Occasionally, I attempt to sneak into first class when flying. About 65% of the time, no one notices and it works out. This is the story of one of those times it didn’t (written in July 2013).
Believing I am the last on board, I enter the plane and scope out targets for sneaking into first class. I look around and see openings in Rows 1 and 2. Row 1 is more obvious, so I sit down in Row 2 next to a man I can only describe as chest hair that happens to have a body. I recline, put my stuff away, and try to blend in by checking email.
‘I belong,’ I try to telepath to those in my immediate vicinity. My eyes constantly check the door for stragglers — any one of them could be the “rightful” owner to the seat I possess.
Minutes later, an older gentleman waddles on board. He looks around making the, “HEH?!” face old men sometimes do — eyes squinted, jaw slightly ajar, a combination of bewilderment and anger permanently etched on his face. He clearly knows that someone is in his seat. I am the culprit. Internally my nervous system arouses, externally I pretend to play Clash of Clans and upgrade my gold mine.
In a voice every bit as piercing as his expression would suggest, he tells the stewardess that he believes he’s in Row 2 and that his seat is taken. By some stroke of grace, the stewardess believes it to be the person across the aisle. She asks HEH if he will switch with him and sit in Row 1. He mumbles, but obliges.
Dissatisfied, he continues to look around. His “HEH?!” look inexplicably enrages me. I believe I am victorious, and I celebrate my class-hopping glory by raiding a Goblin camp. I mentally increment my “Sneak into First Class” record from 12–4 to 13–4. I believe myself to be a ninja, wizard, or some heretofore undiscovered combination of the two.
That’s when the events of this dark comedy took a dastardly turn.
Off in the distance, I hear a jolly man chatting up the airplane crew as he enters. At first I think he is also a crew member, but he mentions his connecting flight through New Orleans. I panic as I realize there is yet one more obstacle to overcome.
The new passenger looks to Row 1 with a puzzled expression as HEH gives him the look of his namesake, the same way an animal bares its teeth to fend off predators. I believe the newcomer to my airplane tragedy is frightened by this show of aggression, as he motions to the stewardess for help. The stewardess begins checking passes, and HEH says, “I’m in 2D.” I pretend not to hear, though I am listening intently as he spells out my demise. I continue my Goblin raid.
The stewardess asks for my boarding pass — a request to which I oblige, begrudgingly. Her suspicion confirmed, she raises her gaze above the paper and says the five words every traveler fears when embarking on such an endeavor as I: “Sir, this isn’t your seat.”
I am defeated, but, as a man of dignity, I must save face in front of the bourgeoisie I have so nearly infiltrated. I protest sheepishly, “I think the gate printed my seat wrong because I was upgraded to first class on my last flight.” This is only partially a lie: I was in first class on the way over, but there was no such upgrade — besides, of course, my social transcendence over the peons left behind in Economy.
She offers to get the gate agent to assist me, but I take the high ground. “No, that’s okay, it’s only a seat. I will let him have it.” I feign triumph as I walk through the Great Curtain of Class Division, rejoining my common folk brethren.
Deeply demoralized, I take my seat amongst the fellow peasants of the cattle chamber. We taxi for at least 20 minutes, and with each passing minute I long for seat 2D more and more. I wonder why no one has asked if I would like a complimentary cocktail yet, or offered me a pillow. My hatred for HEH seethes and I hope that his luggage gets lost. Eventually, we take off, and I resign myself to my common folk status.
Suddenly, an action is taken that is so vile, so repugnant, so abhorrently inconsiderate that I am confident Hell has a special place for those who partake in its sadism. I realize through this action that I must be sitting behind nothing short of some sort of spawn of Satan himself.
Satan-Spawn reclines his seat.
One of my most deeply held beliefs is that there is no acceptable amount one can politely recline their seat on an airplane. No matter how slight, it is always a direct, undeniable imposition on the personal space of the person behind with no reciprocal gain or trade. Worse, while this creates nothing but negativity for the victim, it has only very marginal benefit for the recliner.
Some of you may be thinking, “Can’t you just recline your seat?” All I will say to you is that we are clearly not of the same species, and your opinion on both this and all other matters are wholly invalid.
In any case, Satan-Spawn reclines his seat so far that it is actually shutting my laptop, and I have to maneuver my neck to see what I type.
I am outraged. HEH is no longer my enemy; Satan-Spawn shall now be the object of my unending passive-aggressive wrath. Fortunately, I have been trained for such assaults on my personal space, and I immediately extend my knee before he can fully complete his recline. He believes something is wrong with his chair, forcefully hitting it with his back to try to “unjam” it. With each hit, I push back with more force, matching newton for newton.
This is not just about my personal space. My kneecap in his Satanic back-side is a protest against such gross affronts to travelers everywhere. I believe, once again, that I have taken the moral high ground.
His father turns over to him and whispers. Hazzah! I conjecture that he has suddenly realized that his demonic offspring is an asshat, and he has politely asked him to move his seat up.
Wrong. He, too, reclines his seat so far that my neighbor and co-victim is forced to hold his iPad as if he were a T-Rex. It is a family of Satanic asshats.
Satan-Spawn continues to try to jam his seat down throughout the flight, but with each attempt I counter his unwelcome aggression into my territory with my knee jujitsu. Finally, the pilot announces that we are preparing for landing, meaning all seats must return to upright positions. He moves his seat back up — resigned, defeated, uncomfortable, and unrested.
As we descend from the heavens, I bask in the victory of my moral superiority. My knee hurts.