Follow my example and don’t let the elbow-room snatchers get you down.
I’d just arrived at the theatre with Lily to see Thriller, the Michael Jackson tribute show. I put my arm on the armrest. There was another arm already there on my side of it. I glanced sideways at its owner, a man in his early 30s with a tiny, shaven head with heavily muscled shoulders and huge tattooed arms. Clearly he’d dressed up for an evening at the theatre — he was wearing a tank top.
But I think even the UN would agree I was clearly on my side of the armrest.
Our elbows were now pushing against each other, but he didn’t take the usual hint in matters of armrest etiquette, and move his arm.
I took out my handkerchief, and blew my nose very loudly. I put my arm firmly back down on what was now the world’s latest trouble flash-point, and made an exploratory probe east.
At moments like this, I just don’t know the meaning of the word fear.
The words “Are you nuts, Peter? This guy could kill you just with his eyebrows, a muscle-bound giant wants your armrest? So give him the armrest! Let him sit in your lap if he wants!” didn’t enter my mind.
He leant his head forward and, in an Aussi accent, said: “What’s your problem, mate?”
“My problem… mate,” I said, “is that you have got YOUR arm on my side of the armrest.”
“Is that right mate?” he said, “well, where I come from, we share it.”
“OK… mate,” I said, “but here in London, this side of the armrest is mine — House of Lords, Court of Appeal, March 1953, a landmark armrest demarcation case — so unless you’re planning to put your hand on my knee during the show, I’d rather appreciate it if you’d move it.”
He leant his head forward again. I did the same. We were now only millimetres apart.
“Listen to me dickhead,” he said. “You can have your ****ing armrest. But you don’t want to even think about starting a problem with me. Alright mate?”
I wondered if this was the right moment to ask him, “Is that your head mate.. or has your neck blown a bubble?”
“Why don’t you just sit back and enjoy the show,” I said.
Lily turned to me “Dad! what’s going on!?” Lily asked.
“Oh nothing darling… relax. Enjoy the show,” I said.
I spent the next two hours of the show studying the emergency exits.
“Well they certainly got the show’s title right,” I thought.
So when last Thursday I was about to take off on a flight to Bali and felt an elbow on my side of the armrest, I knew exactly what to do.
I immediately pushed his elbow right off the armrest — he was taken completely by surprise.
I now occupied the whole territory and I was going to keep possession for the entire flight — even if that meant not going to the toilet for the next 12 hours. I turned to him.
“You just don’t want to start anything with me, mate,” I said.
He started to cry. The woman on the other side of him glowered at me, and handed him a tissue.
“And I don’t care if you are six years old,” I said.