Airport Etiquette

It started innocently enough. On my way to NY for Cat Con (also known as the international Cat Writers Association annual meeting), I settled myself into my window seat for the short flight from Greensboro to Atlanta. A sweet grandmotherly type toddled up the aisle, clutching her boarding pass and glancing frequently at the aisle numbers as if afraid she’d lost count.

I was happy when she stopped at the aisle seat next to me. Waiting to find out who’ve I’ve been assigned as a seat buddy is always a nerve-wracking event. Will I get body odor guy, seat kicking toddler, morbidly obese woman (sorry, I know it’s not PC but I’ve been shoved into half a seat for a five hour flight next to a person who couldn’t help but spill over into my sitting area and it wasn’t pleasant), or—worse—the talker?

Grandma showed every sign of being the perfect seat buddy. She sat down and inquired how I was, to which I replied, “Well, thank you,” and asked the same of her.  She had a pack of smokes tucked away in her purse but as she didn’t give off even the faintest whiff of tobacco, I forgave her this.

As is my habit, I closed my eyes as the engines revved to life. Forget Nyquil. Nothing knocks me out faster than airplane engines. Ready to drift off to sleep, I was awakened by… an elbow in my side and face in front of mine as Grandma leaned over in what appeared to be an attempt to move the upper half of her body into my seat.

Okay. Maybe she’s one of those people who like to watch the take-off. I smiled and leaned back to make way for her. I don’t think she noticed, busy as she was straining to press her face against the glass.

The fun continued throughout the flight. One minute she’d be napping in her aisle seat and the next taking up the space in front of me as she leaned, leaned, leaned her way to the window.

Then came the fiddling. With not only her lights and air knob, but with mine. In case you haven’t clued in yet, I’m territorial on a flight. This is my dance space, that’s your dance space. You don’t come in my space and I don’t come in yours. And by God, don’t freaking touch my air nozzle.

But the worst, the very worst, came at the end of the flight. We’d left Greensboro late and Grandma and I had discussed that the chances of making our connecting flights were slim. I had a 2:15 and she had a 1:50. We pulled into Atlanta at 1:45 and I was thinking I might have a shot at making it... until we sat on the tarmac for ten minutes, waiting to pull into our gate.

Grandma leaned over and patted my knee. “I knew I wasn’t going to make my connection honey, but I was so hoping you would make yours.”

The gall of this woman! Here I am all set to dislike her and she goes and says something sweet like that. Rude beyond belief. Now I have no choice but to conclude that I’m an evil, seat-mongering, air-nozzle hogging woman who would rather think bad thoughts about an innocent human being versus share a bit of space. How’s that for a little wake-up call!?

As I type this, I’m sitting in the Atlanta airport, waiting for a later flight. And I’m trying really, really hard not to give the stink eye to the older gentleman who just sat down next to me. It’s fine. A free country. He’s entitled.

Even though—and I’m just saying—there are numerous other seats to chose from.