A rant about personal space on airplanes–was he touching me inappropriately, and why do so many people think its okay to fart in public?


I knew I was in trouble the second I laid eyes on him.  The context?  International flight, the person assigned to sit next to me.  He was squat of build and quite beefy.  Middle aged, he looked like a bloodless pork sausage.  His skin had a greasy, translucent quality to it–just like sausage casings–where you could see the capillaries and fat bloom underneath.  So far so good, but what did it for me was that he wore sweat pants. 

Call me old fashioned, but I believe in getting dressed up to fly.  I don’t think it is a chance to dress like a pig and to let it all hang out. 

There is something about flying that brings out the worst in people.  I guess the more inhumanly we are treated, the more inhuman we behave.  Well, as soon as this chap had sat down he started marking out territory.  The shared arm rest became his.  He sprawled onto it with his stuff and his person, so as to claim it for himself.  When the drinks came he didn’t make any attempt to move his stuff away. Up until that point I had taken a more bemused attitude towards it, but when I saw his true colours, I vowed to fight back.

What did I do?  I started subtly pushing his stuff onto the floor.  I made his pen disappear.  Anything that he put in “common space” was toast.

He didn’t notice.  I vowed to fight on.  When I needed to get out to use the powder room, he didn’t move, didn’t get up, made no effort to make himself smaller, he was all about being as big and sprawling as possible.  I climbed over him.  When I came back it was the same, so I had to climb over again. He had this mocking look on his face, his arms were crossed, and it was like he was watching me as I arched my legs over him. As punishment I made sure his sweater fell and I stepped on it. He was non-plussed.

His pillow was soon on my footrest.  I tossed it into the aisle when he wasn’t looking.  

But the worst?  What do you call the lower leg version of footsie?  He kept touching me as he “slept”.  I nearly screamed.  I flinched violently each time he touched me, but that didn’t stop him from entangling his legs with mine again.  I wanted to punch him in the neck. In the end I kicked him really hard–but he didn’t even say ow, or seem surprised, because he was up to something.

I don’t want to think that he was doing this on purpose, but now that I replay its nature and frequency, this was unwanted touching, not inadvertent touching. Gross. I wonder if he saw me checking in wearing a skirt–because I changed into something better for sleeping on a plane in the lounge–and that made him feel he could take certain liberties.

Okay.  These violations of space were not fun.  Permit me to reveal the worst…yes, even worse than his unwanted foot and leg contact.  Farting.  He was a farter.  I should have known.  There is something about a man in sweatpants that just screams farting.  He carpet-bombed me with gas at regular intervals throughout the flight.

I’ve never been a farter. I remember growing up one male cousin was a colossal farter. He loved to make a production out of it, turning his butt and letting rip before giggling or commenting. He thought it was funny. I couldn’t get my head around that.

Back to my seat neighbour. What do you do?  The flight was full.  There was no place to go.  Do you “wake” him up and tell him to stop farting?  Every farter must be thinking that nobody knows who did it, but on a plane it is pretty clear.  Especially when the smell looks like the perpetrator!  It got so bad that I thought the only thing I could do was to fart back, to fight gas with gas.

Imagine.  I am sitting there, and the irony is not lost on me, wearing some very frilly pink panties, g-string style, with scalloped edges and embroidery under my slim-fitting cowgirl jeans and my big ol’ cowgirl belt buckle, and no matter how I tried I couldn’t even squirt out the faintest wisp of trouble.

My wife tells me that Germans like to be dominant. But if you show them a little something back they just cower. Hmm. Well, she’s quite dominant and I’m not German.

Alas, a lady’s vengeance was denied.  But I have been enjoying using his pen; it writes rather well.

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