The Miracle of Flight

I’m on the internet a fair amount, mostly because of work and writing related obligations, but also for the social aspect. I love all the photos of kids, puppies, vacations, food, and silly things, I love funny memes, I love updates about people’s lives. But with the internet comes a flip side, and although I should be deadened to it by now, I am not.

Yesterday I was flipping through Facebook and I noticed an article that had been shared a few times. I noticed, in particular, on one friend’s page that the aforementioned article had over thirty comments on it and – cue the ominous, Jaws-theme-song-type-music – I clicked on it.

I know what you’re thinking. Nicole! What’s wrong with you? Have you never been on the internet before? DON’T READ THE COMMENTS. I know. I know. I’m disappointed in myself as well.

The article in question was this one, that listed all the reasons people shouldn’t recline their seats on airplanes. The comments were mixed between I am going to recline my seat whether you like it or not, you whiny baby, deal with it and Everyone who reclines their seat is an inconsiderate asshole, every single one of them, reclining seats should be BANNED. There was really no middle ground; after all, this is an internet argument, and there is no room for middle ground here. Pick a side, people, there is no room on the fence.

This is where I out myself as the Switzerland in this airplane-reclining-seat-mortal-combat. I fly fairly often, and I don’t recline my seat, unless I am on a red eye, and then I definitely do, because I’ve taken Gravol within an inch of my life and will sleep and drool all over myself for the duration and I like to be reclined for that. Generally speaking, though, I sit up straight and I use the flight time the way God intended: to read, watch a crappy movie, or to stare blankly at the seat back for hours like David Putty on Seinfeld. I will also eat lots of free cookies and pretzels, but that’s about it.

Nor do I care if the seat in front of me is reclined. I’m fairly tall but I’m not a big person, and a reclined seat in front of me does not affect my airline experience in any major way. Sure, there might be slightly less room for my free cookies and pretzels on my tray, but I don’t really care. This is not the era of The Glory Days Of Airline Travel. We are not on the set of Mad Men. No one is sitting in cushy comfort with free cocktails and bathroom booty calls. We are all just crammed in and hoping for the best. I think we can all agree that airline travel these days is uncomfortable no matter what the situation, and for me, someone reclining their seat is not going to negatively affect my trip.

To be honest, I was kind of aghast that Reclining Seats Versus Not-Reclining Seats was such a vitriol-filled issue, and YES, I know, have I ever been on the internet before? No topic is too small or ridiculous to warrant heated discussion and name-calling. No topic is too minor to cause people to take sides and friendships to break up. This is the era of The Glory Days Of The Internet, and everyone gets to Air Their Grievances, just like it is Festivus somewhere, every day.

I like to think of myself as a positive person, as a mix between Sally Allbright and Maria von Trapp, going around singing lame songs all the time as I alphabetize my spice cabinet, but things like this make me gravely disappointed in all of humanity. I mean, for all I know the Asshole Who Reclines Their Seat has a bad back that makes it impossible to sit straight for five hours, and for all I know the Whiny Baby Complaining About Reclining is six foot six and the circulation below their knees is being cut off.

Whatever happened to Communicating Needs and Common Decency/ Respect for Fellow People? I don’t know how you would react, but if someone behind me asked me nicely not to recline my seat because it was bothering them, I would not recline my seat. I wouldn’t go off the deep end about My Rights As A Passenger To Recline My Seat. And similarly, if someone reclined their seat and for some reason it was bothering me, I feel that it would be okay to talk to that person and not assume that he or she was The Worst Person On The Face Of The Planet and start mentally plotting their demise.

Let’s all agree that a) airplane travel will always be a bit uncomfortable but it’s worth it to experience the Miracle of Flight rather than spend three weeks driving/ sailing somewhere, b) if we have an issue with something we will look at it at an individual level, rather than Painting Everyone With The Same Bitter Brush, and c) it’s impossible to choose between cookies and pretzels, instead ask for both.


  1. I do get bitter about the reclining-seats thing, but not because I think the people reclining are assholes – I’m just incredibly claustrophobic and a nervous flier, and having my space impinged on even further makes me even more panicky and uncomfortable. I just think the design is poor and I hate how the bottom line means squishing ever more people into an ever-smaller space. In actual fact, I’ve only had someone recline more than a tiny bit once or twice – it’s more the anxiety that they MIGHT do it that bothers me.

  2. I hate flying, which is kind of crazy because it really is a miracle it can be done at all, but there you have it. I am spoiled and wish it were more comfortable AND more affordable even though these goals are at odds.

  3. People have some serious feelings about this recline v. sit up situation.

    Humans never want to miss an opportunity to disagree, it seems.

    Kind of sad, eh?

    I am kind of Switzerland here, too. I just sit up. If a person needs the space, have at it, but yes … ask … or consider at least … the knees of the 6’6″ person behind you *prior* to slamming back with all your might. That seems like the polite way to go.

  4. I love this post because it captures your approach to life, not just airline seats, and I feel the same way. I always try to see other people’s point of view, and empathize with them, and give them the benefit of the doubt, and respond to their needs if at all possible. It’s a sunny way to live but I like it :).

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