Long gone are the days when air travel was a luxurious affair. This is a picture of my great grandmother disembarking from some journey to another world– she had a great wanderlust that took her cavorting around the globe. In this picture, she has a corsage which she undoubtedly received from the airline– to thank her for choosing them among all the other airlines! This, my friends, no longer happens. Now we are herded onto planes like cattle and crammed into tiny seats with very little legroom and only 17 inches of personal space. Anyone even slightly oversized will suffer, anyone slightly undersized next to someone slightly oversized will also suffer. Such was the case yesterday on my journey from Birmingham to Charlotte. That the flight was merely an hour and a half made it somewhat bearable, but the man next to me insisted on taking up nearly half of my left half of the seat. His lower body was flayed out so that his leg was touching mine, even though I had scooted over so I was pressed into the right half of my seat. His arm was so far over the armrest I had to shirk away– my body tense in my attempts to avoid physical contact with his. I was uncomfortable. It was just too much. So I finally made note of it, out loud, to him. After doing so, I immediately regretted it. He was offended, mad, called me rude. He told me he was very uncomfortable, and that there wasn’t enough room in his seat. He asked if I had ever ridden on a subway.
What was the proper way to handle this? Ignore him and suffer through the flight? Ultimately, this is what I decided I should have done, but it was too late. The rest of the flight was uncomfortable for both of us, just as it had been before I said anything. What do you do when someone is invading your personal space on an airplane? What’s the polite thing to do?