Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Funday: Fight For Your Flight

There comes a time when you must fight for your right to exist in the face of a neighbor who wants to take over your space and quash you into oblivion.  There comes a time when you must ask yourself, “Am I a person, or am I a doormat?”  There comes a time when you must push back against oppression on the borders.

I am, of course, talking about an airplane seat neighbor who is encroaching on your space.

Having faced this situation many times in my travels over the last few months---and having spent several flights reading “Clash of Kings” in the “Game of Thrones” series---allow me to offer some thoughts on fighting for your kingdom territory armrests in this situation.



Don't be dwarfed by an aggressive seatmate.  
Image from Zap2It.


I.  First, determine your claim of right.

Of course, we all WANT more space.  Human societies have fought generations’ worth of wars in the name of gaining more space.  Unless you plan on engaging in open warfare with your airplane seat mate (unlikely, given that you are probably unarmed in light of the post-9/11 security measures), you should first ascertain whether you have the right side of this territorial dispute.  Possession of the armrests means nothing without possession the moral high ground.

As far as I’m concerned, there are only two clear possession rights in an airplane:
  • The middle seat gets both armrests.  The middle seat sucks, so the end seats should throw this person a bone and not compete for the middle armrests.
  • Each individual’s space begins at the left and right ends of her seat and extends upwards for the length of her body.  Encroachments that poke over the armrests into this space are not acceptable.
All other territorial rights are up for grabs, and may result in fighting a losing battle against a stubborn or clueless opponent.


The delicate armrest dance.  
Image from Meilbox.


II.  Second, assess your adversary.

In order to defeat this person, you must know what you’re up against.  Are you facing a stubborn aisle seat determined to crowd out your armrest?  Or are you seated next to a timid soccer mom who doesn’t realize she’s touching your arm with her bunched-up cardigan?  As you might imagine, each individual requires a different strategy.  But how can you tell what you’re dealing with?

I recommend something I like to call the “Continuing Contact Test.”  To conduct this test, place your body in a position in which the offending incidental contact can occur.  For example, if your neighbor is stealing your armrest, try putting your arm on the armrest adjacent to theirs.

Then, gauge how your opponent responds.  Does he move his arm immediately upon contact?  Does she keep her arm in place until you become uncomfortable?  Does he push you off the armrest and onto the floor in a bloody heap?



Image from YourKloset.


If you’re dealing with the first type of adversary, your course of action is simple---stake your claim and watch your neighbor scuttle in fear of your cooties.  The second two type of people, however, require more advanced maneuvers.

III.  Third, realistically settle on a course of action.

How you address an encroaching neighbor depends on your amount of comfort with touching a stranger.  Do you like touching strangers, readers?  Do you?  Now is not the time to be shy.  Speak up if you enjoy touching strangers or forever lose your armrests.

Note:  Before engaging in any of these maneuvers, determine whether your opponent has control over their invasion.  If your neighbor is spilling over into your seat through no conscious will of her own but rather due to her unfortunately reversed ratio of seat square feet::butt square feet (airplane seats are pretty small, folks), then immediately stand down.



Resistance is futile.
Image from SocietiesMirror.



Notwithstanding this possibility, here are your options:
  • If you don’t mind rubbing up against the lady in the window seat, your first course of action should be to place your arm where you want to place it and then tough out the awkward contact until she gets the hint and moves her offending limb.  You may even try exerting a little outward pressure to prompt a move (especially helpful if your opponent is asleep).
  • If this doesn’t work, whip out the heavy artillery:  subtle sighs, tsks, fidgeting, and sharp quick stares at the encroaching neighbor.
  • Your last-ditch scenario is the mini-nuclear bomb of the war for armrests/seat space:  get up to use the restroom.  This extreme move only works if you are sitting in the window or middle seat, battling against the middle or aisle seat.  Your restroom trip essentially decimates the two-foot radius around your seat, forcing your adversary to get up to allow you to step in and out of the row.  Instead of actually using the restroom during this time, take the opportunity to do a few stretches and squat-thrusts to ensure that, upon your return, you are able to quickly resume your seat and take control of the armrests in question.

The only known way of deflecting the nuclear bomb maneuver.  Not classy, but effective nonetheless.  
Image from Bing.


Once you obtain control of the space against an aggressive opponent, do NOT allow yourself to lose any ground.  This is not a joke.  An aggressive neighbor is just biding his time, waiting for you to slip up so he can reclaim the armrest that should rightfully be yours.  Do not remove your arms from your space, even if you become uncomfortable or begin to lose blood circulation.  PRIORITIES.

Now is not a time for fear, friends, nor is it a time for anything but passive-aggressiveness.  You have to fly next to this person for the rest of the flight, and you may possibly end up dying next to this individual if something goes terribly wrong.  Do you really want to turn this cold war into a hot one?  Do you want to create an explicit enemy rather than an imaginary one?  No, of course you don’t.  Don’t be insane.

On that note, resist the urge to strike back in other ways if you fail at reclaiming your space.  Retaliatory farts hurt everyone around you, not just your neighbor.



Image from HipsterTravelGuide.

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