Lap Used To Rest Fetid Feet

September 11, 2009

in Passenger Stories

I had boarded a long flight from Israel to the United States. This was one of the large planes with three columns of seats: 2 – 5 – 2. I felt fortunate to have an aisle seat and the young lady next to me seemed nice enough.

Shortly thereafter a young man walked up the aisle and began chatting with my neighbor; it became clear that they were boyfriend and girlfriend. It was only a matter of time before I was asked if I wouldn’t mind moving so they could sit next to one another.

“Sure, why not?”–I was travelling alone and always volunteer if it can help someone out.

The seat I volunteered to take was in the middle of the center column, and I was squashed between a number of large, elderly folks. Yet this too would have been totally sufferable; in fact, I thanked my lucky stars when, after takeoff, the person sitting to my right got up and disappeared someplace, effectively granting me two seats’ space for the entire flight.

The woman smelled of cigarette smoke and badgered her husband through the early moments of the flight. This too I could take in stride. After her husband went to sleep she then took off her shoes. No problem. Then her socks. Ummm… no problem?

No, no. The last straw was when THIS WOMAN LIES DOWN IN THE CENTER COLUMN, TAKING UP OVER THREE SEATS’ SPACE, AND PROCEEDED TO LAY HER DIRTY, SMELLY, FEET ON MY LAP (after the obligatory grazing of my left forearm as they seek out their resting place).

I tried to live with it for a few minutes before finally tapping her to ask, politely, that she acknowledge my presence. No response; she opened an eyelid, grunted dismissively, and settled back to sleep. Language barrier. I tried moving the feet off (wish I’d had tongs handy), but to no avail. I even tried applying a little rudimentary Hebrew (“Excuse me… This is not okay!”), but that didn’t budge her.

For the life of me I can’t remember how the story ends. I may have asked a flight attendant for help, or I might have just grinned and bore it. Either way my mind has sealed off the other details of this unpleasant memory (if only my nose could have sealed shut as well).

All this because I volunteered to move. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have moved to a middle seat in the first place to accommodate that request. The girlfriend should have moved to the less desirable seat if it was important that she sit next to him.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

saw September 11, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Michael… You got it already – several lessons learned. If asked to move for someone else's convenience, the seat you take should be equal to, or more desirable than your original – it's only fair, since they're asking you to move.

Now… with the feet… I would recommend (should this ever happen to you again, which I doubt it will), being a tad more aggressive. Jabs to the bottom of the foot with a pencil or pen, hot coffee poured on-top (that would probably help the smell too), an immediate flight-attendant call, or (and this is my favorite), use the armrest to severely (and painfully) clamp the offending member. Were smoking still allowed, I'd also suggest burning the tip of the big toe with a cigarette.

Maybe I've missed my calling – going to get on the phone and see if the CIA could use another "alternate method interrogator" 😉


Zombie May 24, 2016 at 9:46 am

If only your options were legal — odds are there's have been some police waiting for you if you intentionally burned the woman with your coffee…

But that suggests another option: Put your tray table down, and put something on it. Heavy.


Demotage September 11, 2009 at 9:24 pm

OMG! First, like Saw and you said, I'll trade seats with someone for an equal or better seat. As you yourself said, if they really wanted to sit together then the girlfriend could have offered her seat to someone sitting in the middle. But there is NO WAY I would have tolerated 10 seconds of this woman's bare feet in my lap. I would have asked her, and if that had no results, I would have called the FA IMMEDIATELY. You were way too nice.


Chiquita Chick September 13, 2009 at 8:48 am


The problem with torturing her is that you'd end up getting arrested. The best thing to do would be to hide the shoes so that she'd have to leave the plane shoeless.


Joanie May 23, 2016 at 10:36 pm

I'm on the small side and always go for the aisle seat — you have no idea how many times I've been asked to move to the middle as I am 'tiny' I say no… I paid for this seat (sometimes extra if flying SW) and will not relinquish it. Sorry if they want the aisle seat so badly they should make arrangements.


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