I’ve known for a long time that I don’t fit in airplanes anymore. As long as I’m not flying in a tiny puddle-jumper, I can normally at least stand up straight in the aisle, but once I sit down, my knees are always pressed directly up against the seat in front of me. This does provide one handy benefit: I can easily prevent the person in front of me from ever reclining their seat (and thus eating up even more of my precious “leg room”).

The folks on Aer Lingus were very accommodating on my flight over from Paris. They diligently worked to reseat me in a bulkhead row that might give me a bit more space. But as they say, “You take two steps forward, and one step back…” In a regular coach seat, my knees are getting squashed, but I can extend my feet out in front of me, which helps to relax my joints. In a bulkhead row, my knees had a heavenly 5-inches of clearance, but my giant (size 13) feet could only move about 2-inches backward or forward. So, except for a few stretch breaks to walk laps around the coach cabin, my knees stayed at an exact 90° angle for about 6 hours.

I fully support federal legislation limiting access to emergency exit rows only to individuals over 6-feet-4-inches in height. Or perhaps the United Nations could add a line to the Declaration of Human Rights protecting tall people from painful seating practices.

Unfortunately, my height continues to infringe on my comfort and those around me.

For those of you who haven’t traveled extensively outside of the United States, let me enlighten you to a historical set of cause-and-effect.

  1. European cities were built before cars.
  2. Horses are smaller than cars
  3. European streets are therefore narrower than American streets
  4. European buses/trains must therefore be narrower than American buses/trains.

I live in New York. I’m used to crowded subway trains, standing close to others, and jostling around to make room as people board and exit. However, a crowded Parisian subway car might only have a dozen people on it. The whole thing is just smaller. So, proportionally, I take up a lot more room than I’m used to.

I found myself standing in the very back of a bus yesterday and repeatedly offered embarrassed, forgiving facial expressions to the unfortunate rides attempted to squeeze by me (and my bag) in the narrow aisle. And on these tiny Parisian public conveyances, I’m better off standing, because they’ve clearly been designed as if smurfs, oompaloompas, and munchkins are real creatures.