It’s been a long, tiring day. I’ve been waiting an hour and a half in a terminal filled with disgruntled travelers for my plane to arrive. All I’ve had to eat this afternoon was a mini-bag of pretzels and a Diet Coke. My hunger is competing with my headache for attention.
It’s finally time for Group 3 to board. I walk down the aisle of the plane, dragging my carryon, optimistically looking forward for what awaits me in 24E -- a center seat because of a late ticket change. My worst fears materialize. Seated on the aisle are a woman, her newborn, and enough baby paraphernalia to support the kid for months. Naturally, the window passenger has not arrived. I say a brief prayer for the missing person to be hopelessly tied up in traffic.
After tossing my travel bag in the overhead, I politely smile and wait for the young mother to rise, allowing me to take my seat. I immediately pull down the armrests on either side of me, establishing a protective boundary to my tight quarters. I spend the next five minutes watching passengers approach, making eye contact as they near row 24. Please just go by, I think each time, actually verbalizing a couple times as the traffic thins.
Three people board as the flight attendants are about to shut the cabin door – a boy and his mother and a huge, rotund man in a disheveled suit, his shirttail hanging loose, carrying a briefcase and wardrobe bag as he stumbles down the aisle. I immediately realize my fate. After much shuffling and rearranging of overhead luggage, the giant wedges himself against the window next to me and we all buckle in.
This is when I wish the airlines would post a sticker on the back of the seats, clearly establishing “armrest etiquette.” Rule number one would be – the center seat passenger has priority on use of armrests. Rule number two – nursing mothers must utilize the breast furthest from the center seat. Rule number three -- anyone over 250 pounds must cross their arms the entire flight.
None of these rules were followed on the 90 minute flight. The mother rested her elbow on the armrest to my left, with the kid’s head and his source of nourishment inches away. Andre the Businessman spilled into my space on the right as he juggled his briefcase on his lap. And it was I who had his arms crossed the entire flight.
It could have been worse, however. The airline could have been out of wine.