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While on my honeymoon, on a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Honolulu, I came to the conclusion that there are two types of people that the human population can be divided into. Which type of person you are in these terms is not apparent in day to day life. It's nothing that can be seen as part of your appearance. In fact, the circumstances for which the line is drawn between is particular to that of air travel and even more specifically revolves around the amount of use of the small round button on the side of seat's arm rest.  But where one falls in the two types is, however, at least in my mind, a reflection of your character.

The first type of people (Type A) discover the little round button on the side of their arm rest-- responsible for reclining the back of the seat--and see it as nothing but an invitation of comfort. As soon as allowed, or even before if the stewardesses aren't looking, they take great joy in pressing that button to recline as far as it will go with little to no hesitation. There they will stay for the duration of the flight, until the stewards tell them to return to their upright position. They often recline with the intention to sleep, and sometimes do very soundly for the duration of the flight. Though sometimes they will wake at some point and remain alert for the rest of the flight, but relaxed in their body language, still reclined to the fullest extent of their seat's capability.

The second type of person (Type B) is aware of the limited amount of space granted each individual passenger on the plane and is respectful of it. This person opts to not recline, or if he does go back, makes sure to recline only a couple of clicks so as to not intrude of the personal space of the stranger behind him.

Now, two types of Type A people seated together, one in front of the other, usually works out just fine. The one in front reclines fully and promptly passes out while the person behind him does the same. Not much personal space is needed, as they are both asleep, and everyone is comfortable.

Two type B's sitting front to back is also not a problem. Both are up and alert. One is enjoying the entertainment on the screen inset upon the nice, upright, seat, while the other one is enjoying a book, which he can hold wherever the light hits it best, maybe even on the tray table. Should one fancy a little cat nap, he might gingerly click the button a couple of times, politely reclining a mere couple of inches and nod off to neverland.

However, it is inevitable that the Type B sort will be seated behind a Type A person and will endure hours of hellish invasion of personal space and, in his mind, outright rudeness. Take the case of my uncomfortable flight wherein the woman in front of me reclined fully and passed out for the first half of the flight. I had to rest my book on the top of her seat to read, using the tray table was almost out of the question, least I plan to impale myself, and if I had dropped anything on the floor there would be no way of bending down to retrieve it without practically making out with the woman. Getting out of my seat to use the restroom was an awkward sot of limbo as well.

As I sat there and stewed, I thought about the nature of this horrible impasse that we, two strangers, had come upon.

Basically on every flight there is the possibility of this kind of mini land-dispute about personal space. I see that it is within my rights to be able to read my book in the limited space that I paid for, particularly the space in my seat. She sees it is perfectly within her rights to recline as far as her chair allows her to. She thinks I'm horrible for not leaning back myself and getting my own space--and she probably curses me for having my knees in her back and for waking her any time I need to move or have to pee. Meanwhile I think she must be a sociopath who might possibly drown puppies in her spare time due to her absolute disregard for the people around her and invading my personal space without a second thought. She didn't even take my knees being in her back as a hint (not that I had a choice) and once she woke up she still spent the rest of the flight reading a magazine fully reclined with out the thought that it might be helpful  to both our parties for her to pull her chair up just a little bit.

Passive aggressiveness and the perception of spite, or worse--obliviousness, in the other person makes us play this game  without a word to one another. (But likely with plenty of words to the person or people next to us in true, passive aggressive fashion). Luckily some ingenious bastard came up with this as a weapon for us Type B folks to take back the space that is rightfully ours.However, I do see the window of time to use it being very small indeed. Especially knowing how quickly Type A people like to hang back and start relaxing with a view of their neighbor's nostril hairs. It's still a step in the right direction, in a passive aggressive, escalating this already cold war, sort of way.

I'm sure that using that thing is like dropping the bomb, an invitation to retaliation.   I'd ask for it for my Christmas list but I'm not sure if I could handle the confrontation.


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