After I board a plane, stow my backpack and take discomfort in my seat, there is always a palpable sense of anxiety. No, I am not afraid to fly. My anxiety arises from a very real question that plagues everyone that is sitting alone on a plane: who is going to sit next to me?
I am usually one of the first people to board the plane, so I can relax and watch everyone else board and am suddenly thrust into a inner dialogue resembling a game show with a cabin full of contestants.
Contestant #1: I sit and peer down the aisle as a stunningly beautiful woman comes cheerily bounding down the aisle. She represents the pinnacle of an airline aisle-mate. A five hour flight goes swimmingly when it involves a smiley, happy flirtation with a beautiful, and hopefully equally intelligent, traveller. She is travelling alone, and I am alone. So, perhaps we will turn a chance encounter into a unique connection that will warm our travels for quite some time.
Foiled: she continues down the aisle 5 rows back.
Contestant #2: “Oh dear God no!!” My inner dialogue has taken a rather dissappointed turn as a house sized human wedges himself through the walkway and barrels towards me. This person is likely going to pour over the arm rest and I will become intimate with this person’s side fat flap. I find myself resenting the gate agent for not suggesting a second seat. I am also worried that this guy is less than thorough when it comes to hygiene and may smell horrible. I believe that after the ticket agent asks if you have packed your own bags, they should follow up by asking if you have bathed today. A shower and deodorant should be mandatory for air travel. Just as I start to wondering how this orca will be able to fit through the emergency exit if needed, he passes and weighs another section of the plane down.
The array of contestants continue: the overly-talkative grandmother, the seasoned traveler with interesting stories, the jittery aerophobe, and the dreaded 11-year old. It is at this time that I flashback to the moment when I was asked if I would like to upgrade to first-class. I have travelled first class on a handful of occassions and it has ruined me for future travel. Those who deny the splendor of first class by saying “we all get there at the same time” have obviously never flown first class.
Finally the flight attendents do their final checks and the plane departs from the gate. I am off on an adventure and have lucked out by sitting next to the best aisle-mate possible; the empty seat