‘Manspreading’ Is Real & Should Be Punishable By Death

Definition: when a male spreads his legs to give ‘himself’ some extra room

Time To Read: 6 mins | March 14, 2017

I only just learned the term.

When it was explained to me by an NYC-based female friend, my immediate reaction was to defend my gender by citing a way men defer to women’s anatomy in close quarters – but I still haven’t thought of one. If anything, the creepier of my species actually go out of their way to create contact.

If you’re traveling, you get used to tight spaces. Anyone who’s flown coach knows what I’m talking about. But truly, that miserable sardine-esque situation is nothing compared to how crammed some foreign busses can get.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy them. I’ve completely fallen in love with busses over the past several months – it’s a new experience, and I suppose it could just be an affair but, like any fresh romance, you never think it will end. So for now, I adore busses; you see the countryside, spend the time reading or writing or napping, and all this costs just a fraction of more traditional travel methods.

I shouldn’t have to explain this, but I’ve seen the latest American math test scores – our high schoolers dropped 11 places internationally last year, and now rank just 35th worldwide – so for safety, I’m going to state the obvious: it is much cheaper to drive places than to fly to them. The amount of fuel required to roll to a place is significantly lower than the amount for launching 30,000 feet in the air. Thus, most third-world travel is accomplished on 4 wheels.

The local drivers know this, and as such it’s a popular occupation. The most dramatic example is Cuba: trained engineers, doctors, and other highly educated professionals are often driving the cabs. This is one of the fun bits of communism your lib arts professors don’t mention; sure, everyone gets a free education, but after all that hard work, they’re in turn placed in jobs that pay less than driving drunk tourists to bars.

The thing is, as lucrative as the people-moving business can be, the margins these guys operate on are tiny. Like, Trump’s hands tiny. As such, drivers usually cram as many human bodies as possible into their vehicles before going anywhere. This means a 12-seat bus – really just a glorified shuttle van – can and will hold 15 people before setting off, and if they can convince the children to stand and save room, they will.

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Which brings us back to manspreading.

Having been in insanely tight situations before, I can attest that it’s much more pleasant for a male’s anatomy if he’s got a little room spread his thighs. When you’ve got five fast food-fed locals sitting next to you, crammed into a space meant for three, your little coal nuggets start getting squeezed into diamonds. This is not fun.

It’s worse if you’re a larger human, which I am. 6’2, 200lbs — or 190 when I’m not living off tortilla-based meals. And without going into the trigonometric details, please understand that someone with long legs, in a tight environment, can create significantly less breathing room for his gentleman sausage than someone just a few inches shorter.

So I sympathize with the plight of large men — but I can’t condone manspreading’s implication of discourtesy. Thanks to my southern belle mother, I’ve got an overdeveloped sense of decorum. “Manners maketh man,” according to that guy in The Kingsman, and imposing on someone else’s personal space is an absolute no no.

The ogre seated next to me on my latest bus ride, unfortunately, was not raised by my mother. This cretin was raised by wolves and barbarians and, judging by the size of him, fed HGH from the bottle.

He looked like a poor man’s Ivan Drago. Close crop hair with unnecessary gel, shoulders wider than most aircraft carriers, and gorilla-length arms hanging out of a too-tight shirt. Although, to be fair, it must be difficult to find clothes that fit when you’re 6’6”.

We were in Panama, driving from the city of David to the capital on a proper bus – meaning not one of those sardine cans I described earlier. This was a full-sized Greyhound bus, big and comfortable and, surprisingly, with functioning shock absorbers. The air conditioning didn’t work for shit, which meant the M&Ms I’d brought along were melting in my hand and not in my mouth, but the most important feature of the bus was this: every passenger and their very own assigned bucket seat.

Now, on an airplane, in the same situation, the rule for spacing is measured by the seat gap in front of you. You stay on your side of the imaginary line, I stay on mine. Occasional border crossings are acceptable for momentary necessities, like getting something from under your seat, and only then if you apologize afterwards.

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They did not teach this etiquette in the barn Drago was raised in.

I had the window seat, he the aisle. His seat, then, afforded more space for stretching out. He could extend a leg into the aisle if he wished – which he did, for the full 8-hour ride.

It was his other leg I took issue with. Despite the fact that he’d already commandeered the entire aisle, and without any regard to the fully-grown man on his left, he immediately breached the invisible seat border with his knee. The orangutan didn’t hesitate, didn’t accidentally break this unwritten rule sometime after we left the station – he laid claim to my territory immediately and unflinchingly.

It gets worse. This wasn’t some stationary slab of Slavic leg meat encroaching on my space; Drago was bouncing his leg up and down like he was waiting for the biggest job interview of his life. You’d have thought he was operating one of those old-school sewing machines.

Oh, and then the asshole added a third dimension to it all, often spending long stretches of the ride holding onto the overhead bins above us. This damned Neanderthal was more stretched out than a contortionist on Valium in a hot yoga class. He smelled like that was the case, too.

Needless to say, I was slightly taken aback by the situation. It was so comically God awful that most sitcoms would have passed on it for being unrealistic. But I assumed whatever uppers Drago was on would wear off soon, then he’d remember that there was a thing called ‘manners’ that most normal humans had, and he’d retreat to a more reasonable position.

That wasn’t the case. Fifteen minutes into the ride and nothing had changed; he had one arm in the air, his right leg fully extended in the aisle, and his left bouncing up and down like a coked-out kangaroo in my personal space.

I pushed my right knee into his left. He shifted for a bit, but the retreat lasted no more than two minutes, then he was back over the line. I tried again a few minutes later with the same result.

Eventually I spoke up; gesturing to his leg I said, “Mate, you mind?” Note that I’d just spent a week with a crew of Englishers and am still trying to break their speaking habits.

This surprised him, and did earn me an extended break from his encroachment, but it did nothing to improve our relationship. While my next hour or so was delightfully third leg-free, Drago now decided to call half his phone and have unintelligible conversations in Russian.

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From the pointed glances my direction, it’s safe to assume he spent most of these chats cursing me in Cyrillic.

But whatever. I put on my headphones, leaned against the window and passed out. All I had needed was a bit of space.

I woke up a few hours later, when my playlist ended. All I’d meant to do was hit Play again, but… well, you can probably guess what was now a full three inches into my territory.

I tried the nudging technique – no dice. Not even an acknowledgement that I was making contact with him, though we were literally clattering our knee bones together.

But before this understated melee was settled, the bus pulled in for a pit stop. An attendant came on the speaker and told us we had fifteen minutes to get snacks, use the bathroom, etc. Drago immediately leapt up and bouldered his way towards the door.

I had 5 more hours of sitting next to this gigantic jackaloon, and all evidence suggested that it was not going to be a comfortable experience. I’d have to find another way to gain satisfaction.

So I opened the backpack he’d left under his seat and dumped a handful of half-melted M&Ms inside. I quickly zipped it back up, gave it a good kick where I thought most of the candy’d come to rest, and exited the bus in a far better mood than I’d been in all day.

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photo: sylvester stallone’s third best role. silly little picture board in antigua, guatemala.

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Malcolm Freberg
Malcolm Freberg
American writer living permanently on the road. Believes rye whiskey is superior to bourbon, Belle is the best Disney princess, and that selfie sticks should be snapped in half on sight. Hosted a travel documentary for AOL & played Survivor a few times.
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3 Comments

  1. Judy

    Fun post…and sadly so true “I shouldn’t have to explain this, but I’ve seen the latest American math test scores – our high schoolers dropped 11 places internationally last year, and now rank just 35th worldwide – so for safety, I’m going to state the obvious: it is much cheaper to drive places than to fly to them.”

    Reply
  2. Sunny

    I didn’t realize men did this to other men! This was a fun read. Looking forward to reading more about your adventures, and I’m truly sad I don’t get to see you compete the rest of this season. Glad to see you are doing great things post Survivor! XO

    Reply
  3. Holly

    I love your writing style…. have you ever read any Bill Bryson?

    Reply

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