NPR’s Talk of the Nation today featured the book The Titanic Awards: Celebrating the Worst of Travel by Doug Lansky and that got me thinking about a story from our honeymoon that I never shared.
Ebin and I flew from Florida to Portland the day after our wedding, stopping for a layover, as almost everyone does, in Atlanta. Our seats for the Atlanta to Portland flight were two middles across the aisle from each other, so we stopped at the counter to see if anything could be done. Unfortunately, most of the plane had already boarded, but the man at the gate advised us to explain the purpose of our trip (our honeymoon) to one of the flight attendants and that she would likely be able to help. When we reached the door of the plane, we told the flight attendant posted there of our plight. She pointed to Ebin’s bulkhead seat and noted that no one was seated next to him yet so I should go ahead and have a seat and she would speak to whomever was assigned to sit there. So, I put my stuff in the overhead bin and took a seat next to my handsome new husband.
Minutes later, the same flight attendant appeared and said, “Honey, I hate to tell you this but the man with this seat assignment is a paraplegic and absolutely has to take this seat. He’s on his way down now and I need you to take your real seat.” I looked helplessly at my husband and then at the people surrounding us, pleading with my eyes for someone to help. Suddenly, everyone in our row seemed incredibly interested in their magazines, window views or safety cards from the seatback pocket. The flight attendant did ask the woman in the aisle seat next to my assigned seat if she would consider trading seats with Ebin, given that we were on our honeymoon.
“Oh no,” she said. “I’m claustrophobic and I absolutely must have an aisle seat.”
“But his seat is a bulkhead seat and there will be no one in front of you,” said the attendant.
“Sorry,” said the woman, and she went back to her book.
With that, my fate for the next four hours seemed to be sealed and I tearfully made my way across the aisle, over the claustrophobic woman and into the middle seat.
“Don’t cry, honey,” said the flight attendant. “You can have everything on the flight for free.”
That offer did little to stop the river of tears given the fact that I didn’t want anything except to sit next to my husband on the longest leg of our trip. And then, to make matters worse, the woman next to me, the one single obstacle keeping me from my husband turned to me and started making small talk.
“So, you’re on your honeymoon,” she asked. “I remember when my husband and I were married.”
“That’s nice,” I said, shortly. I could not believe this woman, talking to me about her husband and her honeymoon when she absolutely refused to help me with mine. Thankfully, I didn’t have to endure her for long as she was interrupted by the flight attendant.
“I have a seat in first class and it’s yours if you want it,” she said to me.
“Can I give it to her,” I asked, pointing at Lady Claustrophobia.
“Is it on an aisle,” the awful woman asked.
“No,” said the flight attendant.
“Then I don’t want it,” she said.
I was absolutely dumbfounded and started crying all over again, directing a majority of my tears in the direction of the man seated in the window seat. He, seemingly obsessed with the little he could see out the window in the dark, did nothing to acknowledge my tears. That’s when the kind, sweet ladies sitting in the row behind me started brainstorming ways to solve our seat puzzle. They would bounce their ideas off the flight attendant but there was almost nothing she seemed to be able to do.
The plane started making noise, the engine revving, the cargo doors closing, and the flight attendants preparing for our departure. I looked at Ebin, across the aisle, and he looked back with sad sorry eyes and mouthed, “I love you, babe.” I was so pissed.
And that is when the clouds parted, the angels came down from heaven and the flight attendant reappeared.
She pointed at me and said, “26 A.” Then she pointed at Ebin and said, “26 B, and hurry, we’re about to leave.”
She had done the unthinkable and found that the rightful recipient of the first class upgrade had an empty seat next to him. When he took his new seat in the front cabin, that left two seats, side by side, for me and my new husband.
Ebin and I hurriedly gathered our things from the overhead compartment and headed down the aisle. When we reached row 26, the middle man from 27 had already started moving his belongings into our new seats. He looked up, saw us moving in and said, “Shit.”