Will the gods be kind? Obsessing on the preflight to London.

At the Gate, Anxious About Seatmate Roulette

Will the gods be kind? Obsessing on the preflight to London.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

At the crack of dawn arrive I arrive at JFK courtesy of Uber. No traffic; I’m there inside of 30 minutes from Manhattan. I check my bag. I’ve graduated to this perk; happy to trade the extra packing space for a wait at baggage claim. Hope springs eternal that the wait is short and luggage rolls off without incident. 

Besides, there’s no way I can hoist 30 plus pounds over my head.

Relieved of my burden and off to the awaiting airplane. 

The Scrum At The Gate

The gate is packed. Spring break, Passover’s overlap with Easter and an upcoming 4-day Bank Holiday in the UK. The world is on the move; about to board this Airbus (whew) headed east across the Atlantic. 

Families with toddlers. Toys, stuffed animals. Preteens pretending they’re not with their parents. Computer games and iPhones jammed in backpacks. It means lost toys and lost earbuds by the end of the flight. And the associated wailing.

What are they giving away in London?

Do people want to go to the UK before it falls into whatever awaits it after whatever is decided about Brexit?

Just a good old fashioned shopping opportunity?

But then who doesn’t love London in the springtime (or anytime)?

Whatever the reason, humanity in all forms mills around the gate. I wonder whatever happened to the prescriptive “one carry-on and one personal” piece of luggage. 

Unenforced, it’s ignored. No caged birds or reptiles though. That’s a good sign. 

The stand-offish, front-of-the-bus types, wait impatiently to board, turn left and settle into their complimentary refreshment prior to take-off. 

The rest of us are waiting to turn right at the end of the jetway, and jostle for the limited overhead space above the spare, tight seating arrangement. 

Who will be my neighbor?

The assembled provides ample time to peruse possible seatmates and encircling fellow passengers for the next 5 hours.

I look around. Diversity is in the air. It’s a pretty wonderful thing, actually. The Hasidim guys, the elegant young Muslim woman in her graceful hijab. The retirees in sneakers and sweatshirts. The deliberately scruffy American twenty-somethings. Traveling families.

On the shorter eastbound route, I stick to Economy. On the longer homebound journey, it’s often the quixotic “Comfort Class.” If I’m feeling deserving and/or there is a promotion going on, sometimes I do a gate upgrade to Business. Sometimes I just get lucky. Not today. 

Because I fly Economy on the much-preferred day flight, it really does matter whom I’m surrounded by. Chances are we’ll be awake for most, if not all, of the time.

I chose a window seat as far forward as my humble flying class will allow. I want my choice of entree and the drinks service at the onset. I want the overworked flight attendants at their chirpiest. 

Most of all, I want to be as far away from the bathrooms as possible. Crowd control is only one of the reasons.

So there are several things I can control. But not the seatmate. That’s the luck of the draw. 

I peruse. And send silent arrow prayers. Please God, not him/her. Or the unaccompanied minor. And please, nowhere near the family, whose crabby (or anxious?) dynamic is already getting on my nerves.

 I could go up to a desirable candidate and enquire of a seat number, but that is way too stalker. 

I beseech the Universe. I’m not looking for a date or new best friend. Just some modest pleasant conversation at wheels up and a warm parting upon arrival. Polite quiet in between. 

I note the (absence of) fashion regardless of class of travel. Unnatural fabrics in unnatural colors and unnatural shapes are favored. Hatboxes gave way long ago to backpacks measured in cubic feet. It’s flying in the modern age. 

People, pretend you’re going to a Superbowl party and pull out those new fleece leggings. Live it up. This isnt a Greyhound (or is it?). At least take a shower. Please. See you onboard. 

I know the gods will be kind. 

Photo Credit: Jane Trombley

A pan-curious writer and traveler, reflecting on a life well-lived. Women 60+, let’s do this!
A pan-curious writer and traveler, reflecting on a life well-lived. Women 60+, let’s do this!

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