I was trapped!
Aisle seat versus window seat is the topic of many online blogs and even a recent survey by the U.S. Lahey Clinic Medical Centre. The survey suggests, among other findings, that sitting in an aisle seat can help ward off deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), but oddly made no mention of Bladder Exploding Syndrome (BES). It found that 75 per cent of passengers with DVT were not seated in an aisle seat and were less able to move as a result, or not at all if your neighbours happened to be Mr. and Mrs. Comatose.
Sure, the aisle seat has its naysayers who argue that you could miss amazing sights such as the mighty Amazon River in full flow or a breathtaking sunrise over the Himalayas or simply unforgettable Winnipeg from 36,000 feet.
Those same window seat advocates suggest they are better able to sleep, are less likely to be disturbed and have control over the window blind. They likely don’t drink Heineken.
However, from my aisle seat, I hold ultimate control – I am the gatekeeper! In order to reach the washroom after munching on your inflight goop washed down with a warm Chardonnay, you have to get past me. And if I decide to take 10 sleeping pills or something even more effective, like watching Sex and the City 2 on the in-flight entertainment system, then good luck waking me. You’ll have to squeeze past.
Stealthy moves at three a.m. over the mid-Atlantic are normally conducted by Navy Seals, but a neighbouring passenger (occupying the dreaded middle seat) on a recent overnight flight attempted a mission impossible to reach the aisle. Her mission was to slink past my slumbering frame while trying not to disturb me.
It would be fair to say that my neighbour was carrying some extra weight, the majority of which was behind her. The Urban Dictionary uses the phrases “junk in the trunk” and “badonkadonk” to describe a curvaceous female behind and helpfully goes on to explain the latter as being “a little less extreme than having an SUV in the pants.”
Unfortunately, the gap between economy seat rows is not designed to be traversed by the human frame, let alone one carrying a badonkadonk. In fact, the distance between rows is reduced to a nanogap when the seat in front is reclined to its maximum – as it was in my situation.
What happened next provided me with an experience for which school simply doesn’t prepare you.
It wasn’t so much of a jolt as a wobble that woke me. No time for introductions as we were well past the point of etiquette – or “jetiquette” as it is often referred to, meaning how to behave on an aircraft. As my startled eyes focused in the dim cabin light, I began to make out letters. large letters and all in capitals. first, a G, followed by a U, and then an S, and another S, spelling GUSS. GUSS was emblazoned on the rear of her sweatpants, which were at that very moment passing perilously close to my face.
She stopped mid-straddle as if re-evaluating her exit trajectory and held firm onto the headrest of the seat in front, grasping it with both hands. The letter U began to blur. She then tilted left and then right and then left again, the kind of move you see a Sumo wrestler make before he lunges, but she appeared stuck.
I was helpless to assist. exactly what does one do in that situation? Jetiquette would say lend a hand or offer words of encouragement. I did what most earnest travellers would have done – I pretended to be asleep.
Certain moments in life qualify for reflection – the “what am I doing here?” question. I had no time for that nonsense.
With one last tilt to the right, she was free and rearranging herself in the aisle. In rearranging she managed to find another letter, E, now revealing the word GUESS. My guess was mid-size SUV. Where the E was hiding was anybody’s guess but I was grateful that on that morning she had decided not to wear Abercrombie and Fitch. just too many letters to hide.
Quick observation: if you’re going to have backside advertising, at least make it more interesting for the viewer. Where’s Waldo, perhaps?
Personal space on an aircraft is premium as passengers battle elbows for control of armrests. At least with the aisle seat, you only have to battle with one elbow, leaving the other at the mercy of the catering cart. Eking out extra space has its benefits and some opt for more cunning strategies to achieve it.
My brother-in-law, for example, eats only egg sandwiches before a flight and then releases the subsequent fermented flatus just prior to takeoff. In most cases, it results in at least one empty neighbouring seat. It has been known to clear an entire row and, on one occasion, even my brother-in-law had to move. And all this time I have been collecting airline miles for an upgrade, when all I required was half a dozen eggs and timely muscle control.
When it comes to hogging space, actor Don Johnson was seen laying across four seats in the centre row of an aircraft, much to the annoyance of fellow passengers. When confronted as to what gave him the right to take up so much space, he promptly produced four tickets in his name and went back to sleep. Don, if you read this, just buy half a dozen eggs next time.
In the end, seating preference is a personal choice but, remember, if your neighbour has a “badonkadonk”, is drinking Heineken and smells faintly of sulphur, take the guess work out of the situation: Upgrade.
Born in Dublin, Paul Lynch now lives and writes in Ottawa.