Size Matters

Invaders Of The Personal Space

You know what really grinds my beans? Invaders of the personal space. Anywhere. But this time, we are talking airplanes.

Bored and boarded in cattle-car class. $877 to be crammed into a space the size of a dog crate for six and one-half hours. In today’s world, is there much difference between the cargo hold and the passenger area? Your economy seat is sixteen and one-half inch wide with 31″ from the back of your seat to the back of the seat in front of you. Getting something out of your carry-on underneath the seat in front of you is like groping in the dark. Only worse. You are leaning forward maybe thirty degrees with your head turned to one side, plastered up against the seat, hoping you don’t pop a rib and reaching as far as you can for who knows what. Like a mystery grab bag booth at the fair. Who knows what your fishing expedition will turn up. If only you could see. Aggravating. Maddening. Do dogs, hamsters or ferrets feel the same way in their cages? Some of them become neurotic. And some of us do.

Airlines are making record-breaking profits while making us miserable.

Are You A Double Wide?

I’m not exaggerating. Airline seats are getting smaller while passengers are getting bigger. Examples of seat widths through the years:

  • 1960’s: 17″
  • 1970’s: 18″
  • 1990’s: 18.5″
  • Today: 16.5″

Has your butt lost two inches in width since 1990? I didn’t think so. Mine is not yet the size of a couch but I have put on twenty pounds. If it was more, my butt would become a permanent part of the airline seat. You know…like those cheap, white plastic patio chairs that are all too easy to get stuck in? I call them lard buckets.

And just to educate you more on average seat sizes, here you go:

  • airline business class: 21″
  • movie theater: 25″
  • U.S. train: 20.5″
  • stadium: 19″

Nefarious Neighbors

Let’s talk about the creatures next door. The invaders of the personal space. This passenger with arms like ham hocks who, of course, has to rest the hams on both armrests for the entire trip. I’m in the center seat. On the other side, there is a sleepy, drooly soul (also known as a seat hog sleeper) who keeps trying to rest his head on my shoulder. I’m the center of a sandwich that is going bad. Constant jostling from both sides makes me want to throw the sandwich out.

The Yakety Yaks

Then there’s the yakety-yak tour group. They kept standing up, bellowing at each other across the aisle and three rows back. Just like a herd of cattle being driven across the flat, dusty Great Plains. Constant fidgeting, drinking, not so funny jokes and tedious talkers surrounded me. What’s a ferret to do? They were having a party in the sky. But it needed live music and entertainment. Glad I wasn’t invited but there I was at the party.

The Little Devil

Across the aisle, I watched this angel-faced small child become possessed by the devil. He kicked the seat in front of him non-stop. The look on his face was pure joy. A glaring look from the victim or me did not deter him. This called for creative intervention. Leaning over, I whispered to him that airlines now have an overhead bin just for children like him who are kickers. Or screamers. But don’t worry, they will bring you your pretzels and juice. Or other crappy snackies if you pay for them. The foot froze in mid-air.

Turbulence In The Toilet

I need to use the restroom but don’t want to wake up my resting neighbor. What is the proper exit etiquette I asked myself. Shall I flap the window shade up and down like I’m obsessive-compulsive? Crawl underneath all three seats? Crawl out over the top of them? Straddle my seatmate on the way out and hope I don’t fall on him? Instead, I chose what Amy Vanderbuilt would have considered proper: tapping on the shoulder and apologizing…

After all that just to get here, I then experience the worst. Turbulence in the toilet. Bad enough to be in this claustrophobic stinky space when the skies are calm. Then the flight attendant announces, “the Captain has turned the seat belt sign on. Please return to your seat and fasten your seat belt.” My hands and feet are braced against whatever they can. Departing is not an option until mission accomplished. There are knocks at the door. “Okay, okay, I will leave this can as soon as I can,” I yelled in desperation. By this time, I’m sweating profusely. And then, the skies opened up and a calm rushed in. The seatbelt sign chimed off. Glory be to whoever. I shall be relieved.

Stuck In A Stupor

Thank goodness there’s no internet over the ocean (did I mention the destination: Hawaii?). An incredibly beautiful place that might not be worth the journey. Trying to use an iPad would require elbow room. Not. Have you ever tried typing with your elbows super-glued to your sides?

My options became clear. Sit there in a stupor (people do this), read a book (a small one at that), pay five dollars for a headset to watch a movie that they chose, not you or talk nonstop about nothing to a seatmate. Ladies behind me did just that. For six and one-half hours. How is that possible? They didn’t even know each other!

Blessed By The Rabid

It could have been worse. Belligerent alcoholic. Bad body odor. Screaming infant. Sneezing, coughing sick person who will not cover their mouth. Children playing a loud video game over and over and over. Roaring snoring. Despairing over-sharing. Cell phone use (it’s coming). Soon, we will be using a credit card to pay for oxygen when the emergency masks drop down as we’re instructed to help others with their transaction.

I surrendered to the situation and slept as much as I could. Dreams about alien space invaders took over my life. I mean my brain. I mean my space.

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