I stood on my tiptoes, trying to see beyond the squished line of strangers and the Jenga-puzzle packed overhead bins. Were there any seats left in the back of the plane? I fidgeted with the straps of my purse as we shuffled forward, inch by inch. I hadn't flown Southwest in a long time. What was this no assigned seats business? Those who know me might be surprised to hear this sentiment. After all, I let my students choose their own seats in my classroom.
But here, on this pressurized biscuit can of a plane, a bit of predictability sounded like a good idea. But as it stood, my seat was not preordained by some computer algorithm or benevolent airline worker. It was all up to chance at this point.
People started to peel off into seats as I scooted closer to the flight attendant directing traffic.
"There's a seat right here, hon," she said, smiling the smooth practiced smile of a someone who's no stranger to the service industry and its requirement for a bit of canned politeness.
I looked at where she pointed. A middle seat. Between two older men. Both had already nestled their elbows territorially on the armrests. I craned my neck, looking for other options. The stewardess snapped her gum and shook her head. I was stuck.
I hoisted my carry-on up and into the overhead bin. I wiggled myself into my seat, settled in and buckled up. Only then did I notice something strange. My legs weren't touching the seat in front of me. I looked up, confused. Was I...
"You're sitting in an exit row. Please listen carefully..."
I sighed and stretched my legs. Lucky me.