Dear Man Seated Behind Me on Ethiopian Flight 500 from Addis Ababa to Washington,
I first noticed you when you loaded your carry-on bags into the overhead compartment. You made those mumbled complaining noises and said something about, “What the hell is this?” because my carry-on was already up there. Your two bags fit just fine, with a little maneuvering but you huffed and puffed for a while and I ignored you. I was reading Anton Chekhov.
I am a woman of average height and lifted my carry-on without any trouble so it was a little surprising that such a tall, stern man as yourself needed to make so much noise about it, but to each his own.
After first dinner was served I reclined my seat in order to sleep. It was 2:00 a.m. in my body. I heard another grunt and groan and for the next hour you jammed your knees into my seat, bobbed your legs up and down, leaned over and signed heavily. I pretended the earthquake in my seat was merely airplane turbulence and ignored you. I had actually forgotten that you were the man who had so much trouble with his bags and I assumed that you were a toddler, or maybe a five-year old, compulsively kicking the seat of the person in front of you.
I didn’t say anything because I was so tired that I managed to doze off and on until a particularly hard jab jerked me awake. But such is trying to sleep on an airplane.
While I was gone you adjusted me seat for me, thank you O kind sir, so that now it was in the upright position and your knees were jammed in hard against the back so that no matter how hard I pushed I could no longer recline even one inch.
You had an empty seat beside you. Why not sit there? Why not stretch your legs comfortably out to the side? Why act like a spoiled child? (And, question to self: why am I not more aggressive in demanding you stop or seeking flight attendant assistance?) If you are so tall that your space needs to invade mine on a seventeen-hour flight (and actually you are not that tall, I saw you stand up and shout at the airport employee after we landed), you need to stop being an ass and purchase a ticket in business class.
Now that you learned I want to recline and that you can stop such reclining with your knees, you have not budged. You have not gone to the bathroom, you have not retrieved anything from your bags, though you watched with beady suspicion while I pulled my laptop out of my carry-on. Don’t worry, I only briefly touched your bags as they had shifted during the flight. Just following the safety guidelines.
Everytime I turn around to ask if I could please recline, I mean we are talking 17 hours in these positions, you close your eyes and feign deep sleep. This is amazing, that you can sleep so long but jump to the alert if my chair starts to move as though I wish to recline.
I suppose I should thank you, normally I have the most awful time trying to work on airplanes. But now what else can I do? I have to write about you. So, thank you and no thank you.
*image via Flickr