I do not expect to commandeer both the arms of my seat when I go to the movies.
It is one of life’s great mysteries that in any row of movie seats only one person gets two armrests.
That’s okay. I am prepared to share. I’ll have two through the adverts, the previews, and the credits at the end of the film. They can have it for the movie itself. (and if you think I’m getting a raw deal then you overlook the length of some film credits nowadays).
But I will not give up the shared armrest entirely.
No longer am I prepared to have some thoughtless oaf (of either sex) assume unilateral ownership.
And if you think I’m making a mountain out of a movie seat then that’s because you don’t realise this issue is bigger than movie seats.
A movie only lasts two hours. I, on the other hand, am about to board an airplane to England.
I shall be flying for about 28 hours and if experience is anything to go by I am going to spend the whole 28 hours in a silent and angry battle with my neighbour for domination of the armrest.
The trouble is I forget.
I settle in, twiddle the radio knobs, find the TV channel, read the inflight magazine and suddenly realise someone has crept in beside me and nobbled the armrest!
How come they weren’t busy settling in for the long haul! They must have had it in their minds from the moment they left home: “Be sure to get your elbow down first!”
I am not a great lover of flying. Terrorists don’t bother me, and most planes nowadays seem to be reasonably well bolted together. And the armrest is only the beginning.
I just can’t be comfortable with a lavatory that is going to be used by 400 people.
And what’s more – 400 people who have been shut up together for a very long time on a diet of inflight food!
Nor do I want to talk to anyone. Consider this: how many people in the world do you know, and with how many of them would you want to make small talk for 28 hours non-stop?
One, if you’re lucky, out of several thousand.
This means that the odds on you sitting next to someone interesting enough to be worth listening to (or talking to) are several thousand to one.
And even if you’re lucky they’ll probably steal the armrest.
And a child in the seat in front of you is cute only the very first time it bobs its head up and stares at you. Smiling is fatal. Ultimately for the child, because it will quickly try to engage you with slimy bits of bread dropped in your lap and you will be forced to open the emergency exit and throw it out.
I have learned a few tricks on long-distance flights.
Wear headphones, even if you don’t plug them in. If someone still insists on talking to you (unless it’s the cabin staff telling you to get in the life raft) just grin. Under no circumstances remove the headphones.
If you do not want to wear headphones then under no circumstances make eye contact.
Sit in an aisle seat. This way you cannot be crushed against the cabin wall and you can get to the lavatory — if you’re really desperate — without having to climb over people.
And when your neighbour steals one armrest at least you’ll still have the other one.