This happened in 2012, on a flight from Jakarta to Dubai where I changed flight to JFK. Hell happened in the first leg on a Boeing 747-300ER. Because of the plane configuration, several seats in the back were 2-4-2 instead of 3-4-3. I chose the two-seats row, sitting by the aisle.
My seatmate came, an old man in traditional Arabic costume. I stood up to give way and politely let him settle. Flight was airborne. I watched the movies, as I didn’t want to be disturbed. Unfortunately for me, he kept on tapping on my shoulder, asking different kinds of questions each time. Note that he did not speak English, so we “spoke” with signs. Bla bla bla (asking how to turn the screen on) bla bla bla (asking how to recline) bla bla bla (asking how to turn the screen off) and so on.
I thought: this is hell! I had to pause my movies every now and then. But I felt like helping him should not be a difficult thing for me to do. That was why I helped him. Little did I know that hell was just about to start. At some point he pulled up the hand rest and placed his left leg so it leaned against mine. I slid my legs away towards the aisle and put the hand rest down, giving a polite smile.
Then the stewardess started passing out hot towels. Aah, this should be refreshing, right? But no, my seatmate tapped my shoulder and tried to wipe my face with his towel. I instinctively tackled him with my hand. At this point I can no longer tolerate this guy. So I scouted for an empty seat. Found one, but with a broken TV. Pfft, harassment or no TV?
I chose going back to my original seat and tried talking to the guy. I said in English, slowly and with hand gestures, “I DONT WANT TO BE TOUCHED. YOU STAY IN YOUR SEAT. I STAY IN MINE.” After 3 minutes repeating that sentence, with various gestures that made me look like I’m a kindergarten teacher teaching English, I sat back.
About 15 mins and all was well. I was proud of myself, thinking that I solved everything amicably. Then the guy stood up and went to take his bag in the overhead compartment. I gave way and within minutes we were back in our positions, sitting nicely. Until he called me. I pretended that I did not hear him. BIG MISTAKE. He suddenly touched my right cheek with his hand. I looked at him furiously, and before I knew it he was spraying some exotic liquid (traditional herbs? I didn’t know) and it smelled, terribly! My scarf and my hair smelled like unknown herbs or whatever the liquid was made from! Disgusting!
At this point I knew there was nothing else I could do. I could not chance whatever this guy had in mind. So there I was, speaking to the FA to move me to that empty seat with a broken TV. Serenity, at last.