Up in the Air


“Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo.” – Al Gore


I was intrigued by a recent news report about a fight which broke out on a plane when a man prevented the woman ahead of him from reclining her seat by using devices which clipped to his tray. While I can understand the frustration of having someone else’s seat on your lap, I believe a much bigger problem for the airline industry is looming on the horizon. It is the issue of the arm rest.

There is no written rule about who gets to use which arm rest, but it seems that common courtesy should apply. When seated three abreast each person should get one and the traveller in the middle deserves both, and anyone who has ever had to endure the miseries of being stuck in a middle seat will completely understand.

But common courtesy never seems to be the case as I have discovered on many occasions. I often find myself stuck in the middle because my husband prefers an aisle seat, and usually I am denied both arm rests! Now if my husband is the culprit I simply shove over his arm and give him “the look”. But a person can’t do that to a complete stranger. Although I can’t help but notice how complete strangers have no hesitation whatsoever encroaching on my territory. And, I’m sorry guys, but men are the worst offenders of arm rest violations.

On one occasion when I was flying alone and stuck in a middle seat because I was unable to book the night before, I found myself between two fellows. The suit-clad gent on my right got out his iPad, commandeered the arm rest on his left (rightfully my arm rest) and began reading documents. He was very focussed (not even a “Good Morning” acknowledgement) and obviously felt his business dealings trumped my iPad game of Sudoku. He assertively planted his elbow on the middle arm rest and did not relinquish it until landing time.

On my left was a burly fellow who plunked his beefy arm on the other middle rest (also mine), but at least he offered a friendly smile as he did so. Although I do admit I was having difficulty reciprocating in a similar fashion.

Oh, I know what some of you are thinking, “You’re small. How much room do you need?” Well, I pay full fare and here’s a news flash – small people have elbows, too, which they occasionally like to rest!

I decided I needed to take a stand, so the next time my brawny neighbour reached for a magazine from the seat pocket I quickly claimed the arm rest. At least I could have some small measure of comfort. But did that deter him? No, he simply plunked his hairy, sweaty arm down so that now it was touching mine. Ewwww!!! I quickly pulled in my left arm and gave up on the notion of staking out some arm rest territory. For the rest of the flight I kept my arms close to my body and silently fumed about the injustice of it all.

The more I fly, the more I realize that I will probably never win the arm rest war. To make my flights more comfortable and less stressful, I try to book early or I even pay the dreaded seat fee to make sure I avoid the middle one. But I am thankful that arm rests exist for another reason: they at least define my seating space; otherwise I might lose that as well!

Now don’t get me started on overhead storage space!





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