Monday, April 30, 2007

Not my space

[Written Sunday April 29th aboard flight 30 ]

Way too early this morning, my constant state of travel led me to yet another gate. The journey was a long one, laden with uninteresting airport artwork, tired faces, and the faint humming of smooth jazz. An all-nighter had me feeling sedated, and I couldn't wait to sit down. When I finally arrived at A14, I scoped out the crowded scene.

As usual, there was no available seat.

I mean, sure there were seats. But, you know how it is. It's always those single standing seats in between the already-situated people. Those seats that require you go and make yourself all cozy next to a total stranger. Or there are two seats, which isn't any better because you're still going to have to sit buddy-buddy with someone, only this time you have to choose which one. The apex of comfortable flight-waiting is the sighting and subsequent usurping of three seats in between people. Then you're guaranteed a good amount (at least one seat's worth) of space in between you and your neighbors.

I was one such lucky lady this morning. I found that spot, alright. And with the luxury of healthy breathing space at least four feet in all directions, I was sitting pretty.

I had about three good minutes to enjoy my status before the sweet voice of an older man brought my gate-waiting heaven to a screeching halt.

"Excuse me, Miss. May I sit here?"

Despite the inner sense of victory I was experiencing prior to his arrival, I was quick to respond, relatively painlessly, with an "of course!" He took his seat, and, surprisingly, life resumed as normal. I picked up my book and started to read. But, really, I was thinking.

This sweet man needed a seat and had probably chosen me as the least awkward proposition. I looked around at the classic scene of Seattle's organic woman, depressed youngsters, and shy Asians. On second thought, I was definitely this man's least awkward seating proposition.

The more I thought, the more silly I felt for having made calculations that left me feeling high about a mere seat. And more than that, I didn't feel comfortable with the fact that this man felt he had to ask me to sit down. The seat was much more his than it was mine. I didn't want the man feeling like he had infringed on my space.

I thought about the unwritten rule we all seem to live by: that everyone on earth owns a certain amount of space in their immediate vicinity. It suddenly felt ridiculous. "My space" is a site for your personal homepage, not a mindset that makes you feel as though you have rights to the air around you.

I noticed he was sitting a little tight. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, and held a newspaper folded in his hands. He was not in my definition of a comfortable flight-waiter.

I had to say something. Being a former seat-and-space monger and now freshly repented, I wanted him to know that it's normal for him to sit there, and that I felt no entitlement to the seat he was now seated in. Most of all, after thinking about it for so long, I wanted to expose the silliness inherent in the seating-choice-fiasco we all seem to succumb to.

"It's funny," I say, "We're all about to sit shoulder to shoulder on the place, but we act like it's the end of the world to sit right next to each other out here."

He chuckled, thought about it, and responded, "That's so true."

After relaxing his shoulders, he opened his paper ((no, it wasn't Men's Health, it was The Seattle Times) and sat back in his seat, totally at ease. Mission accomplished.

I looked around the waiting area. We were the only two people who were sitting right next to each other. I was happy to have been given the chance to let go of the entitlement I felt to the inches around me.

It was now boarding time. Crammed in between people of shared space, I slowly approached my happy home for the next five hours - but of course, the middle seat.


Itzhak Schier said...

Being wide of build and having facial hair similar to that of a large African jungle cat, I never have that problem. Nobody in their right mind wants to sit down next to me at the airport (and I have had an amazing streak of luck when it comes to getting a seat next to me on international flights, probably because I'm the first one to check in and I take the wing which no one wants).

There's hardly any room next to me for a full grown adult, especially if I have two or three kiddushes worth of duty free with me, and kids, except in EY where they know why I wear a full beard, figure I'll eat them for lunch before I get on the plane!

Rochel said...

What an interesting experience!
Quite different to your previos one you wrote about!
Thanks for sharing it!

ESME said...

iT IS always A PLEASURE to read you , keep it up!

Chaya said...

WOw...thats really creative. Smart comment...

stamaguy said...

That's an awesome story. But, if the "Older man" (I assume you mean senior citizen) was reading a Men's Health, that wouldn't have been an insesitive typical male move.

That would have been hilarious.

lady said...

'"It's funny," I say, "We're all about to sit shoulder to shoulder on the place, but we act like it's the end of the world to sit right next to each other out here."

darling, on the plane it is also the end of the world...

Mushky said...


I can totally relate to this feeling and I even remember talking to you about this.

It seems so simple, but what you are saying is truly insightful.

Why should it be weird to sit comfortably next to a stranger?

It is normal and I am proud that you were able to acknowledge what was wrong, ponder it and act upon it all in time to make that older man more comfortable.

I love you!

Nemo said...

I prefer to just camp out on the floor of the waiting lounge, flip open my laptop and pretend to be busy.

nahama said...

HAHA that's so true.
Mimi (pronounced...conventionally), your bringing out the truth in that situation is so moshiachesque.
i like.
it seems i may have better things to do, so i'll end off here (may being the operative word).