To Be Or Not To Be … A Good Guy.
I suspect I’m typical of most airline passengers because I always hope to get someone “nice” in the seat next to me, especially when I’m in economy class. And by “nice”, I mean someone small. Nice is a bonus.
And so, on one of my recent flights to the mainland from Maui, I was delighted when a young woman, both small and attractive, stopped at Row 15, stashed a small carry-on bag in the bin above us, and settled into the seat next to me.
About five minutes later–after most of the passengers were settled, but before we took off–a young man appeared from somewhere in the rear of the plane and hunkered down in the aisle next to the young woman. He looked at me, smiled hesitantly, and said, “Excuse me, sir, but I wonder if you would be willing to change seats with me, so I can sit next to my wife.”
I must note here that this took place on an Hawaiian Airlines Airbus 300 which has a 2-4-2 seating configuration in economy class. I much prefer a window seat on one of these planes and book as far in advance as possible in order to get one. I especially don’t care for sitting in the middle section on any wide-body jet. In fact, I hate it because during those flights I can occasionally experience mild sensations of claustrophobia.
But now the young man was looking at me expectantly, waiting for a response.
“Where’s your seat?”, I asked finally.
The expression on his face told me all I needed to know. “In the back,” he said. “And in the middle.”
“I’m really sorry,” I said finally, “but I picked this seat way in advance.”
He said it was OK, patted his wife on the arm, and disappeared into the back of the plane.
A few minutes later, we took off and after a half hour or so, the plane leveled off and the captain came on the P.A. to say that we had reached cruising altitude. The entire time, the young woman sat staring straight ahead.
After another couple of uncomfortable minutes, I said, “I feel like a rat, you know.”
She looked at me. “Why?”
“Because you two are probably on your honeymoon.”
“We are,” she said. The remaining four-and-a-half hours were spent in silence.
Later, in my hotel room, it occurred to me that the experience had really hadn’t been all that much different from most flights, when you seldom speak to the person sitting next to you, and it was the exact opposite of what it’s like when you travel on Amtrak. Because newlyweds can always sit next to each other on the train and you can always talk to them. Well, most of the time, anyway.