“Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt”
It’s pretty hard to figure out who said that, or who said it first. According to some, it was God. Hey, I’m as big a fan of Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain as the next guy, but I’m not choosing either of them over God. Regardless of who first uttered this phrase, I’d like to point out that that if you want to see evidence of its validity, step onto a plane.
I recently booked a three-city-bank-shot via one of the Internet Travel sites. I got a great deal on an otherwise complex and expensive bit of travel, but the seat selection offered to me was a collection of middle seats in the back of the plane. Normally, I don’t care where I sit, but I was worried about those seats on some flights where I had very short layovers between connecting flights. So, I paid a few extra dollars to upgrade to Economy Comfort (the modern-day equivalent of what we used to know as Coach). I like aisle seats, toward the front of the plane when I have a connection because I feel like I’m more in control of my own destiny. It’s not really true, but I’m easily convinced of such things.
On the first leg of my trip, from Hartford, CT to Orlando, FL, I upgraded to an aisle seat in row 8. When I sat down, I noticed a woman at the window, already strapped in and reading a book. The middle seat was empty, so I didn’t bother to buckle-up. A few minutes later, a guy stops in the aisle and says “that’s mine…sorry” pointing to the middle seat. I got up and out of his way and said something like “no problem” to which he replied “I hate middle seats” – which caused me to recall an expression I’ve heard my English friend say “yeah yeah, off you go.” The woman at the window heard this guy’s complaint and when he sat down, she offered him a proposition:
“My fiancée is seated on the aisle, two rows back. It’s also an Economy Comfort seat, and it would be great if you would switch with him because then he and I could sit together.”
This was one of those home run deals where you get to do good and get rewarded, but the guy said: “I wouldn’t want to do that” then he mumbled something about staying in his assigned seat. Then, as the plane started rolling, he tried three times, to strike up a conversation with the woman. Each time, she turned her head sharply to the window and nosed into her book. “How’s that working for you?” I thought.
This incident reminded me of a similar one several years ago. I was running for a connection in Atlanta. When I got to the gate, the attendant was dealing with a young girl who was traveling alone. The attendant was concerned about something dealing with the girl’s age. The young trooper pointed out that 12 was the magic number in this case, and that she was 12 ½. With her pink roll-aboard in tow, she entered the jet-way. Since I was late, they had given my assigned seat to someone else. The attendant was able to get me an aisle seat near the back. Since this was the final leg of my flight, I really didn’t care. She printed a new boarding pass and I was on my way.
I boarded the plane and the flight attendant shut the door behind me – I was that guy, the guy your flight was delayed for – and, I had to walk the length of the aircraft.
When I got to my seat, the little girl was in it. I said “excuse me honey, but I think you’re in my seat.” She started crying…sigh. Through her tears, she said “I’m supposed to be in the window seat.” I looked over and the guy seated at the window said “I really can’t deal with sitting in the middle.”
I tapped the little girl on the shoulder and said: “it’s OK, I’m going to call the flight attendant and she’ll either make this man move, or she’ll throw him off the plane.” The man got up, the little girl moved and the man motioned for me to take the center seat. Not happening. He sat down. I sat down and I pushed his arm off the armrest – don’t make little girls cry.
After my stay in Orlando, I was off to Iowa via a connection in Dallas. A woman traveling with two young children was in the row ahead of me on the other side of the aisle. None of their TV monitors were working. She asked the flight attendant for help but after several attempts to repair the system, she was told two things. One, the TVs weren’t going to work. Two, the only empty seats were in an Exit row and her children were too young to sit there. Within a few minutes, those of us who were content to read on this flight brokered a deal where a few adults got exit-row seats and a couple of kids got working TVs but about 9 people were not in their assigned seats. The attendant even gave the family movie access for free. I think God would have liked that.