Friday, February 22, 2013

The Politics Of: Seat Reclining

And so ... it has come to this:
The woman sitting in front of me on this plane seems perfectly nice. She, like me, is traveling coach class from Washington to Los Angeles. She had a nice chat before takeoff with the man sitting next to her, in which she revealed she is an elementary school teacher, an extremely honorable profession. She, like me, has an aisle seat and has spent most of the flight watching TV. Nevertheless, I hate her.

Why? She’s a recliner.
Slate author Dan Kois writes about the agony of airplane travel when having to deal with the horrors of those who recline their seats. His A-Game when someone refuses?
“No!” she snapped. “We paid for these goddamn seats, and we’ll recline them if we want to.” So then everyone was angry: I was angry because I had no room, and she was angry because I passive-aggressively kicked her seat once every 15 minutes—often enough to be annoying, but not often enough to definitely be on purpose.
Megan McArdle isn't impressed:
I infer from this that Dan Kois is not afflicted with lower back trouble. I would not be better off if no one reclined; rather, I would be hobbling off the plane in agony, looking forward to a day or so of recuperating in the hotel room. Sitting bolt upright for a long flight can leave me near-crippled for days, as I once found out through an unwise seat selection.
Of course Dan is not afflicted with lower back trouble--if he was, he'd be writing about how rude all those non-recliners were. It turns out there is an actual device that prevents reclining by reinforcing your seat (tray-table down) with plastic wedges: the Knee Defender! In case the person in front of you is unaware of your self-defensive posture, they give you little courtesy cards to hand over:
If Someone Ever Gives Me One, I'll Ask Them To Install The Defender And Then Destroy It!
Is this cool? Manners Mavens Emily Post and Miss Manners agree: No--you paid for the seat, you get to recline at least part of the time--at least part way. It's the airline's fault for making travel so awful:
"The courteous person will choose to not recline their seat for the entire duration of the flight. … But I do think that the person who, unfortunately, has the seat coming back into their lap has to get over the fact that that's just the reality of the situation."
If you want to recline your seat, there is no obligation to turn around and assess whether the person behind you would be cramped, Post said.
 However, that said, as the Omnivore flies a fair amount and this is near-and-dear to his heart, you can have: The Rules For Airline Travel.

The Rules For Airline Travel
Before you complain about your flight experience, check these rules. They may save you some self-righteous fury!

1. Go Ahead, Recline Your Seat
If you cannot stand the idea of someone reclining their seat into you, consider this: you are already flying first class with the most leg-room and side space air-travel can provide: you're whining. What's that? You're not flying first class? Oh, well then certainly you're in an exit row--or one of those premium seats, right? Clearly. What's that? You're not? Well, did you shop on price and fly economy class and expect a reasonably comfortable experience?

That ship already sailed buddy. Your flying experience is going to suck and you paid for it. If you could have paid less and had it suck even more studies suggest you would. Blaming the guy in front of you for that is foolish.

NOTE: If you wish to retaliate on recliners by directing your air jet and light at their bald-spot, that's legit too. All's fair.

2. First Class Passengers: You May Hit 2 But Not 3
When boarding a plane you are allowed to hit two but not three first class passengers with your luggage. First class is usually not that long of a compartment and if you hit three they will catch on.

3. If You Cannot Lift The Bag Without Help You Have No Business Carrying It On
If your roller-bag is filled with gold bars, lead weights, or uranium yellow cake you had better be Hulk Hogan or else you should check it. There is an exception if you are ready and willing to ask for help rapidly when boarding--if that works, okay.

4. Under No Condition Argue With the Stewardess (Steward, etc.)
There was a time when you might have had a legitimate expectation of decent treatment by the airline personnel. Alas, that time is gone. Now it is a power-dynamic like unto a prison guard and a prisoner. YOU are the prisoner. Arguing with the stewardess will just delay the flight and get you nowhere. Don't do it--you may be 100% in the right morally and you still look like an entitled dick when you argue.

Instead: make fun of her hair. But only quietly, and after she's left in victory.

NOTE: You do not have to turn off your phone but you should silence it and not clearly have it out playing Temple Run when she comes by. That's just pushing things.

5. Crying Babies Are Part Of The Program
Back in the early days of evolution there was a baby that made beautiful music when it was hungry: that baby starved to death. The biologically successful babies have a cry that turns your brain inside out. That is The Plan. Should crying babies be on the plane? Should babies at all be in first class?

No--they should not--not for Proper Flying. If you are Properly Flying babies should not be anywhere on the plane. Proper Flying is for men in business suits who know the exact seat that includes a step-up on the way to the back of the plane so they can see even more of the scantily clad stewardess' leg as she brings the drink back. No babies. No women--unless it's your wife. Or mistress. Got that?

Proper Flying went out like five or six decades ago. Today your pleasure is a supple rubber-gloved TSA guy's hand up your--what? Okay, well, you know. You also get to unleash your exhibitionist side in the porno-scan. Flying today is great that way.

But you  know what else you've got today that didn't exist fifty years ago? Noise canceling head-phones. If you really hate the crying babies stop being one yourself.

6. Fuck That Two Dollars For Head Phones
Airlines are trying to rip you off. They charge for luggage. They charge for food (and it can only sort of be called 'food'). They charge for internet because they know they have you over a barrel  They charge for head-sets so you can see their choppy TV or maybe a movie which will be interrupted by the captain and which you won't get to see the end of before the plane lands. It's NOT worth paying for. That's what iPads are for.

7. You Are Lucky If You Are Not Next To This Guy
That Guy In The Middle Seat? HE'S Having The Bad Flight. Not YOU. HIM.
I am not all het up against over-weight people. I am ambivalent about whether or not Kevin Smith ought to have to buy two plane-tickets (I mean, I guess maybe he should, I dunno. I'm honestly not that arsed about it). However, I do know this: that guy in the middle seat? HE--He is fucked over for the three hours or whatever on that plane.

THAT GUY you can feel sorry for. If you are not that guy? Suck it up. And even that guy is getting a good deal since the guy on the aisle seat is all the way over. If the big dude were centered, middle-seat-dude would be mashed into the wall like a space ship without a General Products hull hitting a neutron star.

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