Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Flying Harpy of Love

I'm not a nice person when I fly. From curbside to baggage claim the entire travel experience has become so hostile towards passengers that it's every traveler for themselves. If you don't carve out your own slice of sanity, it will be taken away, screened, checked, charged extra for, and probably even lost without so much as an “I’m sorry.” 

On a flight to Fort Lauderdale, Delta Airlines had me slotted for a middle seat. Two hours crammed in between strangers? Nope. Sorry. Not gonna happen. Let me be clear. I don't even want to sit that closely in between people I know for two hours. My germophobia and claustrophobia would reach a critical mass that would have me reaching for an airsick bag, provided they’re still free. If not, game on. 

You see what I mean? That's not who I am. Under normal circumstances I would never consider projectile vomit a viable means of protest, but the deteriorating quality of the flying experience has made it just as valid as an angry complaint letter.  

When I fly I prefer the left side, aisle, exit row seat. I'm right handed so the left side aisle gives my right elbow the freedom it needs to write, type, and be hit with the beverage cart.  The exit row has the allure of extra leg room and no children under 15. 

The airlines, in their ongoing plan to raise the level of customer service and class warfare, now sell exit row seats. That’s an extra $29 on top of the $463 that I paid for my second class… I mean coach class ticket. So for a measly $492 I got to choose a seat that I hoped would make me moderately comfortable. 

This is perplexing since sitting in the exit row also means you agree to help out in case of an emergency. In my mind this changes me from passenger to employee. Shouldn't they be paying me? Note to self: call my union rep. 

I got on the plane, stowed my bag, sat in my seat, put on my seat belt, and all was right with the world. It didn’t last, but you knew it wouldn’t. A couple got onboard. He had the middle seat on my left and she had the aisle on my right. They asked me if I would mind moving so they could sit together. 

After my $492 investment into Delta Airlines flight 2379 I absolutely did mind. I briefly considered following the airline's lead and offering to sell the couple my seat. Shall we start the bidding at $50? What's it worth to sit next to your beloved?

But I didn’t want to switch seats. The aisle seat on the right would have me rubbing my writing elbow with a very large man who sounded like he was single-handedly trying to bring back the bubonic plague. His cough was loud, constant and contagious. How I wished we could have stowed him and his germs in the overhead bin.

I politely declined to change seats with the couple and hoped they would understand. From the looks of things it seemed like their relationship could benefit from some time apart. Two hours and 21 minutes seemed about right. It would give them time to think things over. Like, why did she, at 5’nothing, have the aisle seat and he at 6'3 have the middle seat? Is that love? I think not. Clearly their relationship is doomed.

But when we arrived in Fort Lauderdale, I saw them eagerly take each other’s hands as they strolled through the concourse. Their time apart in the air had brought them closer together. My refusal to change seats with them was indeed a good thing for everyone. I guess I’m a nicer person when I travel than I thought.

Thanks for reading The Urban Erma. You can listen to the podcast on Podbean or subscribe for free on iTunes. In case you were wondering, in addition to blogging I am also a pretty good stand-up comedian. I do "Thinking Cap Comedy." If comedy were music, I'd be Jazz. Want to see a show? Check out my schedule at @

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