Bet you never imagined the words "knee defender" would become a part of our collective lexicon. But thanks to one passenger who recently placed an actual device on the back of the airline seat in front of him just so he could prevent the woman in front of him from reclining her seat, we have all been forced to live in a world that's slightly more idiotic than it was a week ago.

While I would never defend throwing your drink at someone -- as the female passenger reportedly did to get back at the man seated behind her -- anyone who thinks he or she has the right to tell another passenger what to do with a seat she paid to rent for a few hours has clearly forgotten that he is not John Travolta, nor does he own a share of the airline.

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By now you've probably heard about the incident that took place on a United Airlines flight from New Jersey to Denver. Let me provide a brief summary: A 48-year-old man thought it was perfectly acceptable to use a $22 gadget to make the 48-year-old woman in front of him miserable -- just so he could continue to use his laptop. She, in turn, ripped a plotline straight out of Dynasty and splashed her cup of water in his face. The plane had to make an emergency landing in Chicago to boot the crazies off and reached its final destination an hour and 38 minutes late.

Proof that the world has gone mad.

I'm 5-foot-7 -- hardly a giant -- and I have trouble getting comfortable in teeny plane seats. My husband, who is 6-foot-3, pays an additional $50 to $80 every time he flies for work just so he can sit in the seats that offer extra legroom. I understand how annoying it is to sit behind someone who has his or her seat reclined all the way for the entire flight.

But lots of things are annoying and you just shut up about them because you simply don't have the right to change them.

Example #1: You pay to eat at a restaurant. You're vegan. The paying customer next to you has ordered the most offensive slab of cow brains. You do and say nothing because you're both paying to be in the same place at the same moment in time. Oh well!

Example #2: You're on a train. The person across the aisle pulls out an egg and onion sandwich and begins chomping away. Or she snaps her gum too loudly. Or laughs like a hyena while talking, loudly, on her cellphone. Consider yourself screwed because you both forked over the cash for tickets, and what she does in her personal space is her decision. I mean, within reason, of course -- she can't light up a cigarette, obviously.

So back to the airplane issue: same idea. I know there was a time when air travel was a luxury, whether you flew coach or First Class. But times have changed and, unless you're shelling out big bucks to sit in Business or First, you aren't going to get a lot of room, a glass of champagne, or a bathroom you don't have to share with 230 other people.

You make due with what you have. When flying Economy, all you really have is the ability to recline your seat and, if you're lucky, a complimentary soda.

Considering how you're probably still paying thousands of dollars for your not-so-economical Economy seat to Europe, you have every right to lean back in your chair because you bought the rights to it for six hours.

If you want to be nice, go ahead and ask the person behind you if it's okay or at least warn him you're going to do it. But be sure and ask in a tone that makes it perfectly clear that it doesn't matter one bit whether it's okay with him or not.

And then recline your chair. Recline it fast and furious. Recline it all the way. Which is, let's not forget, about five centimeters lower than the upright position.

How utterly hedonistic of you.

Do you think it's a passenger's right to recline his or her airplane seat or is doing so disrespectful to the person behind him or her?

 

Image via Iwan Gabovitch/Flickr