Sunday, September 8, 2013

Elbow Wars and Writing on Airplanes

These sunflowers are all along the back roads in New Mexico right now, bright as summer itself.

Before I go anywhere with this week's theme, I need to say something about *next* week's topic: Flash Fiction Ad Libs. Using three words provided by you, our readers, we will each write a piece of flash fiction. I think we should all use the same three words. So suggest your word or set of words throughout the week and I'll throw them all into a randomizer and choose three for next week.

This ought to be entertaining.

This week, the Topic-Meister asks, What's the Worst Place You've Written?

Now I'm sure that our intrepid Whores, like James and Allison, will have tales of writing from gutters outside nightclubs, hospital beds, underneath the counter at Starbucks, etc.

This is not me.

I know. I'm kind of a princess this way.

I don't write well away from my desk. While I'm pretty consistently productive in the quiet of my home, I don't hit nearly the same levels anywhere else. Coffee shops irritate me, as much as I love Starbucks otherwise. While I can write in the car (if someone else is driving), it's harder to concentrate. Don't get me started on the gutters outside nightclubs.

Really, the only place I can productively write besides at home, is hotel rooms and airplanes.

Guess which gets my vote for worst place?

Oh my god - save me from the elbow wars.

See, I'm a fairly petite woman. I'm 5'4", reasonably svelte, so I don't take up all the room in my airplane seat, even as narrow as they are these days. I also have traveled enough for the day job that I have decent enough status on my fave airlines to get primo seat-selection.

I love me a nice window seat.

But those folks relegated to the admittedly cramped hell of the middle seat? They see me and salivate. Yes, guys, especially you big guys, I'm looking at you. And no, you're not eyeing me with delight because I'm so damn cute. You want my airspace. I can smell it on you. You're a Space Invader.

I read a long time back - and I believe it's fair - that the middle seat gets both armrests. I'm fine with that. Have the armreest. But you don't get to hang your elbow on my side of the armrest. Or lean over, so your shoulder is on my chair. This situation is exacerbated when I'm trying to type on my little netbook.

Thus the elbow wars.

I've thought about creating a little card, maybe with a piece of candy attached, that says:


I'll be your window-seat companion for this flight. The armrest between us is all yours. However, I would appreciate if you otherwise keep to your seat and don't overlap into my space.

Happy travels! 

I suspect this is too passive/aggressive. Alas.

Once a Twitter friend offhandedly said something along the lines of "since I can't use my laptop on the airplane." I asked why she couldn't and she said because she thinks it's rude - not enough space.

It made me wonder, am I rude to try to write using my netbook on an airplane? The Space Invaders overlap my seat, even if I'm just reading, though I can better lean away. Still, I think - why is this my problem? Shouldn't my seat be my seat and if I can stay inside my invisible borders, I can do as I like?

What do you all think - what ARE the rules of politeness here? And remember to suggest you Random Words for Flash Fiction Frolics next week!


  1. I'm on team Jeffe: if you don't crowd your neighbor's seat, you can write all you want.

    My words: T-Rex, pig and zombies ;-)

    1. *I* could have picked your words, Sullivan! But I'm glad you agree on writing on airplanes. *kisses*

    2. I did have to think if I'd go for T-Red, octopus or Cthulhu I will confess. The other two words were a given ;-)

  2. Yep, your seat space is your space for the time you're trapped there, and there should be no encroachment there upon. As such, you can do whatever you like in your space - provided you're not, like, infringing on the rights of others by doing so (i.e. playing loud music, being an obnoxious drunk, farting, etc.). I don't see why using a laptop would be rude - unless there's some kind of social contract wherein each plane passenger is supposed to interact and entertain every other passenger. If that was the case, reading and sleeping would also be rude.

    I used to travel a lot for work and what I mostly wanted - when I was traveling alone - was to be left alone. Polite banter was okay in small doses. But after a business trip, I wanted to use flight time to rest because I knew the second I touched down in Detroit, I had to wrestle my way through the airport and then drive 90 minutes to get home.

    1. I'm totally with you, B.E. One reason I *can* write on airplanes is the Alone Bubble works pretty well. And - wow - save me from needing to be entertaining. I'm usually in no state for it, either.

  3. The last time I flew by myself, I was 18 and had just joined the Army. I think the seats were bigger then (or I was smaller - probably both true). I also didn't have anyone sitting next to me, which also helped.

    Now if I fly, I'm sitting next to my husband or some other family member and have no trouble pushing them out of my space! Haha! But if it's rude to read or write on a plane, then I guess I'm one rude lady!

    My words: time, movies, cars. Random enough?

    1. Nicely random - thanks Stacy! And rude people unite!

  4. There are folks who are physically incapable of confining themselves to just their space, but I absolutely believe it is incumbent upon everyone to try. I am pretty far from svelte, myself (comments from the Peanut Gallery are NOT welcome, here), and I always try to get an aisle seat, so I can extrude limbs and shoulders out into that space when I have to, because I would rather play chicken with the drink cart than impinge on some fellow-traveler's personal space.

    My words: aura, aurora, areola

    1. And chicken with the drink cart is a dangerous game! I once sat next to a guy with a BIG chest and muscular arms - he kept his arms folded and never elbowed me once. Incredibly considerate guy.

  5. Ah! I had forgotten all about elbow wars...and here I have to fly to Denver next month. Sheesh, now this is all I will think about.