John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
"Soarigami" walls off airline armrests into separate but equal halves.
To judge from products on the market, air travel is nothing more than a passive-aggressive war for personal space. There's this seatmate-shunning head hammock, for instance, which grants privacy at the expense of looking like an overgrown baby. And who can forget the damnable Knee Defender, which prevents the person in front of you from leaning back?
Now there's the Soarigami, a (slightly) less misanthropic contraption designed to secure precious arm space. Shaped like a paper airplane, the Silicon Valley-designed barrier slides onto an armrest to extend it a few inches and, more importantly, keep your neighbor's elbows from wandering onto your side.
The Soarigami owes its existence to a grueling elbow-war of yore, say its makers:
The idea for the Soarigami came from being stuck in a very uncomfortable airplane seat. Sick of fighting for armrest space with strangers, our co-founder sketched a design that would ultimately become the Soarigami on, you guessed it, a cocktail napkin.
Our goal is to make the skies savvier by raising awareness and offering products that are useful, fun, and sleek.
The creators are billing this elbow-blocker as a way to make friends in the sky—a novelty that could spread cheer if both armrest users enjoy it. But commuters in crowded tubes aren't always known for manners, and it's not hard to see it causing friction when deployed without a heads-up to fellow passengers. And then there's its assumption that walling off the armrest straight down the middle is a fair compromise. Am I the only one who prefers to rest an elbow in the fore or aft of the rest, and let a neighbor have the other half?
Soarigami won't be available for pre-order until early 2015, with a price expected at around $30.