I must start by saying that I've got nothing against Germans per se. Okay they can lack a sense of humour and fun, but that Posingis fellow, the good looking photographer one, is as funny as they come. Sometimes I've even wondered if he might have some British blood there, he can be that funny.
And, if you want a fellow to wake up early and get you the best deckchair by putting his towel on it, then let's face it, you wouldn't ask a Sri Lankan or a Brit. The Lankan would amble over sometime after brunch, find an already occupied deckchair and grab it when the occupant nipped off for a minute. The Brit would look at you weirdly then swear and headbutt you. Or something. No, your Germans are perfect for this sort of thing.
There I was, on the plane flying back from Serendib a few weeks ago. At check in I asked, as I always do, whether it was a full flight and received an affirmative answer. It was one of those SriLankan flights that stop at the Maldives, usually pretty full from both Colombo to Male and from Male to London. Fucking tourists!
Just so you know I put that exclamation mark at the end of the last sentence very deliberately so that you saw I was using the word "fucking" as a swear word against tourists, not as a verb along the lines of tourists doing things along the sexual path. I always find witticisms are so much better after a full explanation.
But there I was. Sitting in my seat with a woman who seemed to have won first prize in the most boring companion on a long distance flight competition. ( I came second, before you ask) At first glance she wasn't worth a second glance. Practical and untrendy clothes that wouldn't have looked out of place on Mr Small, my Design and Technology teacher when I was at school. Comfortable trainers with velcro fastenings, a fleecy type of top and a similar hairstyle to Mr Small too.
No, she wasn't going to be a companion who I'd strike up a sparkling conversation with and then stay in touch with for the rest of our lives. Our brief chat confirmed this, with her telling me that she'd just been on a cycling holiday to Kerala, had enjoyed it but the only thing she couldn't abide was the whole eating with the fingers concept. It turned out that there were a few of her fellow Kerala cyclists scattered about the plane and they all looked as unappealingly square as my one. As if to confirm all my suspicions she had her cycling helmet attached to her hand luggage by some kind of special clip.
I settled myself. I've now got to the stage with flying these long distance journeys that I have some routines in terms of hand baggage, what I take out of my bag and what I put in the seat pocket etc, that make things much more comfortable and easy for me. I knew I wasn't going to introduce myself to the next door neighbour, that would have been deadly.
Not long after take off the Sri Lankan woman in front of me decided to recline her seat, fully. I've come to some conclusions about the whole reclining seats concept. If you turn left when you board the plane, as I've been lucky enough to do a few times, then you can recline your seat all over the show without even remotely affecting the person behind you.
However in Economy we're scum. That's pretty much the definition. We have no rights, no luxuries and are wise to have no expectations, particularly if we're flying with SriLankan Airlines, on which just having a seat that isn't broken with an entertainment console that functions are things that they'll soon be charging extra for.
And also, in Economy, there is no space. That's how it works. Yes, the ticket, for most Brit tourists who don't really have that much money, costs a lot of money. But that's a reflection of the distance travelled, not the luxury one should expect.
So, when the person in front of me reclines her seat fully and I only have a centimetre in which to move instead of the five centimetres when it wasn't reclined, I just make my own positional adjustments and get on with life. If I'm too tight / poor / stupid to fly Business Class then that's my problem.
As a kind and considerate chap though I always try to recline my own seat gradually, not that sudden press the button and whack it fully back thing that some do, often creating bad feeling. I tend to put mine back a bit, then a bit more some time later. Feel free to use this method too if you want, though it is my invention.
That's what I did. I did it partly because of the woman in front, partly because of a desire to recline and partly because the seat is made to do so.
There were two fat Germans sitting behind me. I knew they were fat because I'd seen them and I knew they were German because I, along with most others on the plane, had heard them. They were a couple, in the male and female way, and were exhibiting all the characteristics of a couple who'd never been on a flight before; ordering drinks continually and talking excitedly about plane related crap.
Not a few seconds after I'd put my seat back came German shouting along with a hard smack on the back of my seat. All of a sudden myself and the cycling woman were as British and united as can be imagined. A German! Shouting and banging just because I've reclined the seat that's supposed to recline! Good God! We both thought.
I knew that I couldn't let this lie. I was doing this for my country (Britain on this particular occasion) and there were principles at stake. I had to think quickly and come up with a retort that would shut them up and win the battle. My considerable years of experience, wit and finely developed and honed conversational skills came into play, all in a few quick seconds.
I turned round, glared at the fat woman and fired my weapon. So to speak. It wasn't a real weapon you understand, nor a willy metaphor.
"Sorry". Then I turned back and sat down.
But I'd said it with a lilt so it kind of went "Soh oh reee". It positively oozed with sarcasm, wit and intelligence. I'm pretty sure that it reminded my cyclist neighbour of Oscar Wilde. She didn't say so, but I could tell. It was the way she looked at me, smiled and made a face.
I kept my seat reclined and heard nothing from the fat Germans for the rest of the flight. Though the cyclist wasn't too keen on putting her seat back I made a point of doing it at least once, perhaps twice, during the flight.
And incidentally we used to have a girls' PE teacher at school called Miss Dexter who was tiny, probably about four foot tall, though quite fierce. She got married to another teacher; Mr Small.
Seriously. I kid you not.
But really, if the airline gives you reclining seats then why on earth do some people get so upset when a chap reclines it?