About 9 years ago I flew with my mom, step dad and brother from London Heathrow to Hamburg, Germany to visit family for my grandma’s 70th birthday. Obviously a pretty big deal, and back then planes didn’t bother me in the least. I was even thinking of going into the airline industry either to work on planes or be an air crash investigator, though at 13 who really knows what they’ll be doing in the future.
I was really excited to be on a plane, and better yet my mom told me I could be in the window seat! I felt like the luckiest girl on the planet, especially since a week before the flight I’d had a nasty surfing accident that left me with an undiagnosed fractured elbow, so I was stuck in a sling with some over-the-counter painkillers to deal with the worst of it. Might seem pointless to mention, but bear with me here.
Everything seemed to go pretty normally. Check-in was done in good time, got through security surprisingly quickly, had some nice lunch in the terminal, and the plane was on time. We boarded the plane all feeling pretty relaxed and happy, and my elbow wasn’t giving me too much pain either. I watched other passengers come on board, and saw an elderly couple take the seats in front of us. The woman seemed friendly enough and greeted us, but the gentleman… All I have to say is “gentleman” is a very strong word with how he was muttering words no young girl should hear, and had a glare that would turn Medusa to stone. Still, I didn’t let it bother me; I was on my favourite thing in the world and we were about to take off.
We were in the air pretty quickly, and after the take off I decided to get out my sketchbook and draw, a hobby of mine to cope with the joys of school time bullying. Since my arm was out of commission and I couldn’t hold the sketchbook as I normally would, I asked my mom and a stewardess if I could rest it on the tray table instead. I got the okay, so I quietly kept myself amused by drawing my favourite cartoon characters. I wasn’t causing any trouble as far as I knew, just showing my mom my drawings occasionally. It was about halfway through the flight when my elbow began to ache pretty badly from leaning over, so I chose to sit back into my seat and relax, looking out the window.
I should have taken note that the gentleman had taken the window seat in front of me. He made himself pretty well known very quickly as he suddenly reclined his chair hard as far back as it would go. Since I still had the tray table down for my sketchbook, that obviously came back too, digging directly into my broken elbow. I did the only logical thing in that situation and screamed in pain, begging him to sit upright again. He ignored me, and his wife was somehow fast asleep despite the ruckus.
My mom got involved, explaining I was obviously injured, and that he only needed to put his seat up for a few seconds while we got the tray table up again. He started to shout back, saying he had paid good money for his ticket and was going to do as he pleased. I was still screaming and crying since I had never been in so much pain in my 13 year old life. Stewardesses started to try and help too, but he insisted to them that he couldn’t get the seat back up as it had broken. He then put his headphones in so he couldn’t hear us anymore, and in the end I could only cope with the rest of the flight under sedation from an on board doctor.
When we finally landed the elderly couple chose to wait until all the other passengers left the plane before getting off, whereupon one of the stewardesses immediately worked on getting the seat fixed so it could be moved off me. The seat wasn’t even broken, and with a simple press of the button it was upright again. The stewardesses were very apologetic, but I was so drugged up that I just wanted off.
My grandma spoiled me rotten the week we were there. The flight home, although delayed, was comfortable, though I was terrified of the person in front of me leaning back again. It took four years for my elbow to be fixed up, and now on flights I will always book a seat where I have no one in front of me to lean back.