I don’t know if it’s true, but TripIt.com, which I wholeheartedly endorse, tells me that I’ve flown 200,000 miles in one year. Over those miles I’ve developed some habits. One habit is I always take a window seat.
I like windows because it allows a view into the inner fraternity of baggage handlers and ground crew. Into a world, I imagine, of sports talk and fart humor and carefree tossing of a world of other people’s stuff.
I like windows because, depending on the direction of the runway and which side of the plane I’m on, when the plane pulls onto the runway, for a few short seconds, there is nothing but 2 solid, straight miles of lights and asphalt leading up to anywhere.
I like windows because of the view of homes and highways and ships. And because one day I hope to see a large pod of frolicking whales like a National Geographic photo I saw when I was a kid.
I particularly like windows because of the extra 4 inches of personal space the afford. A place where I can notch my pillow and cruise off to sleep. Those extra inches must be what it’s like to fly first class.
I don’t really mind not being able to move. If I restrict fluids, I don’t have to use the restroom too often. I try and stretch or fidget enough to fight off the odd embolism. I’d gladly trade climbing over a seatmate for the stream of people and carts ramming into my head and shoulder all night.
My window struggle, though does conflict with one thing… the handicapped.
Before general boarding, the handicapped and infirm are wheeled aboard and seated early. It is as it should be. But frequently they are seated in my row. Thus when I arrive seeking my window seat and store my big bag in the overhead bin and clutch my small bag to place under the seat in front of me and I indicate to my row mate that I need to pass, they usually looked a little put out.
Their look says “I just got settled after hauling myself out of a wheelchair and into this seat and now you want me to move?” They usually shrug and smile weakly and sort of shuffle their feet in a message of helpless desperation that says you’ll have to climb over me. Which I am happy to do, drawn as I am to my extra 4 inches of freedom. Usually though, the flight attendant appears to help the person up and I sidle on in to my seat.
While waiting for the attendant I give the person a look. It’s a look I’ve been cultivating. A look through which that I want to convey many things.
A look of friendship as we’re going to be sharing the same few square feet for the next several hours.
A look of apology for making them shuffle their feet helplessly and the get out of the seat they just fell into. Or for sliding my back side inches from their face.
A look of compassion for their infirmity. Their failing hip, their bulbosity, their knee replacement. I do feel for them. Flying is challenge enough for anyone let alone those who are immobile.
A look of inquiry that asks if they are aware of where the nearest exit is. Honest story. I was seated in an aisle exit row next to a man who’d requested an exit row to allow extra room for his knee which had been replaced a few months before. The attendant came and gave the customized spiel. “Are you willing and able to help out by opening the door in an emergency?” We all nodded, but when she walked away, the man with the bionic knee shrugged and said “I just wanted the extra space. We’re all gonna die in a crash anyway.”
A look of hope that the knee that was replaced was of a good strong quality, because as compassionate I am now, in the event of an emergency, I’m gonna be stepping on it on my way out the door.
I polish my look of many messages with a gloss seeking forgiveness for any pain or broken hardware I may cause.