Photo by Ahmed Syed on Unsplash

By Monica Brancheau

Oh yes, we reminisce about the days we could just jump on a plane and travel to anywhere in the world. It’s definitely a challenge to be restricted from visiting places we would love to explore. Although travel within our country is allowed, it comes with its own set of challenges because of COVID. For those of you who are having wanderlust for airline travel, read this as a reminder that it wasn’t ALL wonderful.

Sitting in a tight space with complete strangers for several hours can give you a glimpse of their true persona. Let’s talk about some of these people you might meet on an airplane…

The Slammer

These are the people who slam their bodies against the back of their chair over and over again throughout the entire flight. It’s almost like they think that by doing this exercise, they’re going to actually create more space for themselves. Maybe they’re trying to do some modified crunches to pass time on the plane. If you’re sitting behind a slammer, your drink will inevitably end up spilled all over you. I also wouldn’t recommend writing any letters on your tray, as your handwriting will likely look like a first grader’s. Even if you dig your knees into a Slammer’s seat, they often retaliate with more slamming, so I don’t recommend it.

The Elbow-Jockyer

The second these people sit down, they lay claim to BOTH armrests for their elbows. Their elbows don’t move for the entire flight for fear that they may lose a centimeter of space. These travelers are almost statue-like, with a very rigid posture that doesn’t move. They don’t grab things out of a bag, go to the bathroom, or read a book lest they lose their coveted elbow room. Don’t mess with an Elbow-Jockyer, as you’ll likely lose the elbow competition.

The Insect Catcher

They’re probably wearing a neck pillow when they board the plane, and fall asleep before take-off. Eventually their mouth falls open, and you can listen to the sounds of their snoring or heavy breathing (thanks to masks right now, this would be a non-issue). The silver-medal moment of sitting next to an Insect Catcher is if they dream that they’re falling and their entire body convulses right next to yours, giving you a momentary heart attack. The gold-medal moment is really the epitome of the insect catcher: the moment when a complete stranger’s head ends up on your shoulder. What do you do in this situation? Make a very loud sound (resorting to clapping or a loud laugh is appropriate) to wake them from their snoring and get their body off of yours.

The La-Z-Boy

People are still boarding the plane and settling in, and this person has already reclined the seat as far back as it can go. You can now see the top of their head and give them a shoulder rub. Of course, the flight attendants will tell them they need to move their seat upright for take-off. But you know that the moment take-off is finished, the person in front of you is immediately back in your lap. The worst La-Z-Boys are the ones who vacillate from upright to reclining every ten minutes. Every time you think you have a nice little set-up on your tray or lap, it all comes crashing down with the seven inches of space you’re now left with. The only possible way of “communicating” that this isn’t working is to incessantly release your tray over and over again, but that tactic usually doesn’t work.

The Punt-kickers

Listen, I love kids, but I’m not too much of a fan of sitting in front of them on a plane — particularly if the parents seem to be oblivious. Kids honestly think that the tray in front of them is a ball for them to kick.  Some parents quickly solve this situation, but others do not. That’s when I have to resort to directing the Evil Eye at the child in the hopes that it’ll scare them enough to stop kicking my seat.

The Pepe Le Pew

Pungent smells on a plane can really make a plane ride quite miserable (particularly if the odor is coming from someone’s feet — gross!). Why would anyone think that taking your shoes and/or socks off on a plane is a good idea? Would you take your shoes/socks off at a movie theater oron a bus? When you happen to be sitting next to someone who sees no problem with exposing their stinky feet to an entire plane of people, you should buy yourself a drink, because it’s going to be a long ride.

Although the type of travel we’re accustomed too is currently on pause, let this be a reminder that at least when you’re watching Netflix on your couch, you can do it in peace and quiet, surrounded by nice smells, a chair that doesn’t move, and non-spilling drinks.

Monica Brancheau


Monica Brancheau is a mom of four who has had multiple careers. She’s a Michigan native and graduate of the University of Michigan who then never left Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience working with children’s issues, from education to non-profit work in teaching in urban settings and non-profit management, marketing, and fundraising. All of this work has led her to becoming the Director of Strategic Partnerships of the ChadTough Foundation. When not working, you can find her gardening, reading, writing, listening to music, and spending time with her treasured family.