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Who Gets the Armrest?

Welcome to Upright Position, SmarterTravel’s new weekly series in which editor Caroline Costello discusses emotional and controversial travel topics. Join the debate by leaving a comment below!

The Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train Tumblr really has a point. In public spaces, some people sit with knees apart and elbows splayed, breaching adjacent spots with their limbs. Often, these people just happen to be men. Once in a while women probably do it too, but photographic evidence and this Wall Street Journal article point to the menfolk.

Gender differences aside, all kinds of people let their big feet inch a little too far into a seatmate’s legroom on airplanes. Or they think it’s acceptable that five percent of their duffel is wedged under the seat with the bulk of the bag spread out across the floor, forcing you to surgically remove the lower portion of your legs in order to fit. All of this can be difficult to moderate because the airlines still haven’t installed laser fences between the seats. Laser fences are a great idea. Think about it. There’s no clear line of demarcation on the floor.

On the other hand, armrest-territory battles are easily solved. The airlines have not supplied their planes with enough armrests for all coach-class passengers, so we need a system. The armrests can be evenly distributed among passengers if we all follow this simple rule: The person in the middle seat has dibs on the two armrests flanking his sad little spot. Only middle-seat passengers may sit Lincoln Memorial-style.

The middle seat is a dreadful netherworld of discomfort, therefore uneven distribution of armrest space has some justification here. Hasn’t Joe Middle Seat suffered enough? If you have been blessed with the window or aisle, your space comes with just a single armrest—and possibly a second armrest if the guy in the middle falls asleep on the tray table. Otherwise, keep your arm (and everything else) to yourself and enjoy your beautiful view or convenient access to the aisle.

What do you think? Who gets the armrests?

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