Middle Seat Hell

November 11, 2009

in Odds & Ends Stories

At the time I worked for a marketing firm. I was just starting out and so I got to do the jobs that no one else wanted. This time I was flying around the west coast, stopping in each and every airport interviewing travelers about new travel products.

If spending all day in nothing but planes and airports was not bad enough, as the day went, each person I asked to fill out a questionnaire was more irritated than the last.

The last leg of my trip, the one sending me home after a day of rejections and responses which were much less enjoyable, was one of the worst six hour stretches of my life. It was a late night flight and all I wanted to do was sleep. That was not going to happen.

I am a rather small person, about 120 pounds and 5 foot 7. As such I really didn’t mind being in the middle seat. I usually had enough room and was able to sleep.

As soon as I boarded the plane, after a far too long delay, all I wanted to do was find my seat, and close my eyes. What I found was a man who was at least 6 foot 7 sitting in the window seat. As soon as I sat down I realized that even though he was not overweight, his legs were going to be on more than half of my side throughout the flight by dint of the lack of leg room by the window. I suppose here I should point out that he wanted a window seat (he liked to look out). So I had relegated myself to being cramped to one side of my seat, but I was planning on sleeping anyway.

As I was going to breathe a sigh of relief that no one was going to sit on the aisle (and that I could move since there was no other seat open on the flight), an almost comically large woman boarded the plane. She was sweating from the effort to get to her seat, and would proceed to sweat throughout the flight. She sat down, invading my seat with a combination of sweat and flesh.

So at this point, I was stuck between a sweaty massive woman taking the left half of my seat and sweating and a very tall man who was taking the right half of my leg space. This resulted in me having to lean in a very uncomfortable position in what is an already small seat (even for me) for six hours.

However this was not the end to the fun I was to experience. Once we were in the air I was trying to get to sleep the best I could, but that was not going to happen. The man and the woman had apparently been sleeping all day and thought that a night flight was the best time to catch up on the novels that they were reading, and had to have all the lights on to do so. So, there I was, no room, no sleep, and I was getting hungry but there was no meal on this flight.

I looked for a magazine, and of course there was none, not even the flight catalog to look at and my laptop had run out of battery. Six hours sitting in a position that my body did not really bend in, staring forward, with nothing to distract me, as well as being excessively tired, was almost more than I could take after my day. But when it rains it pours and the woman on my left began to drink gin and tonics like they were going out of style and sometime during the flight began to sweat out the drinks, enhancing the odor that she had already developed.

It seemed like the flight took an eternity and the delay before we could disembark seemed to take longer. While I was getting paid to fly, I would have given anything to avoid this trip. Coach is bad enough on its own, but sometimes it is surreal.


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