Friday, November 12, 2010

Mile High Altercation

Totally exhausted, I boarded the plane home from Paris today for a 7 hour flight. Before you feign pity on me for a poor, horrible trip to Paris, let me just say that business travel is rarely fun – and while I was lucky to have a day off due to Armistice day – the week was filled with little sleep, long hours of work, and dreary weather. So, while it might have been the best business trip one could hope for in Paris, there really is no place like home.


On the plane, I was lucky enough to be in a 4 person middle section with only myself and one woman on the other end. Enjoying a bit of space in the middle, I stood by my rule of airplanes. I'm 5'3" (my doctor promoted me at my last checkup) and now I had 2x the space of most other coach travelers. I did not need to lean back my seat.  I will only lean back my seat if the seat behind me is empty, or if I happen to be on a red eye when everyone is leaning, and thus I need to do so, just to try to sleep. I was actually stunned the woman on the other end was so pleased to do so gleefully, given our good fortune.


Halfway through the flight, hours into my work on the trust enormo-laptop, the gentleman in front of me decides to forcibly lean back his seat, thus endangering my screen rather abruptly. I said something like "whoa" in response and held my hand against his seat to prevent the imminent carnage. He had his Bose headset on (as do I, generally) and heard nothing and proceeded with his aggressive attempt. I know how much a guy wants to lean, but it rapidly becomes a catch-22 of laptop wedged in seat back. Sensing resistance, he got up to reprimand my rudeness.


I told him I had a laptop and it was being crushed, and he suggested I move to accommodate him. Now, I'm clearly under no obligation to go anywhere to accommodate him. I explained I simply needed a minute to clear my tray and get the darned thing out of the way before he commence the leaning, which he suggested I could have politely asked for, rather than rudely shoving the seat. (which I didn't politely do – but simply said "whoa" – but he hadn't heard me. That clearly never occurred to him.) 


He also said he had had a laptop since before I was born, somewhere in that conversation. Being exhausted, and 2 Advil and a Pepsi into a migraine (and over 20 pages of whitepapers into work), I wasn't in the mood to tell him that I was in fact in the technology world long enough to know that anything passing for a portable computer at the time would have handily crushed his femur. I can't help but wonder why anyone would make such a dismissive comment. It was, in fact, the harshest part of his conversation – so rude, so wrong, and so wholly unnecessary, particularly given that I'm a working businesswoman, not a petulant teen (though in my hoodie, perhaps that's unclear to this man).


In the end, he did opted out of leaning, but not trusting him, I opted out of using my tray table, and kept my laptop quite fixed on my own lap. And I spent a little time considering how polite the French had been in Paris.

1 comment:

PD said...


I think it's time for airplanes to move all seats permanently 1-2 inches reclined and fix them there and stop allowing any other adjustments.

As flights have become more full and less space is between seats, reclining is quite annoying. With the laptops, the food, the TVs and other devices, even though you technically CAN recline your seat at any angle, at any time during a flight, it almost always leads to a scramble on the other end.

I know how annoying it is and I'll admit that a few times I've been so frustrated at someone who reclined way back while I was typing on a computer that I then had to wedge at a 45 degree angle. i did hit the seat in annoyance and thought about starting to curse the person out for being so oblivious.

ultimately it's the airline's job to set the rules of engagement on the plane and it's clear that reclining seats practically into someone's lap should no longer be allowed. hey it will even be a way for the airline to sell increased legroom for $90 a pop!