There are three kinds of people in this world: Aisle, Window, and Middle.
Aisle is the hyperactive extrovert. They regard Middle and Window as prisoners of their own domain; their ability to socialize, stand, or even request a glass of water is entirely dependent cooperation from their rowmates to the side. Are Middle or Aisle sleeping? Well sorry Window, looks like you can’t use the bathroom for the remainder of this 7-hr flight.
Aisle, on the other hand, is free. They can control their own destiny. Surrounded by constant stimuli, they find themselves exploring every opportunity they can scrape from the situation. There’s people watching: what’s the couple in 14A/B fighting about? Who’s child is jamming crayons into the ceiling fan? They can stand, stretch, use the bathroom, or acquire complementary snacks whenever they want. Want conversation? They’re surrounded on all sides by other groups of travelers.
Have you ever heard the pilot come on the PA, frustrated: “For the third time people, the seatbelt sign is on for a reason, return to your seats and stay there.” That’s Aisle. There are no rules for them. They’ll reluctantly return to their seats for a moment, but only to stuff their seat-back pockets full of all the treasure they’ve collected in the cabin. Leg twitching excitedly, they’re already planning their next move.
Window is the thinker. Flying is not a playground to explore. It’s not a social event to soak up. They woke at 4am, stressfully double-checked their luggage, rushed to the airport, sat in a long line, got fondled by a TSA agent, were told after it all their luggage didn’t qualify as carry-on, and so when they finally make it to their seat, they just want to collapse into a state of quiet peace.
Day-to-day life is packed full of responsibilities, priorities, forced human interaction, people who depend on you, and people whom you support, but flying is an escape from it all. There’s no emails to respond to. Calls to answer. No boss at your side. No meals to cook or chores to complete. Lifting off, Window retreats into the comforts of their corner, nursed into a meditative state by the hypnotic hum of the twin engines and the elegant beauty of the clouds dancing below. The flight is spent reflecting on life, family, friends, and travel. They may leave the plane as tired as anyone else, but they leave it feeling even ever-so-slightly a better person.
Middle is the optimist. The pleaser. They are the ones that patiently listen to their partner rant for 10 minutes about the medical necessity of their seat preference before insisting: “Look, it’s fine, take whatever seat you want! I don’t mind sitting middle, it’s not that bad.”
Oh, how wrong they are.
They click their seatbelt and immediately look for the positives: I can still see out of the window and I’m close enough to the flight attendants for them to actually hear me! It’s the best of both worlds! But that positivity will quickly fade as they continue to feel a thought creep into their heads that will soon consume them in full: I hate these people.
On one side is Aisle, the 40 year-old equivalent of a three-year old, hopped-up on coffee, soda, and a plethora of other free snacks he keeps swindling from the attendants. Shaking constantly with excitement, he has no understanding of what it means to be still. To the other side is Window, the mute recluse who has yet to make eye contact with anyone, their head pressed firmly against the window as if they’re begging to escape. Eventually Middle resolves to sleep in hopes of making time pass faster.
But they can’t.
Their legs are jammed into a space the size of a tissue box and their arms are pinned to their side after Window and Aisle immediately took over the armrests. They would feel a sense of community if others shared in their discomfort, but Window was nursed to sleep after an hour of meditation and Aisle had a sugar crash, stretched their feet across the aisle and fully reclined. Both are now using Middle’s shoulder as their personal pillow. Silently praying first, they check their watch: We’re not even halfway there?! Legs jammed into the reclined seat to their front, shoulders weighed down by the two drooling adults at their side, eyes glued to the only thing they can see–a vomit-stained seat-back 6 inches from their face–their rage will finally boil over when their partner wakes 5-hours later: “Wow, that flight flew by!”
Though, maybe I got it all wrong?
I’m a Window, so let me think on it.