Adventures in flying and personal space (or: The dude in the middle seat put his face in my lap)


Yes, I know there are fingerprints all over my iPad case.

Sooner or later, we all encounter that person: the one who breaks into our personal space on a plane, often quite unintentionally. This happened to me last night on my flight home when the guy pictured above drifted off to sleep. He was in the middle seat of our row; I took the window seat because I got a spot in Southwest’s “A” group and because I have retained my sense of adventure about travel.

He certainly wasn’t drunk, but he was incredibly relaxed and floppy. He leaned on me for a moment, then leaned on the passenger in the aisle seat, and finally slumped forward against the seat in the row ahead of us. His preternatural flaccidity was a wonder to behold. If the plane crashes, I thought, he’s almost guaranteed survival.

I was all right with that state of affairs until we hit some turbulence. He bounced around like a stalk of microwaved asparagus and finally landed face first in my lap. That’s when I tapped on his shoulder and woke him up.

As he groggily pulled himself upright, I smiled at him and said “In my culture, we’re married now.”

(It’s a catchphrase my Dad used to use in awkward situations and I’d decided to borrow it.)

He gave me a weak, worried smile, and sat bolt upright for the rest of the flight.

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