Monday, July 21, 2014

Chapter two, in which we learn advantages of clinging to window or aisle seats

    I mentioned in my previous post that we had managed to get really cheap tickets to Europe. We flew on USAir.
    The plane we flew on explains part of the reason for the low price. It was a 757-200 with 3-3 seating, a plane more suited for domestic flights than international travvel. There was no IFE system. Movies were shown on television screens in the center aisle. I kept wondering if Jimmy Carter was still president.
    Whenever booking seats for two on a three-across grid I always take a window and aisle, in hopes that the middle seat will stay open. I then check back regularly to make sure the middle seat hasn’t filled. If it does I’ll move to a new row.
    On our flight the middle seat showed empty until our check-in a few hours before the flight. I had high hopes that we would therefore have some extra space.
    When we arrived at our row there was already a man in the center seat. By mutual agreement Lucy and I refrained from speaking to each other, in hopes that this middle occupant wouldn’t know we were traveling together, and thus get the idea that one of us should volunteer for middle-seat duty.
    A minute after we took our seats my phone vibrated, indicating an arriving text. Since I have a record, I will share our conversation:
Lucy [all exchanges by text message]: Course of action, if any?
Me: You can ask him if he would like window. I think he’s French (note: Lucy speaks a slight amount of French).
Lucy: Nah...
Me: Well you can’t yik yak w me.
Lucy: Then you can ask him if he wants the aisle...
Me: I am too fat to sit in middle
Lucy: And I’m too comfortable to move. So I think ima just kick back with the book. Let’s see how long it takes for me to finish
    And so Lucy and I headed to Europe with a stranger between us, each clinging to our coveted aisle or window seat, pretending not to know each other.
    I was courteous. I leaned out towards the aisle, giving the stranger the full use of the armrest. But then a miracle happened.
    The stranger motioned that he wanted to go to the bathroom. He never came back. We saw him somehow manage to get an aisle seat a number of rows in front of us. I think it was a seat that you have to pay for, but he just took it (on USAir the premium seats offer nothing more than early boarding and easy exit; no extra legroom or free drinks).
    So for almost the entire flight Lucy and I had an empty middle seat between us. Lucy stretched out a bit, but I kept my armrest down. I just enjoyed being able to use the armrest and my right arm without touching or being touched by a stranger. Of course, if we had offered this stranger one of our comfortable window or aisle seats we would have had his company for the entire flight, no doubt touching us the whole way. So standing firm paid off.
    USAir now offers only a single free glass of wine with dinner, poured from a milk carton. It’s pretty wretched stuff. I accepted my free glass and bought an additional airplane bottle of wine for $7; it, too, was closer to wretched than good.
    Only after my free glass of wine had been poured and my $7 mini-bottle purchased did I discover that the airline offered both Conundrum and Meomi Pinot Noir – two of my favorite wines – for $15 per half bottle. This is about what it would cost at a liquor store. I desperately wanted to buy one of these half bottles, but figured that amount of wine would either make me very entertaining or very unentertaining to my fellow passengers. So I drank my rotgut, put some tunes on my Android, and took a fitful nap.
    Today’s lesson: Bring your own in-flight entertainment. Never voluntarily take a middle seat. Always read the airline drink offerings before ordering.

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