The Recline Of Civilization

I’m not sure I should start this blog on a controversial note, but anybody who bothers to read this should know where I stand. Or sit. I firmly believe that airliner seats should not recline.

If you’ve ever been stuck between a recliner and a non-recliner, you know where I’m coming from. The person in front of you reclines the seat, cutting back into your personal space and severely limiting your room to maneuver your iPod out of your carry-on. You now face the choice of reclining back into the person behind you or giving up some of the space you paid for.

Or you don’t face the choice. I once got stuck like that and I couldn’t recline my seat. Either it was broken or the guy behind me was using one of those nasty devices to prevent me from reclining. (Please don’t use these. They are a symptom and cause of the decay of civilization.) This is the sort of situation where selfish people get to steal space from nice guys, and maybe bust up their knees in the bargain. And don’t we have enough situations like that in life already?

Now I’ve heard the argument that it’s not about selfish and nice. It’s about big and small. Small and ordinary-sized folks should yield space to the tall, who need it more. I empathize, being sort of tall myself, but I’m not convinced. Where in the U.S. Constitution, the Geneva Conventions or the Southwest Airlines Contract of Carriage does it say that tall people have the right to recline onto short people? Isn’t it tough enough to be short? If one of the few advantages of being small is that you fit more comfortably into an airline seat, can’t you at least enjoy that?

In fact, I will go so far as to suggest that allowing tall people to steal space from short people is pure communism. (You know: from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.) No way! In this here capitalist democracy, and most others, the deal is that you get what you paid for. Smallie paid the same for her seat as Tallie, and so they get the same amount of space.

Hey. Big guy. You know I’m right.


3 thoughts on “The Recline Of Civilization

  1. Franklin Morris

    The forward reclining hippo causes a severe case of PC Jack-knife-us use-less-completus;
    or as I like to call it … the pc wallet syndrome.
    but one thing I do know is … that Delta still has leather seats in coach …. why is that … don’t they know it’s supposed to hurt … to fly ???
    good luck with this column … Jeanne!

  2. Josh Brehm

    Spot on, Ms. Leblanc. I’m 6’2″ tall and I agree with you. The 1-1/2 degrees or so of recline on a standard airplane seat does little for the person reclining and lots TO the person being reclined upon. A little human-to-human decency and respect for personal space is needed any time we critters are corralled in a tight space for more than the length of an elevator ride.
    The trick is getting from the point of venting about it from the safety of my keyboard to actually figuring out how to tactfully and effectively get the lout ahead of me to quit crunching said keyboard.
    Thanks for the nice post!

  3. Jeanne Leblanc

    Thanks, guys. I don’t usually haul the laptop along, but that definitely makes it more of an issue for lots of business travelers. (Josh, if you figure out how to talk to recliners, please let me know.)
    I remember reading in The Ethicist column in the NY Times a letter from a woman who was stuck behind a recliner. When she reclined in self-defense, the passenger behind her complained to the flight attendant. The flight attendant told her to put her seat in an upright position – but wouldn’t tell the passenger ahead of her to do the same.
    I’m guessing that non-reclining seats would save the flight attendants some trouble, too.


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