Seat 47G and Me
I know I’m not meant to say this, but I love travelling alone.
A suitcase packed with just my things, the quiet taxi ride to the airport and the meander through security and immigration, without a care in the world for toddler-sapping queues.
I stroll onto the plane and settle into the very best seat. After years of fantasizing about boarding my own private jet, I’ve finally settled on a cost-effective compromise. I choose the big planes, preferably the A380s with the 3/4/3 seat configuration and zoom in on 47G. This seat lives in the four seats in the middle, close enough to the toilets for minimal queuing without the stench, just far enough away from the infant-allocated seats to not feel any maternal pangs if a baby cries, and crucially, three rows from the front so a guaranteed quick exit.
47G is an aisle seat. Yes, I know some of you are window seat purists and I salute you for knowing what you want. For me, I like to have my getaway space on my right side, don’t want to feel trapped listening to a stranger sharing unwanted details of their upcoming trip, or have a head resting on my shoulder mid-nap (Oh yes. This has happened). Basically, I don’t want anyone sitting next to me and I’ve come up with a strategy that seems to work.
Over dozens of flights I’ve figured out that choosing the 3 seater aisle is not a good bet because people often travel in pairs – that puts one by the coveted window, one in the middle and then me in the aisle. Too cosy. So now when I choose my seat online, I pick the 4 seater row where someone else has already selected the other aisle seat. I figure, a couple isn’t going to request two middle seats between strangers, which result in pretty good odds that I’ll get a spare seat next to me on my left.
It’s a gamble that has worked incredibly well so far and I’m sharing it with you now dear readers.
Now, that’s not the end of the article. Not by a long shot. You see, the point of the above explanation was not really to further educate you on the intricacies of seating configurations, or, if I’m completely honest, even to generously share my hard-won travel tips with you. No, that was not my intention at all.
It was designed to reveal the depths of my efforts to secure the best seat on the plane, yes you know it now, 47G. It was also designed to let you in on the depths of disappointment that threatened to overwhelm me when I discovered 20 minutes post-takeoff, that my entertainment screen was not. fucking. working.
While the airline crew and ground staff had been fluttering around the cabin, I’d spread myself across my two seats, writing in my journal about how pleased I was to be embarking on this trip and how much work I was going to get done in the seven days that yawned luxuriously in front of me.
I waited until all of the airline safety announcements had finished before I started fiddling with the entertainment console.
You see, it’s not often I get to watch a movie these days and I find the announcements that cut into my movie incredibly distracting.
Turns out not as distracting as the flickering split screen, that was playing the news in the top left hand corner while also trying to play my movie. (In case you’re wondering, it was Thelma and Louise – I figured it was important feminist pop culture research. Now, back to the flickering screen…). The helpful flight attendant reset my screen, but alas, the seating gods and godesses were not playing ball.
“I’m very sorry about this”, she said.
“There are plenty of seats further back if you would like to move so you can watch a movie. You can leave your things here and just come back for the landing.”
Further back? I looked up into her perfect face.
I’ll wager she has travelled to more places in the last month than I have my whole life.
According to one of the many overhead announcements, the crew speak 21 languages and I feel it’s likely that she speaks at least 13 of these. She has an intelligence radiating out of her face that I may have possessed once, fleetingly, during an important boardroom presentation a lifetime ago but no, I don’t think she would understand how important, how strategic or how precious 47G was to me.
I mumbled something incoherent and tried to look stoic. In case you are wondering, Oxford Dictionary defines stoic as a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining. In case you are also wondering, this is definitely not my default setting.
I stoically persevered in trying to look stoic, while being resourceful in the face of such disappointment. Let’s see, Resourceful Me… I had a book to read that I had started a few years ago that I could now finish. My laptop was on hand to catch up with work. My journal was patiently waiting to collect my thoughts and write To Do Lists.
Yes, I would stay in my seat.
Afterall, it really was a great seat, close enough to the toilets for minimal queuing without the stench, just far enough away from the infant-allocated seats to not feel any maternal pangs if a baby cries, and crucially, three rows from the front so a guaranteed quick exit.
Quick exit? Hmmm… I was planning on a convenience that was still four hours away.
I wondered, what if I could plan for my comfort needs, right here, right now?
And what pray tell, was keeping me in my precious seat anyway?
The best I could come up with was, “because this was the seat I chose”. This was my bed and I had to lie in it. Somehow I believed that it was a show of bravery, strength and courage to sit in a seat that didn’t suit my needs anymore.
But surely, it was a greater show of bravery, strength and courage to actually move? And who was I being stoic for anyway – I’m pretty sure no one on the plane gave a shit about where I was sitting!
So there I was, sitting in 47G learning a powerful life lesson about my power as a woman and cosmic road design. You see, I’ve always been a firm believer that the Universe places speed bumps and sometimes sharp ugly boulders in the middle of the road deliberately. The diversions are considered, put there for a reason by my consciousness so I take notice.
“STOP Empress! Look around! Is this really working for you?”
In taking notice, I need only to decide if this path works for me, not if it works for anyone else.
Because if it doesn’t work for me, then it just doesn’t work.
And when it just doesn’t work, I owe it to myself to change it.
Now I appreciate this isn’t a very big speed bump, but I’ve learnt over the years that the bumps get bigger the longer I ignore them. I felt a little bit smug that this time, it was all so manageable.
So I moved, (gulp), you know, further back.
And what a cracking seat 54G was, in the baby bassinet row. With no babies, a spare seat next to me on my left and so much leg room I reveled in trying to reach the wall with both my feet.
And then came my second lesson of the day.
I thought I needed to watch Thelma and Louise as an iconic pop reference and yet, I couldn’t find it on the (working) console in my new seat. Instead, I stumbled across Frida with Salma Hayek starring as the incredible artist Frida Kahlo, and I realized I really WANTED to watch that. The difference between thinking I needed to watch Thelma and Louise and thinking I wanted to watch Frida was vast. One felt heavy, the other felt light.
So I settled into my seat and let the images of colour and courage, sexual revolution, artist integrity and personal perseverance play out in front of me, while inside, I felt myself change.
I listened to Frida’s wisdom speaking to my soul, teaching me to trust my voice, say the things I need and want to say and trust that my authentic voice is the only voice I need to have.
When the film finished, I sat weeping softly in my seat with joy.
I made a vow to write and create and fill the well, do more of the things I want to do, spend time with people who truly ignite me, and perhaps even reignite a long forgotten dream of my early twenties. You see, watching Frida made me want to write a film review, after giving up my dream to be a film reviewer all those years ago, because you know, I was told to get a real job. You’ll find the review here.
I walked off the air-bridge and into the airport, reveling at my freedom, my incredible life, my arms and legs that work exactly as I need them to, my health, my loves, my incredible life of abundance.
Sure, sometimes I complain about my fear, my notgoodenoughness, my decision apathy and information overwhelm, but every now and then, I am faced with a decision that I can make and so I make it. These are the stories that I am going to celebrate, the wins I’m going to give oxygen to. I give myself a silent high five and give thanks to the seating goddess.
Thank you 47G for everything. Turns out you had my back after all.
Womb-Centred Leadership Coach
In 2016, after nearly 2 decades working in corporate, I created Empress Crow and Rabbit. Designed to celebrate the cycles (lunar, menstrual + seasonal) I also loved interviewing imaginative women in inspirational careers. Now, I'm a Life Coach + I support Corporate Wonder Women just like you, to explore + harness your own Womb-Centred Leadership. When a client discovers her Power Days + plays to her strengths on these days, her corporate life + home life transform. She is more productive, more inspirational, more creative + more rested. Yup. All of it.
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Photo credit: Lucy Spartalis