“The Middle Seat” by Kristin Rathje
[Guest writer for this post is Kristin Rathje. Kristin teaches upper level English at Lutheran High School North in St. Louis, Missouri. She bonds with about a hundred kids per year, writes, reads, and monitors curriculum for a staff of about 40 She is also my friend! Enjoy a bit of her writing.]
At the end of a lovely visit to San Francisco, I woke early, went for a run, and then returned to my hotel to prepare for my flight. As I fit all my conference goodies into my suitcase, it dawned on me that I could have the concierge print my boarding pass before I left for the airport.
Anyone who travels one of the popular airlines that has open seating knows that if you want a decent seat, you should print your boarding pass much earlier than two hours prior to the flight. However, being lost in the beauty of San Francisco, I had overlooked this detail.
I double-checked my room to make sure I had all my possessions and took the elevator to the lobby. The concierge easily looked up my flight and printed my boarding pass. You guessed it; my boarding letter was ‘C’. You know ‘C’, it’s what comes after ‘A” (all one through sixty passengers) and ‘B’ (all one through sixty passengers). Oh, well, I had just been to a conference that had challenged me to look for the bright spots, so riding in the shuttle to the airport, I took in all the sights of San Francisco one last time, not giving a second thought to my boarding pass.
Upon arrival at the airport, I noticed that my flight was delayed about 25 minutes. This normally wouldn’t be a big deal, but according to schedule, I was only going to have 40 minutes between flights in Denver. So, I checked my bags, waded through the security check, and then walked to my gate. The agent assured me that even though we were departing a little late, we would arrive with plenty of time to get my connecting flight. So, I put my worries out of my mind, visited a gift shop, bought myself some lunch, and enjoyed some Internet browsing.
As the time for my flight arrived, I again moved to my gate and noticed that every seat in the waiting area was filled. I sat down in a nearby area and waited some more. Finally all the passengers with ‘A’ lined up and then boarded. Then ‘B’. Finally ‘C’. As I walked past the gate agent, she remarked that only middle seats remained, so please take the first available one so that the flight could get moving as quickly as possible. Well, I am nothing if not a rule follower. I found the first middle seat and asked if I could sit there. The man at the window and the woman on the aisle of course said, “Sure.”
Only once I was seated did I realize why some non-rule-followers passed this spot. The man at the window was probably close to double my size. He couldn’t help but spill over the armrest. The woman on the aisle also used up all her space and a bit more. It wasn’t until she started calling him George and they began to pass a bag of Combos back and forth that I realized that my seatmates were married – to each other! “He likes to sit by the window, and I didn’t want to get stuck in the middle again,” she said.
Even as I write this I’m chuckling. What a bright spot. Even though my flight was running late, even though I would have to run to meet my connector in Denver, even though I had ‘C’. I had found something to laugh about. I chuckled and warned them that I was rather sleepy and I might just cuddle up to one or the other. They didn’t seem to mind.
I did indeed nod off a few times. We made our connecting flight. (Yes, they live near St. Louis, too.) And now, as I write this, I am on the aisle in a much larger plane, sitting next to another couple, each reading a book in silence, neither larger than the seat they occupy. And you know, the only reason I’m still laughing is that I’m remembering the ridiculous arrangement I had on the last flight.
Saving the Pieces:
On a day that could have left me grumbling: leaving a place as beautiful as San Francisco, having non-preferred seating, running late, and being squished, I was, by God’s grace able to see a bright spot. We are given opportunities to see the bright spots each day in the middle of all the things that come up in human life. I pray that as I walk back into the reality of my life – laundry, lesson plans, and little annoyances, God continues to turn my eyes toward the bright spots.