Heres the deal. I'm a bona fide middle-seater. I'm not sure when this inner intermediate revealed its ugly (though accommodating) head, but if I was to guess I would imagine it has it's conciliatory roots in being the youngest of 3, with 2 older brothers. By default, I was the natural (smallest) choice for the middle of a benched car seat ~ think Dodge Polaris Stationwagon ~ and perhaps strategically placed as a buffer between 2 quarreling boys. Regardless, today if I find myself in a situation with a middle seat up for grabs, I'm taking it no matter what clowns and jokers I find myself stuck between. In short, if you're looking for a volunteer to get betwixt and between a rock and a hard place, I'm your girl.
But I'll let you in on a dark little secret.
It's not because I'm "nice". It's not because I'm considerate, or kind, or courteous, even if (as I like to remind my mother) I like to think those are some of my most redeeming qualities. Nope. My volunteering to be the buffer between my travel companion and the random stranger is all about me. Yes, you read that right. All. About. Me.
A 'few' (ahem) years ago I was on one of those college 'girls get away' weekends. You know the type - 9 girls fill a 2 bedroom condo, three to a bed style. (No, not that type of three to a bed getaway). My 2 best friends and I claimed a room and settled in. After a brief, awkward moment of exchanging glances I leapt in to 'middle seater mode' and yielded to the center lane of the bed...for the first night only. Did I want to? Hell no! But I drifted off to (cramped) sleep, slyly thinking I had avoided conflict, looked accommodating in the eyes of my friends, and could then allow them to fight it out over the middle-slot the second night while I would bask in the Queen-sized bed equivalent of an aisle seat.
At 2 am the next night, however, I found myself staring at the ceiling sandwiched between one alcohol fueled 'I've been tinking, about the year two tousand...' (she was Irish. Or Jamaican) proselytizing friend, and another alcohol fueled, 'I don't know what I want to do with my life' teary one, wondering how I ended stuck in the middle again.
Some years later, I boarded a plane for Europe with my mother-in-law and husband. I won't pretend you don't already know how the round-trip side of this story ends up but at 2am, somewhere trans-atlantic on our inbound flight wedged between two snoring companions, I started to consider my middle-seater mindset.
It happens in movie theaters. It happens in cars. (It happens in restaurants, on coasters, in bars... )
Case in point. I have a friend that can only have an aisle seat (anywhere). It affects my life most specifically when we go to a movie theater with my husband who conveniently refuses to sit next to her because of her inability to stop talking during the show (a delightful trait if only by her own description). A typical movie-going experience with the two of them finds me standing at the back of the theater while they hunt for the correct seating configuration....3 seats that include an aisle, not too close, not far, not behind someone tall, not near a small child, not near groups of cell-phone wielding teenagers, no broken or dirty seat issues, and so on. Once they have found just the right set of seats, settled in and held that seating configuration for a count of 30 - the amount of time required to ensure there will be no re-seating required due to some previously unnoticed deficit in seat selection - I will nestle in between my fussy and chatty movie-night dates.
And so, somewhere along the line as I pondered my penchant for procuring the middle ground, I discovered a dirty little secret about myself.
My chronic need to say "Sure! I'll squeeze in that tiny little space between you and another human being I've never met with very little leg room" is less about the art of acquiescence, and more about my complete and utter intolerance to listen to the 'aisle folk' complain. And I don't just mean verbal complaints. The fidgets, the sighs, the rolling of the eyes, and general remonstrations about just how unhappy you are in the midst of your terrible center-seat misfortune quite simply annoys the crap out of me. I would rather give you the aisle seat and put you out of your misery in order to put me out of mine.
Do I secretly judge the 'Type 'A for Aisle' personality'? Perhaps. Do I harbour a slight superiority complex because I'm able to put some small discomfort aside for a few hours? Probably. And do I resent you just a little bit, you aisle-seating, middle seat phobic types? Absolutely.
But know this. I'll resent you 'middle-seater style'; quietly, congenially, wedged in the middle seat of a car, a show, or an airplane, with an accommodating smile and a mollifying nod, and you'll never be the wiser. Thats how us middle-seaters roll.