Although not completely sure if its happened to you, but I am aware that it happens. We miss our gate. Needless to say, there is nothing fun about missing your gate, especially when you have somewhere to go. I had written a chapter in my book about the mysterious experience of the gate change. That in itself, is the drama of travel.
Naturally, for those of us who travel, and for me, much less than I used too, remember those few years in a row of logging in over 100,000 miles in one calender year. The perks were incredible, yet the fuzzy and pleasure experience of frequent travel wore off quickly, especially on international legs where hours of time change became a dreaded change rather than an embraced adventure. Waking up at 300am realizing that you were craving coffee, donuts, and the itching desire to work, was not a positive perk that came with the 100,000 mile plus card.
Moreover than the perks that came with frequent travel, there was the automated dread of the worst kind. One can say it simply in three words.
The middle seat.
It brings horror doesn't it? In the deepest part of your brain, you know exactly the horror. The middle seat. It could very well be the next title of a suspense, thriller, horror, & blockbuster film starring your favourite actor who has to somehow find his way out of the "middle seat" before boarding the flight. Without many options, he starts to hack the system that allows you to switch seats, but someone has already locked in the application, leaving the suspense to build. You scream out with your hands over your cheeks in a giant and prolonged hurl from the depths of your digestive system, NOOOOOOOO.... NOT THE MIDDLE SEAATTTTTTTTTTT !!!!!
Can you imagine? The middle seat... Just saying it brings shakes and your head starts to shed beads of sweat.
I was recently traveling between North America for some advocacy work for our team and outreach programs onsite here in Perú. I had checked in to return to Perú online and attempted to pick my seat. I remember when I had gotten my ticket a few months ago, I attempted to reserve a seat and I had no choice but to select a middle seat. Seat number 23E.
For those of you that fly frequently on wide body aircraft, you know exactly what the dreaded E stands for. No, it doesn't stand for emergency exit seat, nor row. It strictly stands for the letter of the alphabet that tragically places in you in MIDDLE, between two other individuals. Its similar to playing a horrific game of russian roulette, except, there are no chances. Its not a win-win opportunity.
The risks are great. Firstly, for one who drinks the amount of water that I consume, clearly one of the two individuals will be frustrated by the end of the flight of the constant flow of my walk to and from the rear lavatory. I won't go into the rest of the countless downfalls of the middle seat.
I had forgotten about that middle seat until the day of reckoning arrived for which I had to check in online for the return flight from Miami to Lima. Upon receiving the email to check in online, I went through to change my seat. Upon looking at the map of the aircraft, I thought that surely since I was checking in online, there would be a seat available on an aisle so that I could be freed from the dreadful middle seat.
No luck. There were no other seats available on the entire aircraft. Not one. All occupied. All of the approximated 193 economy seats were full. Full of bodies. Not one empty body space. I desperately sought help. There had to be a way out of the middle seat nightmare.
Upon checking in over 4 hours in advance for the flight with the hardly speakable pain of the middle seat, I requested a seat change. Mind you, in all of cases, if one checks in over 4 hours prior to departure, the lucky individual can almost always 99.9% of the time obtain a different seat. A window. An aisle. Anything but the unmentionable.
You won't believe me. I didn't believe me and I certainly didn't believe the ticket agent who simply told me.
"There are no other seats available. The flight is completely booked out."
As a frequent flyer, there are no worse statements that could be uttered to a poor unfortunate soul.
As I was the one.
With the middle seat.
I felt like someone had taken a cattle brander and just blazed the charred number 23 and the letter e into my forehead and while they were at it, ripped another brand across my chest, melting the number and letter into my very flesh. I was branded for the middle seat on a flight over 5 hours. I was grieving. I was having hot flashes and I needed to go and calm myself down. How was I going to read? How was I going to have elbow room? How was I going to read?
There must have been some mistake. Surely at the gate, I could still rig the chance to have my seat changed.
Upon arrival to the gate, I checked in with the gate agent.
"Any chance of getting a change in my seat allocation?" I
"No sir," the gate agent responded, "the flight is completely booked out full,"
I had the fleeting thought of providing a disclaimer that I had to have an aisle seat because of a bad knee, hip, or foot. However, I realized that this would be erring on the side of small white lies, and so, I refrained.
The rest all happened in horrific slow motion. The gate agent called my ZONE and I slid little by little towards the sliding door that separated me from the awaiting aircraft. Taking my ticket, the gate agent told me to have a good flight.
I didn't know what was going to be so good about a 5 hour & 30 minute flight across the ocean and land in a middle seat. I approached my seat and saw the middle seat. For a brief moment, I thought that perhaps the middle seat was sticking its tongue out at me. I wished it had.
I sat down. The two other passengers on either side of me, also came. They sat down.
I was now, certainly, and without a doubt, in the middle seat.
The miracle happened. I realized it about 30 minutes into flight. The gentleman to my left was one of the most inspiring, humble, encouraging, and empowering individual that I had ever met. I was overwhelmed with insight, wisdom, laughter, and incredible points of guidance that I'd ever received. He was traveling to speak at a conference. He had words of encouragement that fell on my ears at just the right moment in my journey of life.
I have never been on a flight ever in my entire life, after flying several years, logging in over 100,000 miles per year for several years in a row, where such wisdom poured out of an individual. It was as if God had placed some of his own words of wisdom through the form of this gentleman that sat next to me. It felt like I had a mentor sitting next to me that poured into me his years of professional and personal experience. I was utterly stunned by it. I took notes, I wrote down his quotes, and I recorded his recommendations. We spoke for over 3 hours straight, through the meal, and into the darkness of the evening. I was sad to see him leave when we parted separate ways. I wish I could have a mentor like this gentleman that lightened up my journey for those 5 hours and 30 minutes. I felt inspired, encouraged, and ready to take on the next task before me. This kind gentleman gave me courage, strength, and peace.
All of this happened to me from the middle seat.
After two months of attempting to change my seat, I realized during those three hours of enlightening encouragement, that I was never meant to change my seat. I was meant to sit in the middle.
I was meant to sit in the middle and learn from a wise man about the truths of life. Words of wisdom flowed from his mind straight into my heart and my head.
Yes, from the middle seat.
I think that I cannot question why when something just doesn't seem work for me, when in reality, it was exactly what needed to happen, and it was the very thing that God wanted me to experience to see His glory reign down.
God's glory did reign down on me that flight, poured out in the form of this man that was sitting next to me as I soaked in all of it from...
The middle seat.
I don't hate it anymore.Daniel M. Klopp
Advocate 4 Marginalized individuals & communities globally
Advocate & Journalist
Die Daily to Self
Legacy to leave.