Here's my latest 'personal best.' It's now seven consecutive airplane trips in which the person next to me has been an obese hulk. The kind of person who spreads his (or her) legs, drips his (or her suet) onto and over my armrest and claims and colonizes territory that I have purchased and which should be inviolate.
As usual, we've arrived early. We have the aisle and the middle, and we're hoping that the window will be unoccupied, but we know that to wish so is probably hopeless. I watch the doorway. Any number of slim - size 2, size 4 -- young ladies appear, progress down the aisle, glance at my row, and continue on their way. Small nine-year-old boys whom I would joyously welcome emerge from the doorway. They too pass by. Elderly grandmothers, too frail and slight to threaten my space, totter to the rear. Then, finally, here he is, my destiny. Just my luck once again! An enormous whale, big enough to block the sun, swims and jiggles me-ward. Clouds of thick tobacco smoke rise like mist from his clothes. He pauses. "May I?" he says, unapologetically, shamelessly. We stand, exit the row, and wait in the aisle while he slowly maneuvers his massive bulk into place, sighs, and crushes his seat. He loosens the seatbelt to maximum girth. By the time I return, he's already claimed the armrest and his keachy elbow has broken the imaginary plane. Now he spreads his heroic sumo thighs. In all fairness, there's no way he could get both legs under his seat, nor any way that his flabby arms could be confined to the space that he has paid for. I huddle to one side, forced to list to the left. I am majorly pissed but too polite (or inhibited) to utter the vindictive words that form themselves in my brain: "Hey, buster, next time buy yourself two seats. Or a whole row."
In my near future: four-and-a-half hours of undeserved compression. Backache. Headache.
Why little old me?