While flying US Airways from Washington to Tampa last Wednesday, I struck up a conversation (shocker!) with the man sitting directly behind me on our nearly empty flight. He flies for work about once a month, so he’s up on the latest travel news including the seat-recline fight between two passengers that recently caused a United Airlines flight to make an unexpected landing.

If you somehow missed the fight story, here’s a brief recap: One passenger on a United flight used a $22 gadget to prevent the passenger in front of him from reclining her seat. The gadget was called the Knee Defender.

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So, since road warrior Mark Debes (see photos) is 6’6″ and I could see his knees bumping up against my seat, I just had to ask him: How would he like it if I reclined?

He might as well have echoed Clint Eastwood’s infamous line: “Go ahead, make my day.” But in reality, Debes chuckled and invited me to recline as much as I pleased.

So I pressed the button…

A close-up shot of Mark's knees that "defended" his space when I tried to recline.

A close-up shot of Mark’s knees that “defended” his space when I tried to recline.

And nothing happened.

I tried again…still no movement!

Turns out that at 6’6,” Debes is the human version of the controversial, $22 Knee Defender gadget! Unless he moves his legs to straddle the seat in front of him so that it can recline, his knees completely block a seat from reclining.

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Typically, Debes told me, he leaves his legs as is.

Mark Debes and I sitting one row apart.

Mark Debes and I sitting one row apart.

If the person in front of him attempts to recline, they typically stop trying when they realize their seat won’t budge.

No one has ever looked back at him to see what’s up. And no one has ever picked a fight with him.

I also had to ask him if he reclines himself, and he said no. He wouldn’t want to infringe on the person’s space. How’s that for nice?

Readers: Have you ever tried to recline, but your seat won’t move? What do you do in those cases?