DEAR ABBY: I had an unfortunate encounter on an airplane recently, and I'd like to share what I learned.
I was seated in coach, in a window seat, with a woman on the aisle and a middle-aged man in the middle. We chatted briefly about where we had been and our destination. The man was polite and neatly dressed.
After takeoff, I put my seat in a semireclining position so I could nap. The man took out a newspaper and began reading. As he turned the page, his right elbow touched my breast. The first time, I thought since we were in such cramped quarters, it could have been an accident, so I ignored it. When it happened again, I told him in a firm voice not to touch me again -- but he did it a couple more times. Since he had both hands on the newspaper, the lady on the aisle didn't know what was happening. Not until I threatened to smash his ribs with the thick magazine I had rolled up did he stop.
When I mentioned this to the flight attendant, he said I should have called him immediately, and he would have moved me to another seat. I replied that I was not sure what was happening at first, and that we had been told the plane was full. He told me it did not matter -- when in doubt, ask to be moved. They would have found another spot for me.
So, ladies, even if you aren't sure you are sitting next to a sexual predator, call the flight attendant and ask to be moved. I could have lost my cool and bashed that jerk with my magazine. On an airplane, such an act carries a very stiff federal sentence, and I could have been jailed for assault and battery. -- E.T. IN LOS ANGELES
DEAR E.T.: Thank you for a helpful letter. A less assertive individual might have suffered in silence and never found out that the flight attendants could help. Although the majority of us may never have to use the information, it's reassuring to know what to do in a pinch.