War in the sky

Flying home from London and we haven’t been airborne for 45 minutes and already the guy in front of me has tried to catapult his seat backwards into full recline – and into my lap. Not just ease it back, mind you, but a full-speed, full-length lunge. I long ago in my flying career lost patience with this tactic; on the first assault today I met the onrushing back of his seat firmly with both hands on the back of his seat and my elbows locked. “Pardon me,” I said politely but firmly, “but could I please have a couple more inches of space?” He returned the seat to its appropriate space.

A few minutes ago, just after I had opened the laptop, he tried again, and again with a sudden recline, which was rejected more emphatically, which drew a head turn and stare from my opponent. “Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “Your seat closed my laptop so suddenly I had to react quickly to get my fingers out of the way.” He grunted and moved his seat to a safe distance.

Look, I know air travel is uncomfortable and we need to make allowances. I don’t have a problem with people reclining their seats an inch or three to get more comfortable, and I do the same myself. I always do it slowly, however, not suddenly and try to remember that there’s another human being behind me. Just because I can recline my seat farther, doesn’t mean I have to, or should. To do so is just downright rude, and may be dealt with in-kind. I’ve been on flights before where the seat in front of me comes back so far I couldn’t even keep a paperback book open comfortably, let alone a laptop (and I know that I can’t presume any God-given right to use my laptop on an airplane). Accommodations can and must be made. The fellow in front of me has received his extra space, and I’ve got my keyboard hard up against me and I’m looking at the monitor at a rather steep angle. It will do.

Should the chap in front of me again consider my personal space as the Sudetenland, I will have to resort to guerilla tactics. In the past if someone has insisted on a full recline at my expense he has had to contend with my newspaper overlapping his head as I vigorously turn its pages, sometimes even reading aloud from it to my neighbor if it’s someone in my family. My personal rule is, if I can see the crown on your head, it’s mine to play with. I may try to create intricate hair sculptures with my breath, or muster the juiciest nose-blowing I can manage. Today, however, I have what I believe may be the ultimate weapon.

Tiger Lilly is next to me and has the hacking cough three of us have been passing around the rental car the last week. It comes around about every minute and a half. If the invasion comes, I will switch seats with her, and encourage her to do her best to “get it all out.”

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