volunteer

We need one volunteer.

This was after a long pause, all of us in rows 1 through 4 of the narrow-bodied regional jet, paired up and buckled in like Noah might have arranged it, window|aisle and aisle|window.

So there's only 16 of us, 15 now that one has moved back behind row 11. Only one more and the plane will be balanced, the pilot says. This resonates two chords in me:

  1. What will my own 148 pounds really do on a jet, even a small one? This can't be some made-up request, but then I wonder if there's some other feature they're not telling us about. I could actually provide the calculation to show the shift in center of mass, if they wanted, and it wouldn’t be all that much; and, there are other ways to make this shift. We could have made it a fun engineering challenge to imagine all of the possible ways, but apparently they just wanted a quick adjustment and an on-time departure.
  2. We waited a long while. People in aisles weren't moving before I raised my hand and unfolded myself from the window seat. I maneuvered around my former companion in seat 4C and left her with the pair of seats to herself. I gave up my window and took up an aisle seat at the back of the plane alongside a passenger who was not amused to have to relinquish the small amount of space she’d thought she’d have after the cabin door had closed.

This is how we do things, I guess. We wait for another to make it right for everyone else, and this time I was the one who lost patience first. (Or maybe we would have sat there for time eternal had I not emigrated to the back of the plane.) Also, everyone waited it out because, I think, they know that they would be left with extra room, an aisle and window all to themselves, as long as someone else volunteered.

So here I am in 11B. We take off, cruise, and land entirely without consequence and with no stories to speak of. No one pat me on the back as I’d made my way back to this row. And, even as the nose kept itself at a positive angle on our last moment of approach, no one cheered nor congratulated nor even thanked me for saving our plane from certain catastrophe. Instead, we all just shuffled out, one row at a time, me at the back, and picked up our bags from a two-tiered cart, each of us taking care of our own stuff and heading out to our solitary, respective destinations.

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