Last week I engaged in a battle of monumental proportions. A 75-minute duel requiring precision timing, perseverance and bravery. The site of said battle? A Ballina to Sydney flight. The source of said duel? The armrests.
I’d been flying home from a family vacation in Brunswick Heads, boarding the flight with a sense of ease and calm that I thought could not be tainted — until I sat down.
For context, I was in the middle seat. Yes, the dreaded middle seat — no man’s land, if you will — notorious for its lack of freedom, toilet access, views and overall satisfaction.
Precisely no one enjoys the middle seat and if I had it my way, the middle seat would cease to exist forevermore. Sometimes, though, it’s impossible to escape it — particularly if, like myself, you refused to pay the extra coinage to reserve a particular seat. Alas, I took the gamble with random seat allocation, and I lost.
As the flight took off, the man sitting in the aisle seat beside me immediately rested his arm on the entirety of the armrest between us. I humoured it for a brief moment, giving this man the benefit of the doubt, assuming that he would inevitably move his arm from the armrest, giving way to its rightful owner (me).
But no, his arm remained there. Then it remained there some more. Then I became incensed with jealousy.
In that moment, I wanted nothing more than to experience that armrest for myself. I was consumed with rage, more rage than I’d care to admit, but this wasn’t about the armrest anymore. This was now a matter of pride and justice.
How dare he place his arm there? He had the aisle seat armrest, after all, just screaming for attention.
A fire had been lit within my petty soul and thus ensued a game of cat-and-mouse — at least from my end — in which our elbows began to play ping pong. Our arms routinely shifted up and down the armrest in a bid to assume the most arm space and subsequently claim victory.
I inevitably won (because I had to) but, by that point, the damage had already been done. Sydney was in sight, the flight was nearly over and I’d spent the entire journey getting unjustifiably worked up over an armrest. We were all losers that day, I guess.
Still, it got me thinking: whomst rightfully owned which armrest? The plane armrest can arguably be seen as a battleground — a test of patience, endurance and ego — but can the laws of the armrest be settled, once and for all?
It obviously goes without saying that the outer armrests belong to those sitting in the window and aisle seats. Those middle armrests though, do both of them belong to the middle seat? Is it fair if they have two and everyone else has one? Is there a way to enforce such a rule?
In 2018, Jetstar entered the argumentative arena, throwing in its two cents on the matter.
“Jetstar now declares that passengers seated in the middle seat shall be able to use both armrests,” the airline stated in a press release, according to The Winglet. Jetstar later clarified to Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore that this wouldn’t be an enforced rule, but, rather, an opinion based on their own research of passenger attitudes.
I decided to conduct some crowdsourcing research of my own, taking to ye ol’ Instagram to ask the cybersphere whether the middle seat was entitled to both inside armrests.
Unsurprisingly it was a resounding ‘yes’, with nearly all respondents reasoning that both armrests were a form of compensation for the blatant shittiness that was having a middle seat.
“1000 percent, because the middle seat is the worst,” said one user.
“Aisle seat gets to move freely, the window seat gets the view. So middle gets both armrests,” said another.
“If you’re in the middle you lack headrest and the ability to exit your seat. You’re trapped”.
There were a couple of responses arguing that “it’s anyone’s game” and “a free for all”, but these brave mindsets were drowned out amid the chorus of those who were reasoning that, morally, the inner armrests belonged to the poor middle seat-sitter.
Of course, there is no concrete answer, and, with any debate, there’ll always be differences in opinion. Maybe one day — in a utopian dreamscape — there’ll be a hard-and-fast rule to armrests, and we can all fly in peace knowing we’re properly utilising our designated elbow-space.
Until then, the war rages on.
Oh, and what if it’s a row of four seats, you ask? Well, then we’re all screwed.
(Lead image: Pexels / Sourav Mishra)