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To the Person Seated in 6D Who Didn’t Recline — Thank You

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Dear 6D,

The flight is almost over and we haven’t met. There is a really good chance we never will. We smiled at each other as you stepped out of your row to allow the person assigned the seat next to you to scoot into his window seat. Other than that brief exchange there seemingly has been nothing connecting us.

Except we are connected. My legs are directly behind your back. I wonder if every time I crossed or uncrossed my legs if you felt my movement. My tray table is attached to your seat. When I unlocked and lowered it to place my in-flight snack and beverage, there must have been some sensation.

The gentleman in 8D took what can only be called an aggressive nap on his tray table and I felt his every shift and turn as if I was dreaming the same complicated dream right along with him. To facilitate his slumber I tried my best to not shift in my seat too much during the flight. I was so aware of him, you see, so it made me wonder just how much you were aware of me.

It made me wonder if you could tell I was tall. Not just average tall, but the sort of tall where most of my height is carried in the upper part of my legs. This is the sort of tall that makes 90% of public seating one of the most uncomfortable things imaginable. The pressure I have put on my knees just to force them to fit into spaces where we really did not fit is something I know I will suffer on a different level of pain in my geriatric years.

Most people on a flight are oblivious to other people on the flight. They lower their arm rests, recline their seats, and shut down their humanity until the wheels lower again and a new destination has been reached. You were different from most people. I waited the first 20 minutes of the flight for the other shoe to drop but you never did it: You never reclined.

Thank you.

Before I get on every flight I think about many things. I hope the flight crew is doing well. I hope the airplane has been carefully maintained. I hope there won’t be any unnecessary delays. I hope people I am seated near are doing OK and aren’t anxious about travel. High on the list of things I think about is whether or not the person in front of me will recline, and if they do recline, will I be able to endure the pain of the recline for the flight.

Ideally we should be able to sort ourselves out on an airplane beyond window or aisle. When I check in for a flight these days, I am often given the option of selecting my own seat. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could also select the atmosphere we wanted to be around on our flight as well? If I had lots of work to do, I would find a seat near other laptop warriors who would not be bothered by my clacking away at the keyboard. If I was traveling with my son, I would opt to sit near other families with kids for a mile-high play date. Flyers who don’t recline could have a section as well.

When someone doesn’t recline, I am full of gratitude and appreciation. Several times I have thanked someone for not reclining. One time a woman told me she never reclined because she never wanted the person in front of her to recline. That is exactly how I approach the recline philosophy as well; it’s a golden rule. Recline unto others only if you are OK with being reclined unto.

My son hasn’t flown since he was an infant, but in movie theaters and other venues with seats that rock back, I tell him to always be aware of people seated behind him. If someone isn’t seated behind him, he can stretch back as much as he wants, but if there is someone there he needs to be mindful of personal space. And knees.

I’m sure you heard about the recent story in the news about a flight that was diverted because two passengers got into a fight about reclining seats. A woman attempted to recline her seat and was not able to. The passenger behind her was using the Knee Defender, a device which has now been banned by all major airlines, that prevents seats from reclining. Things escalated between the passengers, enough that authorities needed to get involved.

The man who created the device eleven years ago, Ira Goldman, is tall and one of the first questions he asks people who don’t understand the need for it is, “How tall are you?” Until someone has felt the pressure of the weight of a person jauntily thrusting into a recline onto their knees, they may never get how awful an inflight recline can be.

Somehow you knew. Or maybe you just aren’t a recline kind of person in general and knees and height and comfort levels never entered your mind. Regardless — thank you.

Sincerely,

The six-foot tall woman in 7D

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