WTF Weds: Making new friends at 30,000 feet

Posted on
Aug 28, 2012

I’ve never understood the need for personal space.

I’ve been known to follow Rand around the house, shadowing him as he moves from room to room. Usually, it will end with an exchange like this:

Rand: Um, honey?

Me: Yeah?

Rand: Can I be alone for a little bit?

Me: Seriously?

Rand: Yes. Please.

Me: FINE. FINE, then. I guess I’ll just leave.

Rand: I would appreciate that.

Me: (Storms out of BATHROOM, slamming door closed behind her. 30 seconds elapse.) … Are you done yet?

Rand: (Sighing, defeated) Yes.

Yeah, I know. High-maintenance sort of guy, isn’t he?

I suppose I get this trait from my mom. (The personal space part, I mean. Not the following my husband around the house and into the bathroom. My mom doesn’t do that.) Like me, she has no real issues with being physically close to people. She hugs everyone. Even though I’m solidly into my thirties, she’ll occasionally pull me on to her lap. Nevermind the fact that I outweigh her by a solid 20 pounds.

Of course, these are people I know and love. I don’t mind being close to them.

The more time I spend smashed into airline seats, usually sandwiched between my husband and whatever poor stranger has the misfortune of sitting next to my flatulent self, I’ve started to realize the importance of personal space. It hit me rather acutely a few weeks ago when Rand and I were flying to Denver for the weekend.

We’d gotten an upgrade, which rarely happens. We were positively thrilled. Ours was the last row in first class before the economy section began.

I sat, delighting in my seat, and my view, and the array of snacks that sat before us. And then I went to utilize my arm rest, and saw … well, I saw this:

Ten little unholy piggies.

The gal behind me was using my armrest as a footstool. You can see from the window above exactly how far her toes were extending into my personal airspace.

I reacted thusly:

Now, I understand that in order to make air travel profitable, perfect strangers often find themselves sardined together like drunken lovers at a college party. But usually folks try – often in vain, but still, they try – to keep their arms and legs and other body parts to themselves. And at first, I was quite bothered having her toes mere centimeters from my freshly washed hair.

But then I realized that if these toes belonged to a loved one, I wouldn’t have minded nearly so much.

And I got to thinking … about how alone we are in the world. About how I’ve sat next to strangers for hours – on planes, and buses, and trains – and not said a word to them. I thought about all the times that Rand and I sat side by side, looking at our phones instead of talking to one another.

When you travel, you might be constantly surrounded by people, but how often do you truly get to know them? And really, what better way is there to get to know someone than by inspecting – at freakish close proximity – their toes?

I stared at them, marveling at their gnarled beauty. I memorized every little nook and cranny, every neglected callus and flake of dried skin. looking at those toes, I felt less alone in the world. I had made ten crusty little new friends. In my mind, I dressed them up and gave them a personality.

“It is I – Professor Pigglesworth. Fetch me some roast beef, will you darling?”

And just like that, I began to delight in those toes, infringing on my personal space.



When she finally moved them, I was almost sad to see them go. It was like saying goodbye to a dear friend.

Or ten little ones.


Leave a Comment

  • Bri

    I admit it. I use other people’s armrests for my foot perch on long flights; however, I put on my nifty, fluffy, non-slip, only for the airplane, blue & green-striped socks. I understand that this is the right thing to do and doubly so if I’ve forgone exfoliating my feet for the last century or so….
    My toes also don’t wear a fez or smoke a pipe…that I know about!

  • That’s why I always pack some dynamite when I fly…never know when you can find some toes to stick them into.

  • That would offend me not because I think it’s gross (I mean, really, it’s not like airline seats and hotel bedspreads are ever cleaned) but rather because it’s just disrespectful of you. We are all uncomfortable on flights, might as well not make it worse for each other!

  • OMG! You are such a nice person. (But, I’ve been following your blog so I know that’s not universally true.) I am a kind of reserved person. I’ll suffer silently for hours (days, years) rather than confront somebody (which admittedly makes my choice of profession as a lawyer a little odd). But, someone puts their bare feet on my armrest. Not happening. Well, it might happen, but they wouldn’t be staying there–not even if I were grateful to be sitting in an upgraded seat.

    I think all behavior on an airplane is magnified and bizarre and I have said so publicly.

  • LOL! She has the most feral toes! They make me feel a bit vomity, urgh! I would have attached a ballet tutu and a cigarette…

    • Glory Gray

      “Feral toes!?” OMG that’s priceless!!

  • Jay

    I follow my husband around too but he’s the only person where personal space doesn’t matter – strangers are a whole other story. I don’t like to be touched by strangers and heaven forbid if they get too close in the grocery store line 😉
    I’m certain I would have been fairly disturbed by the ladies toes and after debating if/what I would do about it, I’d stretch my elbow out and bump her foot to passively alert her that she’s in my space.

  • Amy Dinsmore

    Did these toes belong to an older Indian woman? I swear I experienced the same thing on a flight to or from Oregon in July. She also wore beautiful silver rings on them.

  • ARRRGH! So gross! That was the last thing I wanted to see this morning.

    I have no idea what I would have done in this situation, but I wouldn’t last more than a minute with those gnarly suckers next to my face! You’re one strong woman!

  • Alex @ ifs ands & butts

    I’ve gotta say, I rather them be there than on the back of my seat. And I’ve gotta say, you should totally start talking to people on the planes. I do it all the time, esp when flying alone, and I meet the most interesting people. I know some people hate THAT person that talks to them on the plane, so of course I feel it out but I’m always surprised by the lengthy convos I get into.

  • I dunno about making friends, I’m not sure that introducing yourself with your feet is the way to go (“Hi, I hope you don’t mind if I introduce myself. I couldn’t help but notice your feet there …”). I too am thinking a toe Tutu, not sure why.

  • Ha ha ha! I literally gasped when I saw the picture of those peekaboo piggies. Your reaction to them was hilarious- not sure I could have been quite so philosophical. I’d have swapped seats with my daughter who regularly chatted to her own fingers when she was smaller. She’d have loved it.

  • LMAO.. Hilarious.. that strange co-passenger (sorry, they were 10 ;)) of yours really looks weird. I hope you are not missing them

  • Dave

    Looks like they could’ve done with a bit of spit and polish.

    Next time get Rand to hold those suckers down whilst you whip out a first class amenity kit and give em a good old going over. They’ll just think it’s part of the inflight service.

    If amenity kits aren’t handed out anymore, then the gap between toes are a great place to store empty peanut packets.

  • JO

    Imagine if they were my toes… no wait I think I had pink on that day!

  • Sharon Thorpe

    Your article had me laughing so hard!! Someone should have informed Miss Lady that If you are going to invade someone’s personal space at least invest in a good pedicure and some lotion. Her feet look like she was kicking flour.

  • Jodi

    Kudos to you for making new (toe) friends. I would have made my husband tickle them so she would move.

  • Haha, this made my morning.

    Although, I think I would have gagged if I were you.

  • A friend forwarded me this post after a recent rant about a similar experience on a relatively short haul flight. However my toe companion in question had clearly not taken off her shoes in a number of days. Invasion of space is one thing, invasion of air/nostril space is a totally different matter!

    Keep up the good work, have enjoyed the read.

  • That does it. I’m getting a fez for my big toe.

  • That is nasty! But I have to say I’ve seen worse flying domestically within China. Some folks tend to treat the plane like it’s their living. Personal space in general here is something like a snow leopard. You know it exists but you’ve never seen it.

  • Emmi

    Thats is sooo gross. You’re a big person for not saying anything.
    I would have spoken loudly to my husand about the Anual Foot Fetisj Fair that we’d just visited and that I couldn’t wait to put all those newly learned-techniques in practise. And then made a gross sucking sound.

  • Oh No She Didn’t!!! That is so incredibly gross.

  • I can’t stop laughing over your reaction to them! I would have been less tolerant. I would have probably put a blanket over them, to get my point across. We all understand that airplanes are uncomfortable, but that doesn’t make it alright to invade other people’s space.

  • Geraldine, you’re a far better person than me… I would have either said something or “inadvertently”, but solidly, bumped them to send a message.

    • Kristina Cline

      but in bumping them you might accidentally touch them, yikes!

  • The crusty toes would’ve made me vomit. I hate dry skin, and dry feet even worse. I gagged just thinking about it.

  • Lynsey

    Geraldine, you have just made my day! Hilarious as ever. And I too always put my feet on the hand rest in front, I’m going to think twice about this in future 😉

  • I couldn’t have sat there with those ugly piggies near me. Ewww! Just Ewwww! I’m a big chicken when it comes to confrontation so I would have tossed my purse in that direction and, oops!, accidently nailed her feet.! That’s just so rude! And gross! And nasty! Can you tell I think it’s icky? I am big into having my personal space, but putting one’s feet near another (unknown) person is on yet a whole different plain!

  • So gross. I would have been tempted to just grab one and not let go. But would have probably just put a pillow over them.

  • hahahahahahaha I literally laughed out loud on this one!

    Her (or his?!) feet look like they could benefit from one of these —->

    And you’re so kind. I would have totally said something.. 🙂

  • I’ve had people use my armrest as a footrest like that before. I find it repugnant. What makes people think that’s okay??? I’ve had people do it at the movie theater too. Dear Stranger: I don’t want your feet next to my head! Thanks. Oy.

  • Glory Gray

    I’m going to read this post and comments whenever I’m having a bad day. I am rolling.

  • Quite simply – Hilarious!!! I love your writing, its one of the few that make me laugh out loud. My type of humor!!!

  • Kayla

    THIS is why I carry lotion wherever I go. Not for me, but for when other people’s dry hands and feet infringe in my personal space. You stick your dry toes in my face, I WILL lotion them. You have all been warned 🙂

  • As soon as I scrolled down to the first shot of those toes, I let out a loud cackle (I’m at the office, so it drew stares) and the more I stared at them, I could actually smell the cracked, sticky, toe smell. HILARIOUS! Glad you got friendly with them:)

  • Julie

    You describe Rand as the tolerant one, but you really walk the walk when it comes to human kindness! I am inspired by your ability to turn that situation around. Not joking. Reading this has instantly made feel like major dookie for silently cursing at my coworker who eats every single meal at his desk, using flatware and pyrex. The clanging drives me crazy. But that is nothing compared to feet.

  • Michelle

    I wouldn’t have minded it as much if she had a decent pedicure. I am well aware that i haev a big foot issue where if my toes aren’t perfectly polished and my skin is in perfect condition I often times se my other toes to hide the ugly ones (hope this makes sense). However, these toes look like they have been through way to much I would have definetley given her a few evil glares.

  • Ann

    LMAO, you are both insane and hilarious! Your expressions in those photos, ah ha ha ha!

  • LOL, I read the first few paragraphs and thought the post was headed in a totally different direction. I am disgusted by other people’s feet and toes so this would have completely set me off. Did you see what the owner of these “feet” (they really should be called something else) looked like?

  • When I first was reading this i thought those were your toes – I may have had a few drinks – and then I realized it was the passenger behind you – I think my neighbors heard me laughing from downstairs. HAHAHA The traveling public are SO ridiculous!!!

  • the first picture of the Ten Unholy Piggies is hilarious! but the best part about it is the detail your iPhone picked up. I like that you can see the cracks in her toes and the beautiful landscape through the window. So contrasting! haha, but this post made me giggle. i would have “accidentally” pushed them off… but thats just the kind of person I am.

  • Julia

    Haha, hilarious post, thank you! I’d say something to the owner of these little dry friends too, but on the other hand the way you handled this situation is so much more fun, I admire it:)

  • Professor Pigglesworth needs his own guest post section here. Or a blog of his own.

    I think I’d have just thrown things at the feet or prodded them with the inflight magazine until sufficiently far away from me.

  • I believe that I would have had to break out a sharpie and drawn faces on them.

  • If only you were an esthetician you could have buffed those suckers up and charged her for your services..actually getting a pedicure on a plane seems like a fine idea! We’re stuck there for hours anyway

  • OMG..this post made me laugh so hard!! Lol…you really have a way with words. 🙂

  • Rick

    I would relegate that person to the Screaming Infant Storage Kennel:

    Sorry, but extending one’s toes into my space on a cramped airplane? After having been subjected to body cavity searches and radiation scans from the “security” people? No way.

  • Michelle

    Hysterical! 🙂

  • OMG How did I miss this one? Did I ever tell you about the “nubbins guy”?? Please remind me to tell you in private sometime….

  • “…at 30,000 *feet* ”

    Pun intended?

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