Annoying Flight

Columns | Mariam Shalikashvili | May 2008

I was just about to loosen my seat belt and get ready for the exhausting five hour flight from Las Palmas to Vienna, when I realized that I couldn’t straighten out my legs. The man in front of me had put his chair down, pressing his seat almost to my chest. I was trapped, sandwiched between the flight magazines and vomit bag and the inflated pillow and blanket beneath me.

Pushing against the seat back, I managed to ease myself sideways out from under, and leveraging against the arm rest, jacked myself up to a standing position in the aisle. I took a step forward and leaned down to my neighbor who was leafing through a pile of reading material. I introduced myself and requested – politely enough – if he could move his seat back up just a bit.

Seemed like a reasonable enough request.

Instead of apologizing, he started screaming at me.

"Unmöglich!" Impossible!, he growled back in German. "Look at what I have to put up with!" He pointed at the seat in front of him, just as far down in his lap as his was in mine. "Why don’t you tell this SOB to think about my situation!"  If I would fix the his problem, he would move his chair as well.

Trying to stay calm, I started explaining that the passenger in front of him was not my problem and that he should deal with him himself. Wrong answer. Instead of acting, he put on his headphones. The conversation was over. All I could do was to go to the flight attendant, register my complaint and let her deal with the problem.

This worked perfectly. She came over and asked both passengers to adjust their seat backs ‘in consideration of those sitting behind.’ Instantly, both obeyed her request.

Nothing like the power of authority.

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