The view from behind seat 23E

A few weeks ago I posted an article about the modern flying experience and its participants. In “The view from seat 23E”, I took a mostly lighthearted look at some of today’s flying rituals and suggested ways in which we might extract some enjoyment from the whole process.

But all is not well inside our pressurized, metal tube. Word reaches my ears of disquiet on board; of a rampant, uncontrolled usage of recline buttons that has spawned the urgent need for deployment of protective gear. Therefore, as a follow up piece, I thought it would be a good idea to focus on my travelling companion; the person sitting directly behind me, in seat 24E.

In my previous post, I had briefly lamented the pervasive selfishness of our “Me First” world. However, in the light of the reclining seat saga, it now occurs to me that I may have assigned an incorrect label.

“Me First” contains a tacit acknowledgement that there are, in fact, other people in the world; people who need to be pushed out of the way, for sure, but still people. However, in a world where people are becoming increasingly oblivious to the existence of others (or anything) outside of their personal bubble, perhaps “Only Me” is a more appropriate title. And the crowning achievement of “Only Me” world must surely be the “Knee Defender”

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the device attaches to the seat in front of you (i.e. not your seat) and prevents its occupier from reclining. With the device attached, the user’s knees are protected from a seat’s flagrant backward incursion into their sovereign territory and, most importantly, ensures their owner’s personal bubble remains intact. In the land of Only Me, its flag will surely have an image of the Knee Defender in its center.

Perhaps what is most surprising about this latest bout of air rage is that it’s taken so long to materialize. In recent years, passenger comfort has been decreasing as quickly as our frustrations – and the fees we pay – have steadily been heading in the other direction. Maybe it just found its catalyst?

Even so, the reclining seat issue itself strikes me as a little mysterious. It’s not as if the modern day business traveler could be embarrassed by the opulent luxury of their surroundings. As you walk through your over-crowded plane, and certainly by the time the row numbers have reached the double-digits, any illusions that a comfortable journey may lay ahead have long since been shattered.

Let’s face it. Economy airline seats are not comfortable, and reclining your seat by six inches from the vertical won’t cause some magical transformation to occur; it’s not going to promote an otherwise unobtainable refreshing and dreamless sleep; it’s not going to bring life and circulation back to numb body parts.

Despite the futility of the exercise, I do expect my travelling companion in seat 24E to acknowledge that seats in airplanes do recline and that, in turn, by purchasing your ticket, you accept that inevitability.

I generally will not recline my seat. On the rare occasions I decide to press the recline button, I will first try to ensure that the act will not disturb your drink, your work or your head. All I ask in return is for you to refrain from deploying a device to stop me from doing so. It’s just the civil thing to do.

Nick Orchard
3rd September 2014

 

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