filled-to-the-max 2 ½ hour flight from Portland to Minneapolis.
My seat assignment was an aisle seat – for which I was exceeding grateful, being an aisle-sat aficionado – in the very last row. It took me a while to get to my seat as I’d been at the end of the line boarding the plane and just about every other person in front of me had a bag to stow. Then the lady sitting next to me, perhaps thinking that the seat would remain empty, was using it as a holding area for her stuff. So by the time my seatmate and myself got our belongings sorted and organized, I was about the last person seated on the plane.
As soon as I sat down I realized there was something realized wrong with my seat. I squirmed and shimmied and tried to settle in, but the seat listed leftward and through the back of the seat cushion protruded a great uncomfortable, though invisible, lump. I stood up and tried to pat out the problem but to no avail. I sat down again. I was uncomfortable. Very. It was a 2 ½ hour flight.
I was hit with the recollection that I’d paid over $800 for my round-trip ticket from Columbus to Los Angeles, then another $400 to get the airline to switch my return ticket from Los Angeles-Columbus to Los Angeles – Portland – Columbus. And for that price I was stuck in a cock-eyed seat with a sprung seat cushion! This aggression would not stand, Dude!
I called the flight attendant and explained to him that there was something wrong with my seat. He removed my seat cushion and saw that one of the sides of the bottom of the seat frame had come detached and was sloping downward. He managed to re-attach the piece but as soon as I sat back down the seat re-tilted itself and the cushion was still lumpy.
Now, I don’t know what I hoped to accomplish by continuing to complain about my seat. The plane was about to take off and there was not another empty seat, and there was really nothing the flight attendants could do other than to offer me the option of leaving the plane, which one of them did when I continued to complain. One of the attendants tried the seat and declared it just fine. My seatmate tried it and admitted that it was crooked but then added that the lumpy seat didn’t bother her. “But then,” she observed, “I’ve got more padding than you.”
Of course I was going to capitulate –eventually – I just needed to get a little more griping in before resigning myself to the 2 ½ hour ride from hell. However in the meantime an attendant came hurrying back and said that another passenger had offered to switch seats with me. I refused, of course, in no way wanting to make someone else take this awful seat.
“Believe me, it’s fine, it’s all right, she doesn’t mind, she’s right up there in the front row. Please,” the attendant said tersely, directing me up the aisle, “you’re holding up take-off.”
So, feeling like a big schmoe, I collected my things and dashed up the aisle – God forbid a flight should ever be two minutes late taking off, right? The passenger I’d been directed to switch seats with was a pretty young lady sitting in the aisle seat of the first row behind first class. I told her the seat she’d offered to take was awful and she really didn’t have to take it, I’d return, it was my seat, after all, and I didn’t want her to have to sit in it, either. But the girl seemed not the least put out out, in fact she she seemed more than happy to switch with me. So I took her seat, which, besides being a vast improvement over mine, had quite a bit more leg room, too. I felt like a double schmoe.
So I spent the first hour of the trip in this state of internal schmoey-ness, ticked at the airline for charging a small fortune for seats then allowing the seats to fall into a state of disrepair, ticked at the flight attendant for putting another passenger in that bad seat just to shut me up, ticked at myself for allowing it.
After an hour I walked back to check on the girl in my bad seat. I asked her how she was doing. “Great,” she said cheerfully. I asked her how the seat was. “Fine, it’s good,” she said brightly.
“It’s not uncomfortable for you?” I asked, “because we could switch back for a while so you could have a break.”
“No, no,” she chirped, “it’s fine!”
I thanked the girl for her kindness and in truth I felt relieved that she appeared not to be minding the bad seat, though I did still wonder about the whole situation, especially after I realized that the seat I’d taken from the girl was in Economy Plus – the area between First Class and Economy. That girl had given up a seat she’d paid more for in exchange for a cheaper and ‘way more uncomfortable seat. Why? Had she been so worried about making her connection that she’d do anything to make sure the plane took off on time? Was she a super-soft-hearted human being? Had the flight attendant gotten authorization to offer her compensation for giving up her good seat to take a crummy seat? ( If so, why hadn't they just offered me the compensation? I'd have taken it and shut up). Was she a saint? Was she a martyr? How did she even know about the conflagration going on in the back of the plane when she was in the front of the plane?
I called over the attendant who’d directed me to switch seats with the girl and asked her, straight up, why she thought this girl had given me her seat.
The attendant, whose bad graces I sensed I was still in, hesitated for a moment then explained that the girl in my seat was an employee of the airline, had just worked a long shift, was exhausted and anxious to get home. She’d heard from the attendants in the front of the plane about the problem in the back of the plane and volunteered her seat.
The attendant and I chatted for a few more minutes, me apologizing for being troublesome, she apologizing for the bad seat, me thanking the attendant and asking her to thank her co-worker again for me, she assuring me not to worry, it was all fine.
And so, I suppose it was.
Except that I say Delta Airlines has some ‘splainin' to do about that broken seat.