Thursday, June 18, 2009
We were flying: I had the window, Spouse had an aisle seat- our respective particular preferences- and there was an empty seat between.
The person in front of me reclined her own seat suddenly and with such force that my water cup, empty on the opened tray table, flipped upside down. I was furious, livid, imagining the consequences had the vessel been full. I bubbled over with years of carefully pressed frustration. Too often I had been walloped by a thoughtless recliner who forgot that someone might be behind. I had had enough.
I reset my cup the right way up, then remarked with a loud snarl, "I think I'll put away the tray." And I did exactly that, with a shove that rocked the seat in front of me.
Spouse had a far better view of my nemesis than I did, sitting diagonally as he was from her. He was immersed in a book of Feynman's essays but looked up to see the woman plunge forward with head bobbling precariously on the stalk of her neck, then back again against the seat rest.
Spouse raised an eyebrow at me. I explained my reasons in a fast and furious whisper.
"No," I said then, just as loudly as before, "I really think I want it open." I pulled the tray down, causing the seat to tremble.
"Or should it be up?"
Each time I touched the tray, the woman lurched; and after the sixth lurch she determined to look around and find out who or what was behind the trouble. She first noticed Spouse, who was making great efforts to swallow laughter. The empty place between us gave her cause to assume we were not travelling together, so that Spouse appeared to be either a madman or, for reasons unknown, supported the individual who was shaking the seat.
I leaned forward and spoke to her, softly to begin with.
"You turned my cup upside down."
"I did? But- but I did not do anything!"
She sounded as though she believed it, too.
"You threw your seat back a few minutes ago. I'm behind you. There's always someone behind you when you fly. You have to be careful, and have a bit of respect." I had wanted for years to say those words to a fellow passenger.
She was flabbergasted.
"But I did nothing!"
"No- you did. You definitely did. My cup was upside down. If there had been water in it it would be all over the place. Or what if my meal had been on the tray? Think about it."
"But I did not do it!"
"Nobody else did it. You did it. You turned my cup upside down."
Thus satisfied, I folded my arms and settled down for a comfortable flight.
At last she turned to her companions with a whimper: "but I did not do anything!" and she cast one more furtive glance at Spouse, who could not, try as he might, climb into his book and escape from her line of vision.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 6:50 PM