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Armrest Etiquette: Setting the Record Straight

My life is scattered at the moment – literally! I work in Toronto, my fiancé lives in London (the one in England as opposed to the Canadian city), and I consider Pittsburgh to be home. The comfort of knowing that this is a temporary arrangement only gets me so far; hence, I find myself travelling quite frequently to both London and Pittsburgh to spend time with my loved ones.

Travelling Queen

In my humble opinion, road trips rock. There’s nothing like getting behind the wheel of my car, turning on some club jams, and car-dancing the way to my destination while clearing my head from the stresses of day-to-day life. If there was a bridge that connected North America to the UK, I would’ve made that trip several times by now; alas, I am subject to use flying as a means of visiting my man.

Don’t get me wrong…flying doesn’t bother me from a conceptual perspective. Admittedly, I get a bit nervous when it comes to landing because you’re going to hit the ground one way or another, but I’m cool as a cucumber in the air even with turbulence in the mix. The aspect of being on a plane that makes me anxious is that you’re surrounded by strangers in a somewhat intimate setting.

The Incident (dun dun DUN)

“Intimate, you claim?” I understand your confusion, but let me explain. About a month ago, on an overnight flight to attend a British wedding with my hubby-to-be, I found myself in an extremely awkward situation that solidified my growing unease with flying. I was sitting in the dreaded aisle seat next to a couple, while the lady I had the *cough cough* pleasure of sitting next to showed off her insanely long bright pink toenails by wedging her feet between the seats in front of us. Conflicted between:

  1. Utter disgust, wondering whether the people in the next row could smell her feet, and
  2. Admiration that she was able to sneak those certified weapons past security,

I soon became distracted with another concern: She started to invade what I considered to be My Area, which is hands-down critical on an overnight flight.

Stop Touching Me!!

I grew up with three siblings, so I am a master of defining what My Area is versus Your Area. There were conversations that took place in our family’s stunning brown Pontiac station wagon that would make even the craftiest of lawyers break a sweat. The difference between having that type of conversation with your sister versus a stranger is that one will tell your mom you’re crazy; the other will report you to the authorities. For the duration of the flight, I kept my mouth shut for fear of getting detained as we virtually cuddled our way to England, vowing to do my research on the matter once I returned home.

Current Etiquette (aka – Silliness)

Apparently, the current consensus is that the poor person in the middle seat gets reign over both armrests, as they are at an alleged disadvantage (insert shocked expression here). This ignores the misfortune of the one exposed to the elements of the aisle. These elements include, but are certainly not limited to:

  1. Large metal food carts,
  2. Hyper children,
  3. Uncoordinated & sometimes drunk adults, and
  4. People putting personal body parts in your face as they retrieve luggage from the overhead cabinets.

In my mind, this renders the outer armrest as more dangerous than useful!

What is even more surprising is there are other people out there who believe that armrests can be shared. This takes me back to my point on having territorial discussions with strangers. All people with siblings know that most halves are not equal, which will ultimately result in “accidental” nudges by the person who feels they have the right to the space.

New, Brilliant Proposal

A very wise friend of mine, Stephanie, shared with me a way to divvy up armrests that solves all of these concerns:

  • The person in the window seat gets the window armrest.
  • The person in the middle gets the armrest between the window & middle seats.
  • The person in the aisle seat gets the armrest between the middle & aisle seats, as well as the aisle armrest, if they dare…

I urge you to pass on Steph’s genius to your friends, family, co-workers, and fellow passengers. Let’s redefine this existing “etiquette” to be something that makes flying more pleasurable. Remember, it is the person who sits on the aisle seat who has to get up for the people in the middle to use the toilets!