Want to know just how bad it's gotten up there? Two words: Knee Defender.
The devious pocket-sized gadget, available on the Internet, locks onto your lowered tray table so the passenger in front of you cannot recline in flight.
Oh, dear. Remember when flying was fun?
Christopher Elliott does. He took his first flight in 1969, from New York to Munich, Germany, with his well-traveled parents. A mere tot, he relived the adventure through photographs that we'd now have to see to believe: travelers dressed in suits and their finest dresses, meals served on china, abundant legroom.
Today, Elliott is a syndicated travel writer who flies as little as possible.
"The thrill is gone," he says. And the shrill is growing. Who can blame us?
Canceled flights and mergers. Endless security lines, cattle-call waiting areas, mishandled or lost bags, sardine seating, passengers bumped at the last minute. And please don't use that bathroom. It's reserved for first-class passengers.
"They took what was left of our dignity when they took away our meals," said the 6-foot-1 Elliott, noting that they also took away as much as 8 inches of "seat pitch," the space between seats. "They shouldn't be surprised when people lash out."
Still, staying out of the air isn't an option for many of us, particularly with summer approaching. Lashing out shouldn't be, either. Yes, our civility is being challenged, and we have two options: crying like a baby on approach or being our biggest selves (without the help of Knee Defender).
IN THE WAITING AREA
Low road: Cluster around the gate. Put your briefcase on the chair next to you so nobody can sit there. Talk loudly on your Bluetooth and gesture wildly.
Low road: Argue with them. Be demanding. They don't have anything to do but focus on your needs, right?
Low road: Put your carry-on bag in the first available bin toward the front, so you can jump up, grab it and exit quickly. It's a dog-eat-dog world, baby.
Low road: Aim your air vent at the head of the person who is leaning back into your lap.
TRAVELERS WITH KIDS
Low road: Avoid eye contact with a harried parent assigned to a different row than his or her minor child. Is it your fault these leisure-travel losers were forced to take middle seats in separate rows?
Low road: Drink lots of water (it's good for you when you're flying!) and get out of your seat at least three times to use the bathroom.
Low road: Create a trap for people seated in the middle and window seats. Bring on steaming coffee and a footlong sub with chips. Spread out food, paperwork and laptop on tray table, extend leg into aisle.
Low road: Pick up something in the airport food court that is really stinky. Spicy Italian is good, or onion rings, or maybe something with blue cheese.
Low road: Wear lots of perfume or scented deodorant.
CELL PHONES. OH, NO!
Oh, yes. They're coming to select European flights this summer.
Low road: Make lots of calls and speak loudly. Is it your problem that your seatmate is trying to sleep?
High road: Ask your seatmate if you might make a brief call or two. Speak softly and wrap up quickly.
Enjoy your flight.