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Hey! That's my armrest!

     Armrests. Who owns them? They're valuable territory when you're out for an evening of pleasure at the theater or the ballpark, or settling in for a five-hour flight to the East Coast. A skinny little armrest can upset the peace just when you've mastered the parking, the wait line, the security check, the carry-on luggage in the overhead bin. Or scrunched your way past a dozen people, repeating "Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me," to get to your seat, asking yourself, "Why in heck did I get seats in the middle?"

     As you know, armrests are portioned out one-half to a person. You get half of the armrest on your left and half of the armrest on your right. Sharing half an armrest is difficult—since your arms are mostly whole. It's even more difficult if the armrest is already one hundred percent occupied. Once a person's laid claim to an armrest, good luck. Odds are they're not going to give half of it up, but hopefully you can claim the one on your other side, or at least share it with the person sitting there.

     If there's no one there, you can rest your arm comfortably on the whole thing. Best hold onto it when the seat is taken. One wrong move and the armrest will be lost.

     When the stranger beside me plops down and spread-eagles across both armrests without even a "‘scuse me, ma'am" or a "howdy"—or more likely, greets me cheerfully as he invades my space—I lie in wait for the moment I can reclaim my half of the armrest. The secret is to stay alert. Sooner or later this armrest poacher will get restless and move his arm for a minute—that's when you make your move.

     Ahhh. Feels so good to come un-scrunched. He still has his other armrest and having found relief for your left arm, you graciously surrender your half of the armrest to your right to the nice gentleman sitting there. Fair's fair.

     Getting an aisle seat solves half the problem. You get one whole armrest all to yourself. If you're desperate for two whole armrests, you'll have to buy the seat on the other side.

     The last time we had tickets for an aisle seat there were four of us. Armrest-wise we worked it out: the person sitting on the aisle got the armrest to his right and the rest of us agreed to each take the armrest to our right. We only had to deal with one armrest-less arm.

     What got me going about armrests was the other day at the Y. I was settled comfortably out by the pool in an Adirondack-style chair with really wide armrests. The chair was so wide I didn't even need the armrests. This lady walked up and moved the chair beside me to get it into the shade. I was surprised when she shoved her chair right up against my chair, armrest to armrest. Didn't say a word. No "Hi! It sure is hot today!" Just plopped her huge leather purse down on the concrete and sat herself down. Okay. I can live with that.

     I don't know what makes us feel possessive of something we don't need, but when I saw, out of the corner of my eye, her elbow resting nonchalantly on my armrest, I was—

     Being a lady, I won't say what I was, but—what was she doing on my armrest? She had her own. So that's what got me into this whole armrest thing. I figured you've probably had a few experiences like that.

     Oh well, in the grand scheme of things, it's only an armrest.

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