January 13, 2014
Air Canada Flight 1183, with service to Toronto
Ah, there it was. Row 14. Middle row, aisle seat. I parked myself comfortably. Middle seat empty. Sweet! Spared a short glance to my left at my row-mate. Blonde lady. Lots of stuff. Should’ve been a sign.
While waiting for take off I amused myself with the usual accoutrements of Canadian air travel. Flipped through En Route. Looked at the laminated safety card. Wondered where, exactly, does the yellow oxygen mask come from. Surreptitiously studied the distance between me and the bathroom as well as the baby-yelling radius. Looked at the safety card again.
“Why, helloooooo! How are you? Yes I am fine. Just sitting on the plane on the way to Toronto.”
Startled, the safety card fell out of my grasp and I looked over at blondie. Who was chatting on her cell phone. Loudly.
“Yes I know! No business class for me this time. I suppose it can’t be helped.”
I snorted and stuffed the safety card into the seat, having come to an immediate and unfavourable opinion about my new row-mate. Clearly it was important that we all learn she was an economy class newbie.
The engines thankfully rumbled, and shortly thereafter we were airborne. Ah, modern flying. A technological marvel, yet catalyst for air rage borne of claustrophobia, strong drinks, and seat design that pushes one’s head forward like a bulldog. And, as I was to learn, catalyst for its lesser known yet highly irritating cousin, seat weaseling.
The steward came by. “Globe?” “Post?”
I declined, blondie didn’t. Well, that’s nice she reads the paper, good for her I thought. I followed my thoughts aimlessly and had almost drifted off when suddenly, with a great big rustle, the Arts & Life Section was tossed onto the middle seat. This was shortly followed by Sports. Investing. And then, Business. Suddenly I was annoyed – her little paper hobby was taking up the whole of “our” shared seat! And I had not yet heard a query of polite entreaty – i.e. would you mind if I put my paper here?
Now, I wouldn’t minded so much had I been asked, but there is a most curious thing that happens when one isn’t. This is known as the thin line between being graciously magnanimous (Why, of course not, please go right ahead – I don’t at all mind. Oh, would you like a mint?) to being a ferocious and highly territorial shrew (Well! Will you just look at what she did! Took up the whole seat with na’ary a do you mind! The gall! And she has bad hair.)
I glared at the discarded paper in hopes that it would catch on fire. The paper lay there blandly, mocking me with its passivity. When nothing further happened, I sighed and picked up my book, telling myself I was being silly. It was, after all, just a newspaper. And it’s not like I needed the seat. I yawned, stretched, and began reading.
Hark, what was that? Rats. It was the sound of my bladder. I could never refuse its clarion call. I sighed and got up to travel the 37 rows to the bathroom at the back.
When I returned, just a few minutes later, I made the unpleasant discovery that blondie had seized the opportunity to annex the middle seat in its entirety. The paper had been joined by a large plastic dossier, and insult of insults, an empty Starbucks coffee cup was indolently lolling about, spilling bits of coffee perilously close to my coat! She couldn’t have staked her intentions more clearly unless she had peed on the seat. My inner shrew roared! It was time for affirmative action.
Think, think! Saying something almost always backfires and I still had hours to go with this lady… what could I do? Desperate, I reached down and grabbed my plastic lunch bag, and then spent several minutes erecting a barrier between me and the Starbucks coffee cup. I fluffed out the bag to make it big like a badass poodle, and pushed some of her paper out of the way. There. That should do the trick. I sat back, satisfied that my message was received loud and clear. My new barricade should prevent any further annexing.
Yellow immediately flashed in the corner of my vision. What was this? I glanced up in time to witness a banana peel being tossed onto the seat! This was war! I ferociously rustled my barricade like a sabre, glaring at the peel and hissing. A few minutes later she took the peel and put it into the cup. I relaxed and stopped hissing. She then tossed the cup back on the pile. I tensed, but then eventually relaxed again. A small victory I suppose.
The flight continued and I thought that was the end of it. I had peacefully gotten into my book and had been reading for about an hour when I noticed some activity down near my left armrest. There was a hand scrabbling about! What the? I looked over and noticed she had problems with her headphones so was trying out the middle seat armrest.. again without a comment, a question as to whether I would mind or possibly need it.. and then she cheekily also used the middle monitor and her own. I started laughing – here was this lady, who was using two monitors, two headsets, three armrests, and had commandeered the middle seat for her garbage.
Heck, if this wasn’t business class travel, I don’t know what is. Well played, blondie.