Point – Counterpoint: Airplane Armrests

by: Chris Thompson

Attempting to elbow a way to an armrest solution at thirty thousand feet....


Point: Don’t you just love the thrill of cross country flights? I mean, look at us! We’re rocketing through the upper reaches of the atmosphere at five-hundred miles an hour. How exciting! I’m really looking forward to this opportunity to put on a good romantic comedy, disconnect from all that is happening below and really just stretch out and relax. Isn’t this all so amazing?

Counterpoint: Cross country flights might be thrilling for you but not for me, especially since I’m really having a hard time getting comfortable with your elbows taking over both armrests. That one over there, on your left, is yours. This one here, we can share. And that one wayyy over there, that one’s his.

Point: Really? I’m not so sure about that. I think because I have the middle seat I get both armrests because ummm, you know, I’m in the middle. I think that’s how it’s supposed to go.

Counterpoint: Wow, you have a lot to learn. I travel all the time for work and I should know. We’re not animals. Let’s be civilized here. There’s an etiquette to all this. Like turning off your cellphone at a movie theater or letting a pregnant woman take your seat on the subway.

Point: Oooooh, are you pregnant?

Counterpoint: No. I’d just like to have a bit more of this armrest here.

Point: That’s too bad. Because I’d definitely would have given you the extra armrest if you were pregnant. Being with a child ain’t easy and I should know, I’ve had six children. But why should I move my arm? You at least have the window and this fella over here has the aisle and all that extra legroom, so at the very least, I should get both the armrests to make it fair. Oh, look at that! They’re about to give out snacks! How exciting. I love the little bags of peanuts they hand out. I’m gonna ask if I can get two.

Counterpoint: They don’t serve peanuts anymore. Too many issues with people being allergic and getting sick. It’s all pretzels and bags of chips these days. When was the last time you were on a plane? Anyway, so as I was saying, I really could use a place to rest my other arm. Why don’t you take the front of the armrest and I’ll take the back? There’s plenty of room for both of us to share. Or we could split it down the middle with an imaginary line and each take half a side. That’ll work too.

Point: You know what, I feel it’s most natural for the person in the middle to have sole access to both armrests. I’m pretty much stuck between the two of you for the next eight hours and I could really use the extra space to spread out. I mean, this fella over here gets easy access to the bathroom and you get to watch all those fluffy white clouds pass by below and rest your head on the wall and what do I get? Bupkis. All I got to look forward to it staring straight ahead at the back of this seat for hours on end. Plus, I must admit I don’t love the prospect of our arms touching for the next eight hours. I have really sensitive skin. Like eczema sensitive. At least you have a window to look out. And just look at him over there, he’s got his hands in his sweatshirt pockets and his legs are all stretched out down the aisle. Where’s my comfort zone? You wanna know where? Well it’s right here, between my two armrests.

Counterpoint: It’s not about what I have or what he has or what you don’t have. It’s about the simple fact that we’re all crammed into this hollow cylinder and space is at a minimum. There’s no room for you to be selfish in a situation like this. We all have to share to make this work. Your arm and my arm can coexist on this same armrest. How about we give it a try?

Point: Ok, and then why don’t you share your window seat with me for a few hours? Let’s say from Atlanta to Chicago? And then after that I’ll share my armrest with you for the remainder of the flight to LA. That way we both get what we want.

Counterpoint: I think you are a tad bit confused. I’m not sharing my seat with you. That’s not how it works. What I’m asking is for you to move your elbow forward a few inches so that I can place mine on the back of the armrest as well. I like being able to keep my arms elevated a bit when we fly. I don’t like just having to lay them in my lap the entire time or rest them on the fold down tray. Plus, my arms get tired holding up the book I’m reading. It’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and it’s almost eight hundred pages. It get’s heavy in my small hands. You only have to scoot forward a few inches for this to work. I don’t feel like I’m asking for a lot.

Point: It seems to me that if they wanted us to share the armrest then they would have put two armrests for every seat. Or at least invented some kind of double decker armrest where we could both use the same space. Say, that’s a good idea! I wonder why someone hasn’t invented that yet? You think we can buy something like that in the Skymall catalog? Oh, look! The inflight menu says they offer complimentary pretzels, potato chips and mini chocolate chip cookies. I’m going to ask for a bag of pretzels and a bag of chips. Is the BBQ flavor any good?

Counterpoint: They’re all good. We’re in a pressurized cabin at thirty-four thousand feet. The only thing you can really taste in this situation is salt. So yeah, they’re good.

Point: Salt? Really? That doesn’t make any sense to me. My doctor says I can’t have too much salt because of my high sodium diet.

Counterpoint: Let me guess. Too much Mickey D’s?

Point: How’d you know that?

Counterpoint: Just an educated guess. You should probably just go big and get the cookies as well in case the flight attendant doesn’t come around again for a bit. I wouldn’t want you to miss out. But really, can’t you just let me have a little room for my arm? What’s so hard about that? It’s not like I’m asking for the entire armrest.

Point: Well my arms aren’t exactly normal-sized you know? Mamma always said I take up as much space as I take and I should be proud of that. Plus, if I give you a bit of space then the guy to my left is gonna want a bit of space too and then where does that leave me? Sharing  both armrests, that’s where. It’ll be anarchy. Now how does that seem fair when the two of you get your own armrest and access to mine? I’m sorry but I really can’t give in. I don’t like the precedent it’ll set.

Counterpoint: Precedent? This isn’t a court of law! This is an economy class flight across the continental United States. We all get at least one armrest and then it’s up to the person in the middle to decide with who to share. That’s the unwritten rule of the skies. So I’m asking you if you could just please share your armrest with me.

Point: Man, these BBQ chips are really good. Cookies too! Thanks for the recommendation. Listen, it’s every elbow for itself back here. This is the Wild West of armrest territory and I’m General Custer here to conquer the natives in the name of Middle Seat Holders everywhere. This ain’t no feel-good, Communist sharing society we’ve entered into on this plane. Now keep your elbows to yourself and tell me about the drinks. When do they offer up the free soda? I gotta get some more sugar in me soon or I’m not going to be pleasant to be around anymore.

Counterpoint: Anymore? If this is you being pleasant then good lord….I give up. Enjoy your goddamn potato chips.

Point: I certainly will. Now if I can just lean this seat back get and some shut eye.

Counterpoint: (Guy in the row behind) Hey! Owww, my knees….

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