Reclining Airplaine Seats and Your Addiction to Nothingness


The woman in front of me has her seat all the way back, but I don’t believe the extra 5 degrees is doing her much good.

It does succeed, however, at giving her the illusion of being more comfortable at the expense of cramping my shit. As an added bonus, everytime she moves around, it slams the top of my laptop a little closer. As it is, I can barely read what I’m typing because my screen is tilted towards me an extra 5 degrees to match her seat back.

There are a lot of pointless comforts in life. Sitting here in this cramped plane, I can start off by pointing out that this reclining seat business it bullshit. I obviously have selfish motives but the lady in front of me doesn’t need the extra space, she just thinks she does. And she uses it because it is there.

So how many things in your life fit that mold? What in your life do you mindlessly rely on or indulge in that fits these criteria:

  • You’ve always done it
  • You use it because it’s there
  • It doesn’t really make that big of a difference
  • It has some sort of residual cost to your environment

So I meandered. We are in a society based on consumption and infinite growth. Agent Smith was right on that whole virus analogy, I’m afraid. Small comforts make us waste even more but we don’t usually think about things like environmental costs, cost of ownership or how it affects others or oursevles long-term.

So what comforts fit that category? I’ll take a shot:

  • Bottled water – using a reusable container is just as easy, but if I have a case of this stuff I’m likely to grab a new bottle every time just because it’s there.
  • Fast food – it’s yummy but it’s not really that yummy, it’s just a habit and it ends up costing considerably more given the gas used, packaging disposed of and calories ingested.
  • Cars with more than 300 horsepower – great, you can get to the red light faster, and you feel better about your mangina. But when you’re not showing off how quickly you can accelerate from 0 to 35 when you see a hot chick in the lane next to you, you’re getting shitty fuel economy and a bumpier ride with less legroom for your friends. Is it worth it?
  • Trucks that are more than twice the size of a normal car and can’t fit into a parking garage – yeah, you could potentially tow your entire house or your boat, but for the other 90% of the time you’re wasting gas, can’t find parking and if you rear-ended someone you’d probably ramp off of their car onto another car because your lifted tires are taller than most Asian people. You shine your headlights into the back of my car and drive too fast when the roads are icy even though having a big truck doesn’t do shit for traction. You are ridiculous and won’t admit it, truck man.
  • Costco – I love Costco, don’t get me wrong. But do you ever find yourself wanting to buy 8 of something just because it seems like a good deal? You buy that 2000 pack of AA batteries, the 1 gallon of soy sauce, the 1.5L olive oil. What the hell? You could have grabbed that stuff at a fraction of the cost at Safeway. You know you have mounds of Costco shit in your cupboards that you’ll probably throw away some day. You bought it because it seemed like a good deal, now you have the cost of owning so much of somethign that it takes up a crapload of space in your house for a couple years. Was it worth it?
  • Shopping online – this is a tough one, because I love shopping online. But a lot of the things I buy online I could buy locally for about the same price once you consider shipping. By ordering online you agree to wait, pay shipping and you generate more waste and have a bigger carbon footprint. Do you have a pile of boxes and packing material in your house from all the shit you ordered online? If you do, try shopping around locally a bit — there’s stuff on craig’s list, coupons in the Sunday paper. Then again, did you even need all that shit in the first place? Do you even use it every day? Think about it.
  • Alcohol – I love beer and whiskey. But I don’t need it. If it’s in the fridge or around the house I’ll just drink it like soda, but water does the job just fine. It’s expensive and usually comes in disposable containers that fill up the recycling bin. I am thinking it might be worth home brewing, drinking less and learning how to deal with stress in other ways besides popping open a cold one (all this probably won’t happen, we have our vices).
  • TV – holy shit do people watch a lot of TV. Read a book, assholes! Go volunteer somewhere! Write poetry! You pay probably $50 a month for cable or more and couple it with your internet and don’t even think about it. What if you didn’t have TV? What is the opportunity cost of having HD heaven at your fingertips? I watch a lot of basketball. I could go to a bar with my friends and watch it there, go to a Blazers game instead of sitting at home and watching it or just go join a leage and play it myself (which is more fun in a lot of ways).
  • Video games – I play them, and am aware of how addictive these can be. But for the same amount of time you could volunteer, pick up a consulting job, or just work at burger king. All are more productive alternatives. The kicker is that you’re paying for stuff like WoW. WTF? Last time I payed money to spend that much time doing something was college. If you’re spending more than 20 hours a week on this bullshit, put down the mouse/xbox controller/wii remote and go outside. Adventures await you in real life! You can improve your real life stats and experience! You can increase your own hit points!
  • Designer shit – I’m not sure what compels people to spend $800 on a purse or $10,000 on a watch. But if you have that much extra income, you could probably spend that money more wisely. I’ve found that as I’ve made more money in life I’ve found ways to spend it. Think of how you lived when you made less money and compare it to how you live now. You go out to eat more, buy more pointless electronics, buy nicer things — but you don’t need all of it and could do without.

You don’t benefit much from the extra 5 degrees. And even if you do have some small happiness from your luxuries, they come at a direct or indirect cost. So often we don’t consider the true cost of things. We are the lady sitting in front of me pounding the back of my laptop display.

Don’t be that lady all the time. She annoys the crap out of me and makes it hard to see what I’m typing. Sometimes you have to smack the back of the chair in front of you a few times.

I probably won’t do that right now, even though it’d be hilarious to healthily disrupt her 5 degree bliss. But hey, it’s just a metaphor and I don’t want to be a dick.

5 thoughts on “Reclining Airplaine Seats and Your Addiction to Nothingness

  1. Jaime

    Interesting post/rant. Sounds a lot like a list of New Year’s resolutions to me. Which one are you working on first? 🙂

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