm teaching this man next to me about negative externalities"). Fortunately, the adults on the plane (I wasn't acting like an adult at this moment) found a solution, saved the jerk and probably saved my soul in the process.

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