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Thursday, December 09, 2010


  Sit BAck and Relax

THERE IS A SPECIAL ROOM in hell where the flames are extra hot and you must sleep siting straight up. The sign on the door reads: Reserved for People Who Recline Their Seatbacks the Entire Flight. Most of us understand the discomfort we are inflicting on the poor schmo sitting behind us and try to limit our reclining for the flights-out portion of the flight. If everyone leans back together, in the manner of the synchronised, unattractively upholstered swim routine, then no-one is unfairly crowded.

I had a seatback diva in front of me last week. We were barely air-borne, and there she was in my lap. Using my computer would now entail making a slit in my belly flab and inserting the front half of the keyboard inside me, so that the bottom row of letters were rendered inaccessible and i would have to make do without the words banana, vixen, balaclava and many other colourful favourites.

Defeated, I tried to watch the little TV mounted in the seatback in front of me. Alas, the screen was so close to my face that my eyes were crossing. TV chef Emerif had become a set of perfectly choreograph twin Emerils, which was one or possibly two more Emerils than I could handle. In desperation, I turned to my complementary copy of Sky Mall catalogue and began to read. A mail-order was selling "the Most Compact Washing Machine in the World," enabling, I don't know, Santa's elves to do laundry in their workshop. "Tiki Head Tissue Box Dispenses Tissue Through the Nose!" another ad reported excitedly.

"Who would buy this?" I said to the man in the middle seat, but he was busy waving down a flight attendant. "Miss?" He was holding up knees. "Is there any room in the overhead bin for these?"

We hit a pocket of turbulence and Bloody Mary mix slopped onto the chinos of the man next to me. I pointed to the Most Compact Washing Machine in the World. "You need this," "I said. The man did not smile. His expression was just like the Tiki Head with tissues up its nostrils, displeased and clearly embarrassed about the situation yet resolutely stoic.

More and more, you must board a plane like a general going to war. You must constantly defend your turf-your wee, airless kingdom. The occupier of the next seat will make his move upon your armrest the moment your vigilance flags. you will return from the bathroom to find an elbow planted in the little vinyl peninsula where your people once roamed free.

The battle for armrest dominance has grown ever more intense in the era of laptop computer. The airplane seat-design to ba a chair, and never very good at it - has now been asked to perform double duty as an office. Soon people will be bringing fitness equipment and hobby craft aboard, and the company that makes the elfin washers will need to get started on looms and rowing machines.

Incredibly complex ruels apply to the space beneath your seat, for it belongs, technicaly, to the person behind you. Not long ago, I was on a transcontinental flight when I was awaken by a woman behind me, "Excuse me?" She was holding a plastic juice cup. "Excuse me? This is coming in my section."

I had put my empty cup under my seat and it has slid backwards, crossing the imaginary line in the carpeting. She was peeved. Her eyes were squinty and her nostrils were flaring as though about to dispense tissues through the nose.

People were staring, so I took the cup. Later that night, a pantyhosed foot made a stealth assoult on the back of my right armrest. It was her Juice Cup Border Patrol.

"Excuse me?" I nudge the foot at all gently, "This is coming in my section."

Several hours went by without incident. I was beginnig to drift off, when I heard a driving, tinny noise: ch-ch, ch-ch, ch-ch, ch-ch,......THe woman behind me had mobilised the most fearsome weapon in the modern airplane arsenal: the Overly Loud Headphones.

I waved my hot towel to surrender.

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