I went to a travel workshop once. The presenter asked everyone to raise their hands:
“Who likes the window seat?” Half the hands went up.
“Who likes the aisle seat?” The other half of the hands went up.
“Who likes the middle seat?” My hand went up.
Everyone looked around and laughed. I shrugged. What can I say? I’m the middle seat lady.
This is part of the secret to happiness. Know who you are and know what you want, then go for it. I have a long history of admitting my weird preferences to people, such as the fact that I don’t like coffee. Usually my weird preference makes life easier for other people in some way, so why not just own up to it?
Okay, so why do I like the middle seat?
It’s mostly process of elimination. First off, I hate the aisle seat. The aisle seat is the absolute worst. Whether it’s on an airplane, a train, or a bus, the aisle seat is the target of every swinging strap and elbow and passing cart. Not just during boarding, which would be bad enough. The entire duration of the trip.
I’ve been hit in the face with so many strap ends, I can’t even say. Once, the zipper on someone’s jacket swung out and actually cut my forehead and drew a line of blood.
In the middle seat, you’re still somewhat vulnerable when people drag massive, heavy bags out of the overhead bin. They’re much less likely to fall on on your head than they are for the poor, long-suffering aisle seat person.
Why not the window seat, then?
For many years, I was a white-knuckle nervous flyer. I wanted no part of being anywhere near the window. It also seemed fair and just that a person who loves looking out the window should sit there, instead of me. I’ve been flying since I was seven years old and I’ve spent many hours looking out of an airplane window. I’ve had my turn. I’m busy reading, anyway.
Ah, but there are things I dislike about the window seat as well. First, I feel trapped. If I need to get up to use the restroom, I have to ask two people to get up, and then disrupt them again when it’s time to come back. Second, I’m the person in control of the window shade, which means I’m often asked to raise or lower it. Third, I feel like the window seat is colder?
The worst part about the window seat, though, is that the person in the seat behind often seems to have a thing about putting THEIR FOOT up in the crack and propping it up on the arm rest.
MY arm rest.
Is there a handbook that indicates to uncouth people a list of fun things to do on planes? Is one of those things sticking a dirty bare foot through a crack into someone else’s lawfully bought and paid-for seat space?
My main goal in life is to not have to have embarrassing confrontations with people, partly because some of them are psycho. It’s not my job. I don’t run a kindergarten and I shouldn’t have to ask someone to put their foot back on the floor where it belongs. I also shouldn’t have to ask a flight attendant, who certainly has better things to do and has also seen worse.
You’d think it was just me. You’d think I was making it up. You’d think it had only happened once. Now, though, thanks to social media, we can explore entire photo albums together of other people documenting the same phenomenon with their cameras.
FOOT INTRUSION. IT’S REAL!
Speaking of arm rests, one of the perks of the middle seat is that people generally feel sorry for the middle seat person and allow them (me) to use both arm rests. I’m short and I have long upper arms, so this works out pretty well. It makes it pretty straightforward for me to sit quietly and read my book.
The last time I flew, though, I sat between two large men, both of whom used both of their arm rests. Like I wasn’t even there. Like I’m just a bit of foam packaging material to keep them from brushing against each other.
My powers of invisibility are usually useful. It can be emotional, though, when another passenger is... on me. Like, squishing half my thigh under their body and refusing to acknowledge it. Come on. What if we were both big, then what would happen? Just because I don’t use 100% of my space, the space I bought for the same price that you bought yours, does not mean I get 65% and you get the rest. Also, you are literally treating me like a piece of furniture.
Maybe one day airlines or space ships will go with individual pods, like in Alien.
I still think the middle seat is the best. Safe from the barrage of arms and luggage coming at the aisle seat person, safe from carts bashing into one’s funny bone. Relatively able to come and go at will, unlike the window seat person with the dirty foot prodding at them from behind.
One of the strangest aspects of the middle seat is that when there are unassigned seats, people will flag you down. On more than one occasion, I have been cruising down the aisle looking for a nice middle seat when I’ve been waved down. “You can sit with us!” As a small person with a small bag, I’m a good bargain. A married couple once explained to me in great detail that she likes the window seat and he likes the aisle, so they seek out small people like me to sit between them.
She’s portable, she’s unobtrusive, she comes with only a few curated accessories, she’s streamlined, she’s... Middle Seat Lady!
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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