Knee Defenders and Virtual Laps—Part 1
This post is adapted from our new book, Mine!: How the Hidden Rules of Ownership Control Our Lives.
Who owns the space behind your airplane seat: you reclining or the squished laptop user behind? And who owns your online life: you clicking around or Facebook selling your most intimate data?
Turns out, these puzzles are both the same puzzle and they share a single answer: you lose. The prize goes to those who know how the simple rules of ownership really work.
James Beach is a large guy, over six feet tall. On a United Airlines flight from Newark to Denver, the businessman lowered his tray table and attached his Knee Defender. The Knee Defender is a simple plastic clamp available for $21.95 that locks the seat in front. Its website claims the clamp will “stop reclining seats on airplanes so your knees won’t have to.” Assured of his workspace, Beach opened his laptop.
The Knee Defender claims are real. When the passenger sitting in front of Beach tried to recline, her seat didn’t budge. Outraged, she slammed her seat back, popping out the Knee Defender and jolting Beach’s laptop. He quickly jammed her seat back up and reattached the clamp. She turned around and threw her drink at Beach. The pilot changed course to Chicago for an emergency landing and both passengers were removed from the plane.
These high-altitude brawls are happening more and more. Last year, on an American Airlines flight from New Orleans to North Carolina, Wendi Williams reclined her seat. The man behind was in the last row, so he could not recline. Instead, he tapped the back of Williams’s seat repeatedly, like an irritating metronome. Her v
Article from Latest – Reason.com