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MLA Full: "Ending The Great Airplane Seat Debate." YouTube, uploaded by vlogbrothers, 14 February 2020,
MLA Inline: (vlogbrothers, 2020)
APA Full: vlogbrothers. (2020, February 14). Ending The Great Airplane Seat Debate [Video]. YouTube.
APA Inline: (vlogbrothers, 2020)
Chicago Full: vlogbrothers, "Ending The Great Airplane Seat Debate.", February 14, 2020, YouTube, 03:56,
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I just want to settle this and be done with it but, guess what, that's not going to happen. If you haven't seen the video, don't watch it, it's dumb. One person asked another person not to recline, and she didn't....which, to my eyes, is definitely impolite. But then he jiggled and punched and jiggled her chair to try and get her to move, which is shows a lack of coping skills that boggles my mind.

The recline debate is a perfect are given a seat and you are given a choice...but it is also zero sum...when you recline, you take someone else's space. And so, given the modern airplane seat situation, you are given the choice to inconvenience someone else (and yes, that's really what it is, sorry recliners!) So I come down on understanding that it can be annoying when the seat goes back, but sometimes I understand it's necessary.

We will face many imperfect situations in our lives, many of them caused by other people, and often we will see those people as acting in unjustified ways but, like, storms are also imperfect, so is illness...we need to see some of these differences of understanding not as flaws, but as simple unavoidable imperfections in society.

Also, just a note, if you imagine every situation as a battle, you will win more battles, but you will also be constantly losing them. Better not not be in a battle at all if you don't have to be.


March 9: 7pm at the Southern Theatre in Columbus, OH

March 10: 7pm at the Tarkington Theater at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, IN
Ticket link will be live soon!

March 11: 7:30 at Albion College for an Earth Day lecture

March 12: 7pm at the Power Center for the Performing Arts in Ann Arbor, MI

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Good morning, John.  There is too much confusion about how to be a human in the world today.  As an example, I present to you the 49 emails we have received to the Dear Hank and John e-mail address that include the word 'airplane' and 'seat'.  These questions are about art rest etiquette and plugs and people who won't stop talking but above all, they are about the eternal debate: to recline or not to recline.  

In short, one half says this is my seat, there is a button on it and I can go back, and the other half says, it's your seat, but like, this space is my space and you coming into it is at least a little bit rude.  This was inflamed this week by a video that is a strong contender for the most annoying thing I've ever seen.  I'm fairly long.  I'm not overly so, I come in here on this graph.  Even so, when someone reclines their seat into my space, I do find that I sometimes need to immediately rearrange myself or get stuck with like, my leg pinned up to my chest, and this is of course not helped along by the fact that I'm almost always wearing bulky hiking shoes because I am a dad, but at the same time, my lengthiness means that I do feel comfortable if I am able to recline sometimes and so sometimes I will look behind and me and say, can I, is it--and then if they say no, that's okay.  Sometimes it's a child, and I don't ask, 'cause you're a child, but but but but but but, the reason this is a thing now is that over the last 20 or 30 years, airplane seats have changed dramatically.

Between the same point on a chair and the next chair, there used to be like, 36 inches.  That has shrunk to, on average, about 31 and as little as 28.  This is accomplished in two ways.  One is by making the seats physically thinner and thus more uncomfortable.  Look at these seats!  This is ridiculous, but it's also accomplished by decreasing the amount of space between you and the thing in front of your face.  

Now, of course, this is all done so that more seats can fit on a plane so that the airline can sell more tickets so that they can make more money selling cheaper tickets because now price comparison sites make airlines extremely price competitive.  The only good news is that it does make airplanes more carbon efficient per passenger mile.  So basically, it's an effect of the commodification of the airplane seat without any regard for how good that seat is going to be.  Whose fault is that?  The airline's,, me, all of us, and just by accident, it's good for the planet.

Unsurprisingly, there is more tension around this issue than there used to be, but that is not what I find to be the interesting thing about this.  Whenever we are brought into close proximity with strangers, we discover that we might have slight differences in how we understand the world that can nonetheless lead to significant disagreement.  In a world where we less and less commonly share spaces with strangers, we get less good at dealing with that conflict, and when we don't have good methods for resolving conflict or dealing with imperfect situations, then we end up angry and behaving in irrational ways and going viral on Twitter and no one wants that.

The solution, it's actually very simple.  Say this with me.   I disagree with people about airplane seats and that is ok.  They understand the world differently than I do and that is ok.  If a person takes the time and energy to ask me for a favor, I will take a deep breath and assume that they are acting in good faith, even if I am annoyed, even if I think they are being dopey and entitled, because society must function and because I cannot truly know their story and because if we cannot share the metal sky bird, what can we share, and because going viral on Twitter sucks.

John, I will see you on Tuesday, and if you want to see John and I answer good questions like this one, often better questions than this one, come see Dear Hank and John live, also The Anthropocene Reviewed live.  The events are MC'd by a minotaur, what else could you ask for?  March 9th in Columbus, Ohio, March 10th in Carmel, Indiana, March 11th I'll be talking without John at Albion College in Michigan about climate change and the internet, and March 12th in Ann Arbor, Michigan.