I got in a argument on the plane recently.
With the parents of a 5 year old girl sitting in front of me who wanted to tilt her chair back. The mom kept pushing it and pushing it, but it wouldn't budge. It was cutting into my knees.
Mother to flight attendant, "There's something wrong with this chair."
I said, "It's not the chair. That's my knee."
I needed to sit with my feet on the ground, my knees straight out in front of me. And the laws of physics were working against us. I'm a tall person.
I didn't want to cause a scene, but when she first started pushing on the chair (rather violently), I didn't say anything. I thought she'd just give up and leave it alone. Instead, she called the flight attendant.
Mother, (who is in the row in front of us with her two kids. The father is sitting to my right), "You can't stop her from leaning her chair back!"
Father, "If you wanted leg room, you should have bought seats in first class."
Mother, "She has a right to tilt her seat back."
Flight attendant, "That's true. She does have a right to tilt her seat back."
Now, really. Does she have a right to lean her seat back into my body space? Is that a right? I think of it more as a courtesy. We let people lean into us because we want to lean into the person behind us.
But these seats were jammed so close together. Babies were squalling. Chickens running up and down the aisle. And my back was hurting. I needed to sit straight up.
"Sir, couldn't I seat you somewhere else."
"No. I'm traveling with my friend."
My "friend" told me later that as the husband escalated his argument that I needed to move, the wife gave him a "cut-off" sign and the situation relaxed.
(Later on, I was able to figure out how to extend my legs straight out to beneath her seat, and I let them know she could tilt back).
The husband then thanked me.
That wasn't the punchline, though. The punchline was that he had an empty seat next to him. He could have moved the little girl to that seat. But he apparently wanted them as far away from him as they could get, up in the next row with mommy.
In front of me.