In Support of the Upright Position
Late last year I read a news report on new, supposedly revolutionary seats that German air carrier Lufthansa is installing in their aircraft. The seats are thinner, lighter and allow passengers a teeny, weenie bit more room to settle in for that long, boring flight from point A to point B.
Unfortunately, while the new seats allow for more passenger room, they also allow the airline to install each one closer than ever to the seat in front. So, the airline can fit more seats than they already do into any given aircraft. Oh, and the new seats recline just a teensy bit further than most.
Sorry, but this is not progress. Even though I would welcome extra room on an airplane, I don’t want to be even one millimeter closer to my fellow passengers when I fly.
After all– sky high airfare costs and the entire bureaucratic boondoggle called the “TSA” notwithstanding – the biggest problem with air travel today is reclining seats.
My advice to aircraft seat designers would be to eliminate the reclining function entirely. Make those suckers as stiff as my neck muscles after a red eye to Miami. I would even pay extra to sit behind a row of seats that don’t budge.
When the passenger in front of me slams back his/her seat at the precise moment I’ve either taken out my laptop to do some overdue work – or more likely – just as I’ve been given a too-full plastic cup of Diet Coke, I want to shove the seatback with both hands and launch them straight into the overhead luggage bins.
I have a sixth sense when it comes to who is going to put their hair in my lap and who is going to be caring and courteous enough to not recline their seat. As soon as the passenger in front of me starts to fidget, or pulls out one of those horseshoe-shaped neck pillows, or slams their upper torso back into the seat like they’re part of a one-person MMA match, I know the dreaded recline is imminent.
I’ve perfected several techniques to prevent this from happening, including bracing both hands against the headrest in front and locking my arms so that when the insensitive traveler pushes their seat’s recline button, nothing happens. If the person is particularly persistent, I’ve had to hold this position until long after all feeling has drained from my arms, but this ploy is often enough to make the reclining wannabe think that their seat is broken and I get to enjoy the rest of the flight with at least a token amount of personal space.
On other occasions, I’ve pretended to be afflicted with a head cold worthy of a CDC quarantine and proceeded to sneeze, snivel, snort and generally sound like I’m coughing up vital organs mere millimeters from my selfish seatmate’s scalp. Not surprisingly, that will often produce a quick return of the seat in front of me to its full upright position. When this technique hasn’t worked, it’s usually because the problematic passenger has a pair of headphones clamped over his ears that cancel out all exterior noise – be they the whine of jet turbines, the droning of announcements from the flight deck or the death rattle breathing of a fellow passenger.
The absolute worst situation, however is when the seat in front of me is occupied by an unruly child who not only fully reclines the seat, but then proceeds to use it as a trampoline for the next 1,500 air miles, occasionally popping their head over the headrest to engage me in some patience-wearing version of a high-altitude staring contest. At this point, I’ve tried putting on my best “stranger-danger” face, but it almost never works. Kids see right through my façade and more often than not the entire situation transitions into a one-sided game of peekaboo with grumpy Grandpa. Sigh.
Have we begun our descent yet?
I’ll see you ’round town.