When traveling via airplane there are certain unwritten courtesies to personal space, especially when in coach. There is nothing fun about being jammed into a small area with strangers for long flights. It’s like playing the lottery as you watch the people file in, and guess which ones will, and which one you hope will not become your future seat mates.
I always try to book the window exit row for the leg room and ability to lean against the wall and sleep. A lot of times I end up getting upgraded to first class so I don’t have to play seat lotto too often. However, when I change my flight at the last minute to come home a day early and there was only one middle seat left – I knew I was in for trouble.
As the passengers boarded the plane my seat mates joined me in row 24; one very thin man to my right (sitting in my coveted window spot) and an average man to my left. Doors were closed, final preparations were made throughout the cabin and soon we were airborne on our four and a half hour journey back to Utah.
The first task when in this situation is determining arm rest dominance – an important task for the middle-seat person. I quickly staked claim to the thin man’s side knowing I could over power him easily since I was twice his size. The average man just offered his up. I was like a queen in my thrown with two arm rests in my property.
After a week of long hours trying to get the shuttle launch, while trying to keep up with everyone at home, I was exhausted and airplanes have a way of soothing me to sleep. So I leaned my chair back (the entire inch those things recline) and I closed my eyes and quickly fell asleep.
I am not sure what I was dreaming about that cause me to suddenly jerk awake throwing every limb into a upward motion. This spastic twitch is not a good feeling when it happens in your bed, let alone when you are trap in the itty bitty space of an airplane. Being rather long-legged I felt my legs slam the seat in front of me, I am sure sending that person hurdling forward as I simultaneously hit both seat mates with my arms.
I profusely apologized to all those affected by abrupt seizure-like awakening. Average man just asked if I was okay, showing some concern. Thin man said nothing and moved even closer to the window (I believe he was already afraid of me after I commandeered his arm rest).
After two more jerk awakes – neither as damaging as the first – I decided I was too tired and it was too dangerous for me to sleep in such close quarters. I turned on my TV in front of me and started watching an episode of Seinfeld – my eyes grew heavy...
I awoke to the sound of the pilot asking the flight attendants to prepare the cabin for landing, and I realized I was not totally in an upright position. I quickly assessed the situation. I had moved my legs to the side with them stretch into skinny’s area and my head was resting on the shoulder of the guy in 24C. I had to have been asleep for at least 2 hours.
As I lifted my head up I noticed the small area of what could only be drool I left on average man’s shoulder – I wanted to die. Red faced, I apologized to him for my total invasion of his space as he pumped his fist trying to get the blood back to his finger tips. He just smiled and said, “No worries it could have been worse.” and gestured his eyes over to very thin man who had all but flatten himself against the wall in avoidance.
I realized that I had just become my worst nightmare…a space invader.