Your columnist - Gerry Moran
Good fences, they say, make good neighbours. But what if there is no fence or what if that fence is a simple armrest, the armrest between two passengers on a four-and-a-half-hour flight. A true test of neighbourliness for sure. I am flying to the sun with my wife. She is in the aisle-seat and I am in the middle with God-only-knows-who beside me in the window seat. A female actually who was well and truly ensconced by the time we arrived and awkwardly and clumsily (as is the way) stuffed our bags into the over-head lockers. This female never raised her head to see who was wrestling with the luggage in the crammed overhead locker, never once looked to see who’d be sitting beside her – for the next four and a half hours! Strange. Now I realise that one has to be careful and cautious as to who one makes eye-contact with and with whom one strikes up a conversation on a flight. I have occasionally been trapped beside the odd chatter-box who wants to know your seed, breed and generation ten minutes in. That said, a little eye-contact doesn’t go astray, we’re both human beings after all and we will definitely have to consort with each other should the plane blow a gasket or lose a wing! Or if she intends visiting the loo!
I find this woman indifferent. Cold. She didn’t budge a centimetre, a millimetre even, as I manoeuvred my bum into that small airline seat, foostered with the safety belt and stuffed two newspapers, a magazine, a bag of fruit pastilles and a bottle of still water into the seat-pocket in front of me. She just buried her head in her book and kept her arm planked firmly on that dividing armrest, that ‘fence’ that lay between us. ‘Mine’ is what her body language was proclaiming; this armrest is all mine and don’t you dare muscle in on it, buddy. First come, first served seemed to be her philosophy though she didn’t seem the philosophical type. What type she was I had no idea except to say that she was distant and aloof. Maybe she had problems, maybe she was having a bad-hair-day or had a boil on her butt – but who has boils these days? Boils are practically extinct. Back in the day every second kid had a boil somewhere, at some time. But now I’ve gone off the boil and off the point. Point being I am totally off this woman now; this woman and I are at war. Over an armrest. OUR armrest that she has commandeered as HERS! No way is this dame getting one of my pastilles.
And now the drinks trolley is rattling downs the aisle. Ah, hah. Now she’ll have to turn in my direction if only to order something, perhaps she’ll defrost over a hot drink or a G&T. Nope. The lady’s not for turning. She ignores the drinks trolley also – hence no excursion to the loo. This indifference of hers, this frostiness of hers is really bothering me now. You see I’m a sensitive, sympathetic, empathetic sort of person (if I say so myself) I like to engage with people (though I’m no chatter-box, note) I like to reach out to people because for sure people reach out to me – not least every beggar on every street in every city I am ever in. There’s no reaching out with this lady, no reaching out for a sandwich or a drink, only her arm reaching across and firmly hogging the armrest. Perhaps I’m too sensitive. Or paranoid. Or both! Either way she is one icy creature. And that must be some book she’s reading. Meanwhile my wife, sitting serenely to my left, is totally unaware of the ‘cold war’ that’s raging to her right – the ‘cold war’ between her husband and this glacial and austere passenger in the window seat. I tell you - it’s eerie. It’s chilling.
Now the Good Lord told us to ‘love thy neighbour’ but the Good Lord knew nothing about being trapped beside a hardened, armrest-hogging neighbour while hurtling through the air in a metal tube at 35,000 feet! And if He did (He is omniscient after all) He’s stretching the concept of love a tad too far. As for the ongoing ‘cold war’ on Flight AI0763 – all I’ll say is: thank God we’re going to the sun.