Law of the Armrest

There are rules for everything in life.

We are taught what side of the road to drive on and how fast to drive. We are instructed the proper way to file our taxes and the rules we must adhere to. We are told to wait to eat until others have received their meal and it is hammered into our heads that if Andrew gets up, we’ll all get up and it’ll be anarchy.

But what of the armrest? Where are the rules about that?

In a perfect world, while sitting in an airplane seat or in a movie theater chair or at a Broadway show — there would be no one sitting on either side of me. Then I could sit back, relax, and spread my wings and fly. Those elbows of mine could be free to juke and jive, back and forth, with no other person’s limbs to worry about. The cushioney-goodness of arm-rest heaven would be mine to enjoy, experience and expound upon.

But are we living in a perfect world? No, not really.

We live in a world where none of us will ever find ourselves sitting alone, with no one on either side of us, unless we are going to see Date Movie at the local multiplex at 10:35 AM on a Wednesday morning or visiting a Broadway play that is housed in an auditorium that has just been sprayed with an extremely strong strain of the bird flu virus or has been blanketed with anthrax. See, people love to sit in chairs with armrests and they’re not gonna let you have both to yourself if they have anything to say about it.

Personally, I get a little possessive when it comes to my armrests.

If I’m the first person sitting in a movie theater seat, I’m going to accost both. I’m going to put my drink in one armrest and my candy in the other. And then, when you sit down on my right side, there’s going to be a moral dilemma to face. Do I cling to my right armrest in an attempt to force you to go for your right armrest? Do I cling to my left armrest, offering up the right to you? Well, not if you’ve got an armrest free on your right side. I only have to give up one of mine if you have none. Then again, if I only have one, and you sit down and want two, doesn’t it seem realistic that I should be able to have one and a half?

Someone needs to establish rules, and quick. Before society collapses.

In a selfish way, I believe that the laws of the armrest should be fairly cut and dry. It should all come down to who was there first. I mean, if I walk into a bathroom and I walk up to a urinal, it’s mine. You can’t come up and try to share it with me just because you want to. Same goes for produce at the supermarket. If I show up to the red pepper area of the fresh food annex and there’s only a few left and I take them all — they’re mine. Just cause you show up and want to have some red peppers doesn’t mean I have to give you any.

So then why, if I’m sitting all comfortable with both armrests and you sit down next to me, do I have to share an armrest with you? It’s first come first serve, buddy. Use your lap.

Until someone forms the Armrest Association of America (AAA) and sets up some ground rules about how to go about sharing or not-sharing your armrest in a public seating arena — I think we should treat the entire scenario just like the old West. You do what you want to do and as long as you don’t shoot anyone, people should pretty much leave you alone. But if you do shoot someone, well, then you’re going to have to pay the price. But if you don’t shoot anyone, while holding firm to those double-armrests of paradise — then you should be able to sit back, enjoy the cuhioney goodness, and give those elbows the well-deserved cushy rest they’ve been hankering for. In addition to these overall general laws regarding the armrest, I’d also like to incorporate these laws:

  • Armrests that include cup-holders can be claimed by placing a full, uneaten (or consumed) item in the cup holder themselves. Only after the item has been consumed may another party share the back portion of the armrest after asking and gaining permission to do so.
  • In the event you do not have items to consume as a way to claim your armrest, by naming your armrest you may also claim ownership. Names must be easy to spell and must originate from the country of origin in which the armrest is currently being used. You may not name both armrests the same names or else you must forfeit one of the pair.
  • If the primary armrest owner is wearing a short-sleeve shirt (i.e., baring skin) and an individual sits on either side who is also wearing a short-sleeve shirt — the newly arrived individual may not even ask to share the armrest if their bare skin will touch your bare skin. This, of course, stems from Paragrah 4.3, Page 12 of the AAA rulebook which states that a stranger’s bare skin must never touch another stranger’s bare skin, especially when sharing an armrest.
  • Broken armrests that feel as if they may fall off at any point must never, under any circumstance, be shared. If the primary armrest owner (i.e. the first one there) breaks it by their own free will, this will not affect the rule. Broke is broke. In fact, if you break your armrest on purpose, in order to gain ownership, that is okay too.
  • If, while sharing an armrest, one party spills any sticky substance into the cup-holder area — said sticky substance sharer must forfeit all usage of said armrest for the remaining portion of the attended event in question.

If someone would form the damn AAA, we could have more organization to the chaos of the lawlessness regarding the armrest. But until such a day arrives, we must (just like the Old West) find our own way, make up our own rules, and take what is ours without a second thought.

Life’s tough. We just have to be tougher.

26 comments on “Law of the Armrest

  1. Dawn (webmiztris) - March 15, 2006 at 8:51 am -

    if they’d just make the damn armrests wide to begin with, everyone could share and we wouldn’t have this problem! bastards!

  2. Hilary - March 15, 2006 at 9:03 am -

    Pauly, I am so glad you wrote about this today because my best friend just happens to be in Vegas attending ShoWest–the convention for movie theater owners. I will leave her a detailed message regarding the armrest issue and ask her to discuss it with the proper people immediately.

  3. whoorl - March 15, 2006 at 9:07 am -

    Just be happy you aren’t a woman when it comes to this matter. Being a petite one myself, most men assume I am perfectly content with both arms pressed against my sides.

    Hey, we need armrest space too! That’s it. I’m starting the LAAA today. If the PGA can do it, so can I.

  4. Pauly D - March 15, 2006 at 9:07 am -

    Hil – You don’t know how giddy that makes me. Be sure your friend tells them it was all my idea.

  5. Flower Girl - March 15, 2006 at 9:20 am -

    Pauly –

    I recently noticed that at the local independant theater we go to, when then rennovated, they now have skinnier seats. BUT, they kept some of the older, roomier seats in some sections so that people wanting more room or needing more room to accommodate oversized @sses could be comfortable. Maybe theaters/planes/etc. need another section of separate unconnected seats that each have their own armrests?

  6. H.F. Peterman - March 15, 2006 at 9:40 am -

    Will there be laminated AAA cards when I send my membership dues?

  7. Kevin - March 15, 2006 at 9:44 am -

    AH! You outed Danny Teeson as Mr. Six and now I’m going to out you as the guy who writes all the Walgreen’s “Perfect” commercials. It was you, wasn’t it?! You’re the one responsible for that melodic earworm of a tune and that who-needs-sleep-meds, drowsiness-inducing narrator’s voice!

    Your secret is no longer safe!

    All I could hear was that tune as I read the paragraph about you wanting to spread your wings and fly.

  8. Bre - March 15, 2006 at 9:50 am -

    I myself will happily forfeit armrest space at a horror flick, so long as you let me grab onto you like a frightened leach when I get scared.

  9. Dave2 - March 15, 2006 at 9:52 am -

    I used to like going to the movies and never minded flying on planes.

    Now that I have to take a rule book with me, the thought of doing either makes me want to cry.

  10. Pauly D - March 15, 2006 at 10:14 am -

    Bre – Unfortunately, I don’t see horror movies. There’s a backstory, and it’s hidden somewhere here on WFME.

    Dave – Dude, there’s nothing wrong with crying. And besides, if you do, you won’t need that rule book cause no one likes to share armrests with crying guys, FYI. It just makes them uncomfortable. In fact, they’ll probably switch seats, too.

  11. Dirk the Feeble - March 15, 2006 at 10:32 am -

    The rule is, whoever has the meatiest arms gets the armrest.

  12. Elaine - March 15, 2006 at 10:37 am -

    I was on an airplane the other day and the woman sitting next time pulled a passive-aggressive move and gently pushed my arm off the armrest. The nerve! Thank you so much for establishing these much-needed rules!

  13. Neil - March 15, 2006 at 10:42 am -

    I sell this product that will guarantee you will get BOTH of the armrests in any movie theater all of the time. I call the product “Fake Leprosy” and it comes in either a lotion or gel. Puit some of it on your arms and neck, get to the theater early, and enjoy the film!

  14. sandra - March 15, 2006 at 1:37 pm -

    Could there be a sub-set of rules regarding the area under the armrest? I seem to run into a lot of situations (particularly on planes) where the person next to me has excess butt/hip melting under the armrest and on to my seat. I’m not okay with this and feel that it violates all armrest-related laws.

  15. Pauly D - March 15, 2006 at 1:41 pm -

    Sandra – Ooh, yeah that’s a tough one. We’re talking about skin globules rolling over the invisible line of your side. Hm, I wanna say go ahead and run with this one but I’m not sure you’re going to have much luck.

  16. Alissa - March 15, 2006 at 2:01 pm -

    I just encountered this issue on my flight to SF – there was an arrogant bastard who took up 3 times the amount of space he was allotted – it was an ATA flight and he had the exit row with no seat in front of him, and I was in the seat next to the extra leg room for him.

    Another issue I would like to address – he kept closing MY window shade. MINE AND HIS! Can you believe the audacity?

    I will now stop ranting – armrests and airline etiquette get me all riled up.

  17. Janet - March 15, 2006 at 3:24 pm -

    Amen to the “touch no skin rule”. Nothing ruins a good film like some arm-rest snatcher rubbing his arm aggressively in your general direction. I mean, the damn arm-rest snatcher may as well just lick the arm rest and laugh manically, “Nah! Nah! It’s mine now!”

  18. Rabbit - March 15, 2006 at 3:28 pm -

    I find that if you sneeze on the armrest as a stranger prepares to sit next to you, that stranger will give you full reign of said armrest.

    And if you’re REALLY lucky, the stranger will even move a few seats farther away.

  19. ms. sizzle - March 15, 2006 at 5:39 pm -

    as an “endowed in the chestal area” woman, i need the armrest. make that both arm rests. on flights when i am stuck in the middle seat, i de-plane feeling very tight, cramped and sore from holding my arms to my sides as to not “spill over.”

    did you seriously say “skin globules”? ewww. 😉

  20. Boogie's Mom - March 15, 2006 at 6:13 pm -

    Very insightful. I just had to say that’s one of my all-time favorite lines from Breakfast Club.

  21. Lynn - March 15, 2006 at 11:04 pm -

    The solution: Removable arms. Then you could stow them away under your seat until the flick is over. And if your back gets itchy during the movie, you could pull one out and put it to use as a back scratcher. Or, if someone won’t shut up several rows away, you could lob one at his or her head.

  22. Dave Greten - March 16, 2006 at 5:52 am -

    I took a flight to Baltimore where the guy sitting next to me was so fat that putting the armrest down wasn’t an option. If we had rules like we do here, I could have insisted on having the armrest put down (“Sorry man, that’s the rule.”)

    The armrest thing doesn’t bother me as much as people who blithely lean their seats all the way back. I’m six feet tall, and when people do this, they basically smack my knees with a plastic hammer and shrink my allotted space by half.

  23. Nicole - March 17, 2006 at 8:52 am -

    Thank you for finally setting some ground rules on this very important and divisive issue. When I start AAA, I’ll invite you to be honorary Chairman of the Board.

    I don’t like sharing, in general. And certainly not my armrests. Even if I know and like the person trying to share said armrest.

    And don’t even get me started on the people who spill over their airplane seat onto mine. Or worse, put up the armrest so they can fit more comfortably, never mind my discomfort. Which really means, their fatass will be touching me all the way to wherever we are going. I realize some people have medical issues that prevent them from avoiding obesity, and I don’t mean to be insensitive to those people. But the airlines are not nearly strict enough on their rule about having to buy two seats if you can’t fit into one, in my opinion.

  24. Pauly D - March 17, 2006 at 9:02 am -

    Nicole – I actually don’t have an issue with people I know being affectionate or what not, but I really have this problem (like you) with a part of a stranger’s body touching mine for 2+ hours. I just keep sitting there thinking, “Their arm is touching my arm and I don’t even know them!”

    Weirds me out.

  25. purpletwinkie - March 17, 2006 at 5:36 pm -

    I say first come, first serve…or calling dibs.

  26. Akari - April 10, 2006 at 11:17 am -

    I am glad to see that many people share the same thoughts about the armrest issue. I actually have seen upscale theatre seats that have two armrests between seats, so that every single person is entitled to both armrests. I think average movie theater seats in the US are definitely getting bigger, and accommodating one more arm rest between seats should not lead to a huge reduction in the number of seats.

    Airplane seats are another issue, though. Nowadays airlines that used to boast extra legroom in even coach class are now re-installing seats to increase profitability. I swear that before the age of advanced seat requests and web-check in, check-in agents must have visually inspected the passengers before seat assignment so that large person will be seated next to smaller person. Many of my friends and myself, who are all of average or smaller builds, had extremely uncomfortable intercontinental flights being seated right next obese passengers. On the other hand, none of us had seen two obese passengers given seats next to each other unless they are traveling together.

    Imagine a 15-hour flight sandwiched between two fat people whose fat rolls are spilling above and below the armrest, if it has not already been raised without your consent. They bump into you every time they make the tiniest move (like turning a page of a paperback). When they shift their weight in their seat, the whole 5-seat row moves, waking up all others. And if we are reading something in a foreign language, they assume that we do not speak a single word of English and therefore do not deserve any apology for any of these uncomfortable body contacts and bumps. Some of them actually have hand-gestured to me “go away (to the aisle)” when they wanted me to vacate my seat so that they can go to the bathroom. How rude!

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