What is it about being at 36,000 or 37,000 or whatever feet that changes all of our perceptions or definitions of normalcy? For one, if we move back several decades, it was customary practice to give up a seat for a lady. My guess is that many of the most current generation representatives have no idea that this is acceptable or preferred behavior.

And so it goes with being on an airplane. If you are assigned a seat, there are no thoughts of offering a better seat to a lady. It’s what you were dealt so accept it and move on. And in those cases where you wait in a line for the best available seat, I have never seen or heard of someone offering a preferred aisle or window seat to the unfortunate souls who are relegated to the center seat.

Unfortunately, the lack of courtesy with respect to personal space is prevalent, especially as delivered to that unfortunate center seat dweller. On three consecutive flights, I found my space usurped by the gentlemen to my right. Two were very tall and substantial men while one was standard height and weight. In all three cases, I felt like a mushroom surrounded by enormous slices of pepperoni on a deep dish pizza. Happily, I secured the aisle seat for my final flight of the trip and enjoyed the new-found freedom.

All of these experiences make me wonder if customs are different at altitude than they are at sea level or whatever ground you have available. While on the ground, I was the recipient of multiple acts of kindness with respect to lifting or relocating my heavy suitcase. Doors were still held open for me and I was customarily asked to order first in a restaurant. But there is something inherently less civilized about altitude.

Is there an obvious opportunity to say something to any of the beasts that had no reluctance to incorporate my space without reluctance? My guess is no, primarily because you don’t want to be that cranky person and you don’t want to create an atmosphere of discomfort for the rest of the flight.

Just imagine some version of, “Can you please keep your arms to yourself?” at the beginning of an eight hour flight to Paris. The resulting tone could be quite unpleasant. And if you are tempted to suggest checking in earlier in order to secure a better seat, sometimes that’s simply not possible. The best option is to hope for the best, suck it up and hope that the invasion becomes obvious to both parties. And then, there’s the obvious reality – any flight from which you can walk away is a good one. Shalom.

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