Last week I found myself in a terribly uncomfortable position. I was travelling cross-country on an overnight flight and somehow, in spite of all my diligent planning, I was assigned the dreaded middle seat. Wedged in between a rather rotund woman and Mr. Goes To The Bathroom Every 30 Minutes I thought to myself, why are in-flight safety videos mandatory while basic plane etiquette is rarely enforced?
And so fellow travellers, if we’re going to be stuck together we should probably set up a few ground rules. Here’s a list of 10 to get us started:
1. Quit throwing elbows. Stop clumsily unfolding your newspaper or trying to use a clunky laptop on your miniature tray table and bruising my rib cage in the process. Buy an iPad or stick to a paperback.
2. Babies are going to cry. All of the eye-rolling in the world won’t make a difference, so stop making new parents feel bad about it.
3. Don’t lean all of your body weight on the headrest in front of you every time you get up. There is a person in that seat and they want to smack you.
5. Bring a novel, a magazine, a puzzle book — anything that will keep you occupied. Do not depend on your seatmates to provide you with seven hours of entertainment. Refrain from reading over someone else’s shoulder and don’t you dare try to strike up a conversation against their will.
6. When your knee is touching my knee, it’s awkward. Stop pretending you don’t notice.
7. If you’re in the emergency exit row, listen when the flight attendant explains how to assist the crew in an emergency. Sitting through a two-minute instructional speech is a small price to pay for all of that extra leg room.
8. Don’t hog the armrest. People sitting in the aisle and window seats get the outside armrests and the person in the middle gets to use both inside ones to compensate for their unfortunate seat assignment.
9. Turn off your phone. For real. You’re not fooling anyone by hiding your BlackBerry in your bag while you stealthily check messages.
10. Just because there is alcohol available doesn’t mean you need to get drunk. Nobody likes a belligerent jackass — especially at 30,000 feet.
Remember, the rules aren’t just for everyone else — they’re for you, too. An airplane is not your office or your bedroom (or, heaven forbid, your bathroom); it is a claustrophobia-inducing aircraft you must share with hundreds of strangers. Treat it as such.