Birdie Up Close and Personal

“If you count a sense of personal space as important, then air travel is not for you,” thought Birdie as she tried to get settled in her assigned seat on the small regional aircraft branded Canadair. The cramped area that each seat made available to its occupant caused Birdie to marvel at the suggestion that Canadians could be that diminutive.

Birdie and the young man sitting next to her unintentionally brushed thighs, accidentally rubbed arms, and unwittingly played footsie while trying to get comfortable. Neither one of them acknowledged any of this inadvertent touching and Birdie was glad when it was over. The young man? Well, who knew if he even realized any of it had happened. Maybe it was a generational thing.

The lack of personal space extended to the terminal as well. Birdie found that people would practically hop in your hip pocket as they were trying to make it quickly down the concourse. Birdie was swept along heading for gate B84, when all of a sudden, the person who had been speeding ahead of her and with whom she had been unconsciously trying to keep pace, stopped suddenly to search the monitor for his gate information. Unfortunately, Birdie couldn’t stop quickly enough and forward momentum planted her bosom between his shoulder blades.

Because she is hard-wired to apologize, Birdie mumbled an embarrassed “Excuse me,” while simultaneously trying to act like it hadn’t happened. Then she stepped back, avoiding any eye contact with the stranger she had almost been intimate with, and continued down the concourse.

Birdie noticed that the only place in the whole flight experience where people seemed successful at keeping others at a distance was in the seating areas at each gate. There, the travelers were vigorously reclaiming their personal space and expanding its boundaries by strewing their luggage over several seats. It didn’t matter if other people had to stand. No. “My luggage needs its own seat. My purse needs its own seat. So does my sack lunch from Heidi’s Deli. And my coffee from Starbucks.” Birdie guessed everyone was enjoying some breathing room before being crammed into the next airplane, where the only personal space obtainable would be in their heads.

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40 responses »

  1. I so hate air travel for that reason alone. I was once upgraded to first class and if it werent so expensive would go that way all the time!

  2. My husband travels a lot and has tons of miles, so we were able to travel business class on the way home from a family trip to Italy this summer. I have to say, it was the best travel experience of my life. Having all that space was such a luxury.

    That’s so funny about how people tend to spread out at the gates. I hadn’t really thought about why until you pointed it out.

    • It must be so. When you are looking for a place to sit and someone’s lunch sack is occupying an otherwise empty chair, the person who belongs to said lunch absolutely refuses to make any eye contact.

  3. …which is exactly why I choose not to travel much. I want to BE places, I just don’t want to GO places. Sigh. And certainly, most definitely, I would never EVER want to “plant my bosom” under a stranger’s shoulder blades. In this case it would be like trying to place an avocado seed in a very tiny peat pot.

  4. Oh great… We are getting ready to fly as a family for the first time. A mom, a dad, a 6yearold boy and a baby. Should be interesting in such cramped quarters!!!!

    • If the baby is young enough to sit on your lap, your family can occupy three seats together, which is usually the configuration. That way, all the brushing, rubbing and touching will stay in the family.

      • Yes, that is what we’re hoping for!!! Less germs that way too… I’ll be THAT lady on the airplane, wiping down the seats with Clorox wipes. Lol!! Gotta keep my babies safe. 🙂

  5. Oh, do I relate!!! Coach on international flights is awful–even in big planes, or should I say because of big planes. I would love just one time to fly to China first class where one could stretch out to sleep instead of curl up in the fetal position. But you do what needs to be done just to see the grands. I’m just grateful we can afford to do it at least every other year. Love your blog, especially this one.

    • The thought of however many hours it must take to fly to China is daunting. Considering one has to stay in basically the same position for all those hours, it’s a wonder you can move once you arrive. I’m so glad you like my stories.

  6. That’s exactly why I hate flying! I’m not afraid to go on airplanes, but it’s the lack of personal space, the people hogging seats in the terminal — everything you described!

    • I didn’t mention it, but another negative aspect is all the hurry up and wait that one must do. Still, faster than driving, which is a plus if time is an issue. I guess I’d rather spend 6 hours on the flight experience than 2 days in the car. Plus I don’t like motels any better than airport terminals. For different reasons, of course!

  7. I was once on a flight and fell asleep. When I woke up, the woman beside me had also fallen asleep… on my shoulder! I just left her there because I didn’t know what else to do! I can totally emphasize with your post.

    • When we go by car, I want to stop too often, which really lengthens the trip. It’s better if I just suck it up and fly. Otherwise, we’d have to leave for the return trip as soon as we arrived.

  8. This is so true! It always feels so weird to be smashed up against a complete stranger. And I never thought about the concourse seats like that, but you’re right!

    • In the waiting area, people usually like to insulate themselves with a vacant seat on either side. That works perfectly with the regulated number of carry on items allowed for each passenger. So, I guess it’s really all just a cosmic plan.

    • Worse than all the inadvertent touching is if your seat mate is wearing too much cologne or smells of cigarette smoke. Thankfully, I haven’t had to endure that in a long time.

    • I haven’t ridden on a bus since the 1970’s, but you’re right. It is the same. How could I have forgotten? I remember the time I took a bus marked local instead of express because I didn’t think about the difference. I suffered for it.

  9. “…the travelers were vigorously reclaiming their personal space and expanding its boundaries by strewing their luggage over several seats.” I think Birdie must be a hawk, because she sees things so clearly.

  10. My last flight was from Victoria BC to Johannesberg return. 48 hours each way. I was disgusted with the way seats have been shaved, narrowed and shortened. And now there’s charges for every little thing. It’s not fun anymore.

    On an Air Canada flight from Toronto to Vancouver, there were elderly women from Bolivia who were freezing. They didn’t speak English well – no French – so I paid to make sure they had blankets to keep warm. I was embarrassed that our national airline treated people so terribly.

    Yep… we all get territorial, tired and plenty grouchy!

  11. Hard for me to imagine 48 hours of coach travel. We’re you able to stand upright at the finish? As for the temperature in the planes, bring your own blanket and its guaranteed to be temperate to too warm the entire flight. Forget it and it will be frigid. I’ve proven this theory many times. So kind of you to provide blankets for the women.

  12. Birdie, you make me laugh! So funny and all too true. Love the details and tone plus the universal truths of airplane travel. The only thing missing was the rising body odor of your seatmate – always a fun treat!

  13. There’s also the aroma seeping from the restroom. Thanks for commenting. I’m glad you think I’m funny. So does my family. I guess that’s a good thing. ???

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