There are few air travel woes that rival getting the middle seat. For a long haul flight, it’s a brutal beginning or a crushing end to a trip. Very much like dealing with any tragedy, you’ll go through various stages of what I like to call, “Middle Seat Grief”.

1. Denial

Oh no. The bold letter B shines out, mocking you from your boarding pass next to an ominously large number. Do planes even have that many rows?! But it’s ok, because you’re positive, it’s not the middle seat. It can’t be. It’s probably one of those two seat jumbo jets. That would make sense. Bad things don’t happen to good people.

You scour your brain, rifling through memories trying to remember what karmapocalypse has led to this gigantic kick in the twig and berries. Perhaps this is the universe’s reprisal for laughing at that guy in onesie falling down the stairs. No. That was his error; you were right to laugh. This is just a mistake.

You’ll just go and politely but sternly talk to the airline staff and make the case that forcing a soft shelled crab like you to be crammed between two random rocks for 25 hours is tantamount to human misery. This is fine; this is fixable.

2. Anger

Your polite but stern talk hasn’t gone well. The robotically attractive check-in woman taps away on her computer, creases her brow at the screen, taps some more, then turns to you and tells you that the plane is full.

Sickly smile. You’re positive she’s been typing to a colleague saying, “Just pretending to find this poor sap a seat. LOL!”

You want to grab them by their lovely mechanically pressed collar and tell them you know their little secret!! Oh that’ll be satisfying. Your anger boils up as you strop through security.

With eyes that could etch curse words into wood, you almost dare the security guard to search you. It’s the same robotic employee who welcomes you aboard with a mocking smile. Then, all at once, your steely resolve breaks and like a child realising for the first time that everything dies, life seems meaningless.

3. Bargaining

You try once more, begging for any other seat – steerage even! I’ll protect the bags! – all dignity lost as you drop to your knees weeping. You can feel the judgemental eyes from the other passengers, but you don’t care. You give the attendant a sob story. It’s Oscar winning, but the flight attendant sees through you.

You sigh and begin the arduous journey back to the rear of the aircraft. The plane seems to be getting gloomier as you walk towards its darkened bowels. The other passengers begin unpacking for the long journey ahead. Head pillows, iPads, books… You think about asking them to switch with you. You want to offer them all your money, all your belongings. My kingdom for an aisle seat!

When you arrive at your seat, it’s not that bad after all. Your flight companions seems nice enough. A lovely always-smiling lady and a boy probably in his late teens bound for his backpacking trip of lifetime.

You make it known that you want to sit down and they just smile at you. It’s really not that bad after all. I might even make friends on this flight and spark a conversation.

4. Depression

The plane takes off and it seems like you were on it for hours. The lady on your left adjusts in her seat. The boy is just listening to his music, it wouldn’t be that if he wasn’t listening to dub-step really loud. Doesn’t matter, I’ll make the most of in-flight entertainment, seems like they have a decent selection of movies.

You apologise as you accidentally elbow the lady on your left, she just smiles coyly at you and returns to her romantic novel. You’re thousands of feet in the air, but you’ve never felt so low. The meal trolley begins soon after and your two companions inhale their food with such gusto you’d have thought it was their last meal. Elbows are flying everywhere. The boy accidentally knocks over your cup of orange juice all over you, he apologises and offers his juice to you. Luckily the meal trolley is nearby and you get offered another cup of juice. The cabin crew are all trying to help me, offering me towels and tissues. As I dry myself, I tuck into my plane food. Not bad at all, the ratatouille seems to be well seasoned and the bread roll is soft enough. It can’t be that bad after all.

Flight time remaining: 11-hr 12 minutes.

5. Acceptance

Like a cow to slaughter, you’ve accepted your fate.

You rolled the dice and you paid the price. A calm has washed over you in the last eight hours or so. Your personal bubble has long since popped. You even made friends with your neighbours. You found out the boy is doing his gap year in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia and the lady is going to see his son who teaches English in Chiang Mai. You even shared your opinions on the latest films and you found out you have more in common with the lady then you previously thought. And you might even meet later in Bangkok.

You’ve accepted your fate. You’re a middle seat passenger and it’s not that bad. You’re going on holiday and that’s what matters the most! It could be much worse, you could be sat in your office, but no, instead you’re going to beautiful Thailand to see the temples, swim in the crystal clear sea and trek the jungles and you made friends on the way there!

About the author

Martin FlemingI’m an Australian writer who left his country after the cost of beer hit double figures. I’ve spent the last six months travelling the world and was most recently tricked into hiking the Inca Trail in Reeboks. I blame Tinder glitches for my loneliness. I like sharks.

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