The pleasant man next to me on Delta flight 4692 (service from Salt Lake City to Oklahoma City) was trying to get the flight attendant’s attention.
She scurried down the aisle and greeted him.
“Is that seat vacant?”
He motioned in the direction of the seat in question. She told him she’d check and scurried off.
I’ll be honest; I was a little crushed. I was pretty sure I didn’t smell bad, and I don’t take up too much room. In fact, I was a good inch and a half from the arm rest. By all accounts, we had a pleasurable conversation (His name was Phil and he was an engineer based out of Oklahoma. He was headed home after a business trip.) I didn’t over-greet. I tend to err on the side of less-is-more when it comes to flying conversations.
I glanced back to check out the seat he was asking about. It was an aisle seat, just like his, it was next to another passenger, just like his. Granted, the passenger was a lady (and mildly attractive), but still.
The flight attendant returned and confirmed that the seat was, in fact, available.
Phil grabbed his Starbucks drink and gathered his belongings to head back to his new chair.
My instinct was to stop him, sit him down and request an exit interview. Figure out what I could have done better to keep him as a flight partner. Our natural instinct is to want explanations.
But before I could, as if he knew the insecurities racking through my brain, he looked back and erased my fears.
“No offense, bud, I just want to sit next to my cousin. We couldn’t book our seats together.”
A simple and reasonable explanation. And all was better.
But the whole situation brings about a startling realization.
My first reaction was to think “what’s wrong with me?” – “What did I do wrong?”
Being the curious type—I’m always trying to figure out why things occur—I began some introspective thinking. Where does this insecurity come from?
It’s not hard to nail that down. I grew up in a very self-conscious shell. Being overweight my whole life certainly had negative impacts of my self-worth and self-image. I was constantly over-compensating with outrageous behavior—both inward outrageous (15-20 hours/day in front of a screen playing computer games) and outward (making Jackass style videos and that whole “green-hair phase.”)
But, come on, I’ve lost weight, grown up, matured a little, etc.
I look in the mirror and I see a relatively normal looking guy—a somewhat educated, somewhat intelligent (despite my father’s claims to the contrary) young man. Sure there’s the duct tape incident and the year I spent collecting pizza boxes in an effort to enter the Guinness Book of World Records (at 973, my parents made me throw them all away because of a mere “rat problem.” – I’m still slightly bitter.) But, still, I feel better than I ever have. I look as good as I ever have. I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
Why, then, do I still assume there’s something wrong with me when issues arise? And it’s not just me. I’ve realized this is a common theme. Most people assume the worst. We beat ourselves up and we blame ourselves even when it’s not rational or logical.
It seems to me that we’re wasting a lot of time beating ourselves into the ground. Yeah, we’ve lost weight or run marathons or fit into that goal bikini; we’ve come a long way, but our mind still has a lot of work to do.
Let’s start by not assuming we’re to blame because, more often than not, we’re actually not.
So when that guy leaves you sitting alone in seat 21E, remind yourself, he’s missing out.
And sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight.