Yesterday marked my first trip back to the mainland in several years. There’s a reason why I don’t like to travel from the Islands: I seem to end up seated behind a jerk for five and a half hours. To wit, not more than two minutes into my flight from Honolulu to L.A. yesterday, and the bone head in seat 36A slams his seat to the fully reclined position. If I shaka, I can literally touch my thumb to his seat, and my pinky to my chest.

At first, I play nice. I let him sleep while I read my book. Come time for the beverage service, the flight attendant asks him to put his seat forward. He ignores her and I sip my diet coke sitting in the fetal position without use of the tray table.

An hour and 44 minutes in, and dinner service begins. This time, the flight attendant takes to the intercom, asking people to bring their seats to the upright position so passengers may enjoy their meals. A slew of seats become upright, except for 36A.

As I’m handed my meal, I ask Mr. Wanker to move his seatback up so I can eat. That went over like a lead brick thrown from a Space Shuttle. I received a smile and a “sorry.”

I now had two options: fully recline my own seat and make the person behind me miserable as well, or I could turn the tables. I started out light by placing my foot on his seat support and tapping my foot to the beat of the music I was listening to. I started with some Pat Metheny and quickly escalated to Rush.

After a couple of minutes, he turned around, and in a gruff voice said, “Will you stop that!” I replied, “Sorry,” grabbed my MP3 player and selected AC/DC’s “Back in Black.”

The guy sitting beside me thought it was funny as hell.

Mr. Rude finally rang the call button, and he pleaded his case to the flight attendant, to which she replied, “Well sir, perhaps if you moved your seat a little more in the upright position, the gentleman behind you will stop.

I flashed her a wink.

Did it work? Heck no. he kept trying to make his seat go further back. Something tells me he doesn’t like speed metal either.

Thus I pose the following question: what the hell happened to air travel? I remember when you dressed up in a suit, were fed meals better than you cooked at home and those flying with you were pleasant. Today, riding on a Greyhound bus is better (albeit slower). And for some reason, people have become down right rude, with common courtesy completely thrown out the window. Of course, it doesn’t help that the airlines have you packed in like cattle headed to the slaughter house.

At least my camera and gear had a better trip than I. The overhead bin was remarkably lean on bags. Perhaps I should pack myself in the overhead compartment for the trip home?