She did something you just don’t do. Having inserted herself into the middle seat on this morning’s first flight from San Antonio to Dallas, she crossed her thick legs “man style,” her shoe’s black plastic heel pointing toward and extending at least three inches into my aisle seat air space.

She was obviously uncomfortable. She exhaled with frustration.

I could play out a couple scenes in my mind that would stay there:

Halfway through the flight: Ma’am, could you please move your foot? It’s, like, sticking into my … space. I would never say this. No one does that either.

Or I could take the passive aggressive route: pretend to fall asleep after the flight takes off and make my right leg “twitch” to the right, launching her black shoe toward the man smugly sitting in his window seat, head against the thin, beige window shade.


“Would you be more comfortable in an aisle seat?” I asked her instead, quite politely, after this mental one-act had seen the heavy curtain fall.

“Oh. That would be wonderful.”

We’d already heard the flight attendant warning to buckle up and begin to pay attention, but we quickly changed seats and she, having settled in and now exhaling with relief, started to talk.

“We’re going to the big bad airport,” with a slight smile. Meaning DFW. Her eyes had a sparkle through her silver-rimmed glasses.

She’d never been to Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport — purported to be larger than the entire state of Rhode Island or, at least, “dadgum big” — and was en route from Las Vegas–where, no doubt from her alcohol reek, she’d been within the last 18 hours–through San Antonio–“I like that airport”–to New Orleans. She didn’t say this last city like a resident. Her skin tone, her long and natural-gray hair, and facial structure told me she might be at least partly Native American.

As I tried to snooze during the flight — using my Middle-Seat Sleep Pretzel Formation (arms crossed and locked to avoid unfolding; ankles crossed at floor so knees don’t stray during REM cycle) — the arm of the man to the right kept rubbing my arm and the woman’s knee at one point firmly bumped my left one. This latter event may have happened when I was semi-conscious and my Pretzel somehow started to unravel.

On the connecting flight, and having bought both segments on “Basic Economy,” which requires that one relinquish all rights, even that of screaming when feeling claustrophobic (well, that’s probably the rule in First Class, too), this time I was assigned to a middle seat. That’s what “Basic Economy” means: “basically, you always get a middle seat.”

Having been placed here by American Airlines, I will exercise my Middle Seat Advanced Armrest Arithmetic.

To wit: there are four armrests for three passengers. Since each person technically gets 1.334 armrests to come out perfectly even, and since it would be impossible to divide the armrests so, my solution is that the aisle and window passenger customers get their full armrest and the middle passenger gets the two middle ones. This is only fair, and the aisle passenger, an older but still quite muscular gentleman, who is now casually fighting me for it by adjusting his hearing aids while his elbow sneakily scopes out space, will lose.

I can assure you.


Postscript: he did not lose, and neither did I. I ended up not being able to work on my laptop because, in case you don’t know, to do computer work you must have room to move all ten fingers, which you can’t do in a middle seat. So I spoke a little with him, and a little with the lady to my left, and then when they spoke to each other, I read a book. Which required only one hand.


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