A Middle Seat

Airplane seats are interesting pieces of furniture.   Not all are the same size, color or equally comfortable to hang out or hang in as is the case with chairs.  While airline passengers cannot control these factors, the millions who take to the air to travel can and do control some choices.

Choosing where to sit is one way to assert a preference.  For some passengers, seat selection has its own set of criteria. The priority for some travelers is the destination and the events that will happen after they deplane.  They may have no interest in the human being sitting next to them.  Some passengers pay to strategically plan a quick plane exit; buy some privacy; comfort; meals; and avoid sitting close to other passengers.

If you ask people about airplane seats, most people will have something to say even if they have no attachment to whom they sit next to or where they sit on the plane.  I don’t care much about seats unless I have to quickly get a connecting flight.  My preference is to sit by the window and look at blue sky, clouds, mountains, bodies of water and the city below as the plane descends.  My second favorite airplane wish is have the entire to myself so I do not have to ask people to stand up or tap dozing passengers on the shoulder to say, “Excuse me I need to get by you.” This doesn’t happen very often with airlines packing flights and customers taking connecting flights and shopping for cheaper flights.


A week ago, I took a flight that was completely full.  No, there would be no aisle or empty seat. The most that I could hope for was to sit next to some interesting people and have some great conversations. How does one find that as one walks down the aisle looking for a seat?  It is a quick decision. There isn’t much time.  There are people in front of me and people behind me waiting to find a seat. Unless one is avoiding a certain group of people (young, old, overweight bald, babies, and teenagers), just sit down-anywhere and quickly.

As I boarded the plane, my eyes scanned each seat on the left and right aisle. What was I looking for?   Was it someone interesting, a friendly face, perhaps two people who weren’t so large that I wouldn’t be uncomfortably squeezed between them?  I was about a third of the way down the long aisle when I decided to choose a seat so that I wouldn’t have to wait for a lot of people to deplane after landing. I wanted to be able to get off the plane, get my luggage, and quickly make my way to the bus to go back home.

My eyes landed on a row on the left side. Near the window was a young man who didn’t look older than twenty and was staring at something in his hands, probably something electronic.  At the end of the aisle was a man whose nose and face were pointed in the direction of his iPhone in his hand.  That is where I want to sit. “Excuse me. Can I sit there?” I asked as I looked at the middle seat. “Of course” said the man who had his attention on his phone. He stood up, and moved into the aisle so that I could sit down.


Once I had settled in my seat, the young man sitting by the window seat looked at me and greeted me and then continued looking at some electronic device in his hand. He didn’t say another word until. I closed my laptop after writing some notes from a conversation that I just had with a woman at the airport. “What are you writing?” he asked.  I told him about the conversation and asked him he if liked to write.  He shared that he enjoyed writing science fiction stories and writing and recording his own music. I asked him if he played in a band. He said no and had no interest in making music with others.

He continued to talk.  I learned that this was his first plane trip.  He had saved money for the ticket and was traveling to visit cousins.

He told me many family stories about his grandfather and the business that he started carving and selling totem poles. I learned that his grandfather had many skills and talents and had once worked for Coca-Cola.  His grandfather lived to be 74 years old and had a full rich life. His grandson hoped to be like his grandfather and live a long life like him.

As I stood up to get off the plane, I turned to my airplane companion; I thanked him for the conversation and wished him a good visit with his relatives.

I had chosen the right middle seat, or was it chosen for me?



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