control of the window shades (let the light shine in)

I’m certainly no road warrior, nor would I want to be.  But I fly often enough to run into plenty.  Road warriors are the super-duper frequent flyers on all the major airlines who are golden members of elite clubs with millions of miles.  And there seems to be millions of them.  They get first dibs on airline priority seats.

Priority seats are those where the seat in front of you, when in the reclined position, is not in your lap.  For any flight longer than a movie length, seating is key to flight comfort.

Airlines have figured out how to run mostly full flights.  In a supply and demand economy, they’ve cut supply enough that getting a good seat can be tricky.  In the typical three seat configuration, not many eagerly choose the middle seat.  Maybe if you are a hetro dude and you could see that two attractive females were occupying the window and aisle seats, you might jump at selecting that middle seat without a second thought.  But we don’t have that kind of visibility so no one grabs middle seats.  We choose between aisle or window.  Wait too long and you won’t have a choice.  It will be middle.

I always choose aisle.  I’m not a happy camper being pinned.  Maybe picking middle or window would be good meditation practice, but I’ll leave that for another life.  The aisle seat advantage is obvious — you can stand when you want to.  The window seat, while more comfortable with the plane’s side to rest against, also comes with full control of the shades.  Both have their downsides.  The negatives of the aisle are,  you’ve got to put up with constant bumping by anyone who walks by and you are left to the whim of the window seat occupier’s shade control.  The one bummer of the window seat is being trapped, usually by two others.

In every row, there are two windows that the window seat occupant can control.  And that control is mostly abused.

If the flight is not crossing a half dozen time zones where you need to help your circadian system adjust, and it’s a daytime flight, why close the shades?  OK, there are times it’s extra bright but that only lasts for a little while.  And if the shade must be dropped, why all the way?  A night or red-eye flight is different.  It’s already dark.  But if it’s a daytime flight, the window shades should be open.  It should be another airline rule.

It is downright annoying to take a daytime flight in the dark.  Evidently though, I’m an oddball because the majority of flyers who hold window seats love shuttering the shades.  Both of them.  Doesn’t matter if they are resting, eating, watching a movie, or picking their nose, the majority choose dark over light.

On one flight returning from Dubai to the U.S. I had a bulkhead middle seat and it afforded me the best of both aisle and window.  I could control one of the shades and still stand when I wanted.  But I had to take control of the shade at the outset.  The window seat occupant thought he had control of both, but I quickly showed him, by gaining control of one of the shades, that he would not dictate the amount of light that would enter our row space.

What is odd though, is that the flight I’m on as I’m writing this, from Lima to Quito, has only a minimum number of shades drawn.  It’s refreshing.  It’s around noon and the light is shining in (even with a movie playing).  It’s not alway this way.  The afternoon flight to Lima from Bogota the other day ended up mostly dark.  The woman in the window seat of my row closed both right away.  Se looked at me glaring at her and quickly looked away.  She knew I was not pleased that she blocked out the light.  The outside light was not too bright and she wasn’t doing anything that eliminating light would improve.  I kept glancing at the closed shades and she gradually eased them open a bit.  I was happy for at least a little daylight during the daytime.

Why so many people shut out light is beyond my comprehension.  Maybe it’s a flight thing.  Being in the dark may be conducive to lots of good work, but I cant think of any on an airplane.  I’m writing this on my trusty iPad with full daylight.  It works fine in the daylight.


I’m now on another flight from Quito.  It’s a sunny afternoon and I got lucky again as my row-mate has not shut the shades.  But directly across the aisle, all shades are drawn.  You’ve gotta think that when you shut the shades, you shut them for everyone in your row.  You alter the lighting for the area.  Wouldn’t it be courteous to ask the others in the row if they mind you shutting out the light?  Not asking is rude.  But rude is normal where shade control is concerned.

I remember before individual screens when movies were shown on center isle TVs that dropped down every five or six rows.  I was stuck in a window seat on a daytime flight.  We had just reached cruising altitude when they made an announcement for everyone to close the window shades so that movie viewing would be improved.  I did not drop my two shades.  I was finally in control and wasn’t ready to give it up so quickly.   The flight attendant came to my row and asked if I’d please shut the shades for the movie.  I said “no thank you, I’m not watching the movie.”  She seemed taken aback.  I shut them halfway as a compromise.

Besides light being cheerier (than darkness), the ability to see something outside is a hell of a lot more interesting than a grey screen.  I’d rather watch a movie with glare and have the window shades open than trade darkness for improved screen resolution.  But that’s me.  I know I’m the oddball.  Most prefer shutting out the light.  It’s just a fact, the freedom to stand without bothering others trumps control of the shade.  Maybe the airlines could skip the announcement about smoking being illegal on flights (since even the dumbest fliers know that), and instead add “if you occupy a window seat, please confer with your row mates before making a unilateral decision to shut the shades.”

1 thought on “control of the window shades (let the light shine in)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s