Middle Seat Manifesto

Listen up, people everywhere who fly anywhere.

I see you walking past me, sizing up (while pretending not to) which of those to my left and right are likely to be least obnoxious.

But guess what? The most benign looking person can turn out to be an intolerably chatty elbow space aggressor whose migraine inducing “music” blares beyond her earbuds, sitting too close to the cholicky baby and not far enough away from the bawdy guy with the bellowing laugh parked in a cloud of his own aftershave.

So you keep walking, hoping for better, as you inch ever closer to the lavatories. Enjoy that. I mean, at this point you’ve already surrendered all hope of efficient deplaning afterward. Might as well add faint public restroom funk to the recycled air you’ll be breathing.

At last! You close in on one of the coveted A or C seats that remain. And then you do the unthinkable.

When you believe no one is looking, you casually toss your laptop bag/purse/man satchel/what have you on top of me, creating the illusion that I’m taken.

Oh. Em. Goodness.

See here, you sneaky, seat stealing space hog. Karma is real. And it’s about to bite you in the derriere, big time.

At first, he seems harmless enough. That fellow in the window seat there, courteously reminding you to stow your bags before you’re tisk-tisked by the flight attendant.

He settles in, orders what you presume is his first (wrong) bourbon and something (guess unlike you, he doesn’t need this time to put the finishing touches on his Keynote), and most importantly, leaves you alone. For 27 minutes.

Then, he makes an indistinguishable grunt in your general direction.

Not entirely sure if he’s garbling to you or the seat pocket in front of you, you plow on, opening up a new slide and using every non-verbal cue you can to connote that A-game level concentration is happening, right here, right now.

Another bourbon and something.

Suddenly Window Seat is thrusting his sausage-y fingers toward your screen, and dispensing the unsolicited advice that you really ought to change your header on that particular slide, because the term “Think outside the box” has been done and done and don’t you know that and what are you working on so hard on this long flight for anyway?

Eyes locked on your screen, you deliver the most polite non-answer answer, something about “I really need to work right now,” silently hoping the bourbon will lull him into a booze snooze.

Bored of you already, he’s bending over, unlacing dusty work boots. Your olfactory senses are on high alert. It’s bad, and the worst is yet to come.

Peeling off two sweaty athletic socks, he hoists both feet onto that wide open middle seat just begging to be used, exposing hairy, unkempt toes that are now mere inches from your hip. You’d cue up those non-verbals again (maybe a bit stronger this time) to let him know straight up how unacceptably gross you find this behavior, but alas, the bourbon has kicked in.

As alcohol induced naps tend to go, it’s both short and snort-filled. Now apparently, it’s time to stretch.

Up and at ’em, Window Seat makes his way to the front, gamely trying to get his flirt on with one of the flight attendants, who just ain’t havin’ it.

And just like that, he’s baaaaaack, opting to sit on the floor, face buried in the seat. He repeats the aisle walkabout and floor routine no less than three times, and then ends with a bit of business trying to pay for the bourbon with his library card, his gym card, and at least four other cards before finally ponying up the plastic.

As the captain makes his descent, Window Seat decides it’s a good idea to put his socks back on – after giving them a brisk shake over all that glorious, empty middle seat space that you kept from someone else.

What you wouldn’t give to have any number of those Boarding Group C patrons beside you now.

A selfless soul by virtue of their seat choice.

A would-be buffer between you and passenger buffoonery.

A walking, talking cluster of oxygen and atoms to serve as a reinforcement of the boundaries of in flight personal space and basic social decorum.

Why didn’t you listen to me three hours ago? Ya know, when we met on like Aisle 2?

I am the middle seat, and I serve a powerful purpose.

Besides, elbows pointed inward for the duration of any flight keeps one humble. And who among you couldn’t benefit from that occasional reminder?

Maximum respect to my middle seaters out there.

As for the rest of you – straighten up and fly right!

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Learned my lesson on this particular trip’s outbound flight. Moving forward, middle seaters will always have a welcome spot next to me!

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