Why I Didn’t Change Seats

Why I Didn’t Change seats

Last Sunday I had an early 6am flight out of San Francisco to new York. The day before I has spent in an all-day work meeting.  The past few weeks have been grueling. My body is physically exhausted and my mind is stretched. But despite all that I am still feeling good. I have traveled so much for work, that I have many accumulated airline miles. I have taken free trips to Japan, Italy and Germany on my miles. I decided to treat myself and use my miles for an upgrade to first class. I usually get free upgrades on short flights but cross-country the free upgrades are a bit harder to come by,. Thus, I decided to spend some of my hard-earned miles on a nice upgrade.

As I boarded the flight, people’s tempers were already flaring. People were nudging each other to get onto the plane and grab whatever overhead space was available. People were yelling at each other to “wait a second while I get situated.”  These days, as you all know, flying is an exercise in extreme patience. Just this past week, a woman got escorted off a flight because she pen-poked her loudly snoring seatmate.

I took a deep breath and found my seat up front. I got situated. I took out my laptop as I knew I would be working the full 6 hours of the flight. I had to even though it was 6am Sunday morning. I took all my papers out and my caffeine items. I plugged in my phone and put my backpack and coat overhead.  I was ready to work. I put my headphones on to watch Arrow and I started typing away knowing I would soon have to stow away my laptop.

I then felt a tap on my shoulder. I figure it was my seat mate although there was plenty of space to get by. He sits next to me and then taps me again. I take off my headphones after which he asks if I would be willing to change seats with his friend. I scrunched my nose. I have always been the person to change seats. I do it on planes, trains and busses. I give up my seat to anyone who needs it. That is my usual response. That day, I did not.

I am often the person go to when they randomly need a stranger to do so. I have been asked to handle someone’s panic attach on a train. I have been asked to move to the back of the plane to balance out the weight -which by the way makes no sense when there are men three times my weight up front. I almost always say “yes” just to be nice. This time I just couldn’t. I was tired. I had already settled in. I had images of me moving and then leaving something  crucial behind. It happened to me once on a business trip back from the Bahamas. I agreed to move so that a family could be together and as we were getting close to landing i realized I couldn’t find my passport. i didn’t want to live in the terminal. I asked the individuals if they had seen my passport. They had not. Once they got up, I went back to the seat I had given up for them and there was my passport stuck in between the cushions.

I am also extremely superstitious. I had a bad feeling about changing seats. I kept thinking of what my mom would say. You change seats and then something happens in that new seat because you changed course.  I know that sounds super silly. However, that was the framework with which I was brought up. I felt “superstitiously scared” to change seats. I didn’t want to tempt fate. Plus, I hate flying. Although I do it a lot, I am an extremely nervous flyer. I am like a baseball player that has certain game rituals. Thus, i did not change seats.

The guy was angry. He was able to get someone else to change seats and he kept thanking the person profusely so that I could hear. He was trying to shame me. However, he had no idea why I didn’t not change seats. It didn’t matter to him. Throughout the flight I occasionally looked back at the two friends. Guess what. Throughout the 6 hour flight they maybe talked to each other a total of ten minutes. The rest of the time they slept.  At the end of the flight, he again, loudly thanked the other person so that I could hear. The seat-changer looked at me and wondered why the guy kept thanking him. he had some with no luggage and had barely been settled into his seat. It didn’t matter. I just shrugged and wished him a good journey ahead.

You just never know what people’s motivations are in those quick situations in a crowded temper-flaring tight environment. There is always a back-story and ideas of fate and karma really differ from person to person .

6 replies »

  1. Some people just seem to have to get their own way and see themselves as a shrewd negotiator instead of a bully. It’s important to acknowledge where your boundaries start and finish and when you are stepping on someone else’s toes and back off.


  2. Glad you took care of yourself. And as you know, it’s really ok to say no. The man could have picked anyone to ask- instead he chose someone that was already busy at work and concentrating. I’m also usually a person who says “yes”. I’ve learned to say “no” though with no hesitation these last few years. And the people who receive it? Just as it’s ok for me to say no, it’s ok for them to be mad. They’ll get over it. C’est la vie.


  3. Strange how air travel just seems to bring out the the worst in people. I have witnessed many a “I’m the most important person in the world” fits while on planes and can’t understand it myself. If you chose to stay put and declined the request, then so be it. No explanation is required and this person just needs to get over themselves. Fortunately this is not someone you will have to deal with again (we hope).


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