Change Your Seat / Change Your Life

I rarely sit in the window seat aboard any airliner. I don’t like the way the flight attendant leans over hoping you’ll help her do her job; as a highly hydrated individual, I feel positively trapped; and I rarely bother to look out the window so what’s the point. Don’t put this baby in the corner.

In fact, beyond the age of six, I can recall only three total times I’ve wound up in a window seat.

Two Years Ago:

Two years ago, this very week to be exact, I departed to a place farther than I’d ever traveled before. The UAE. Since my boss was a loyal American Airlines passenger, I’d have to become one also. Talk about a long journey to start from scratch.

When you fly alone you have a lot of time to just look around and think. I remember how oodles of unpleasantries flooded my mind as the boarding process persisted two minutes past the scheduled departure time: I had virtually no status here despite actually having some mileage with this alliance – it was very clear to see that American must have hit it out of the park with business travelers, let’s say oh, three decades ago, because every single dude in a crusty suit boarded before me. I knew I’d have to pee, but I was stuck between the window and a thankfully thin, but very sleepy looking woman who, believe it or not, had even less status than I; and they didn’t serve champagne, Dos Equis, or any other kind of suitable adult beverage for those of us who aren’t red necks.

All right, rant over. It was time to put some major patience powers into place because after an obscene amount of time, I’d be landing in a place that was sure to be a culture shock and that fact both intimidated and intrigued me.

So, I let this tinsel jet and two other One World birds take me to and from the sandy and stupidly opulent Middle Eastern city of Abu Dhabi – where, as fate would have it, my life was forever changed.  I’ll pause for your laughter or scoff, and I’ll even admit to reading that last line dramatically while proofreading. I’m completely aware how storybook “fate” and “forever” sound, but I’m no bullshitter either, everything truly did change.

It was there, over six hundred days ago, in a smoky bar with an eager, yet talented expat cover band, I met the man who would, at another place in another time and in a whole separate blog of its own, make me second guess every romantic decision I’d made to date, ultimately coming to the realization, with fear and excitement, that what was meant to be for me was still to come (spoiler alert: it’s another window seat).

Sounds flowery huh? And it is; in fact, my days are now filled with said flowers, real talk, laughter, understanding, dancing, affection, and a yearning I’ve never experienced in all my years of chasing where I am now. Yet, the most baffling part of it all is that I discovered all of this while away in some land where gender equality is non-existent and people smoke indoors like it’s 1940. I guess sometimes taking a few steps back really can move you forward in the right direction.

One-Year Ago:

I was sky-bound to a place strikingly different from the sheik and Ferrari-filled streets of the UAE. This time, I was flying to a land below sea level where flavors of creole and gumbo, sounds of trumpet-led bands, and the joys of to-go alcoholic beverages, bare breasts, and blinking beads shun the modesty of the East, all while contributing to the culture and celebration known as Mardi Gras. High-five, Thomas Jefferson.

It had been during one of our real talks that we shared our bucket lists with one another. He wants to take the kids and I on a safari one day, which is perfect because I want to ride an elephant again. We both wanted to party on a yacht somewhere picturesque, attend Fashion Week in NYC, and check out Mardi Gras.

In all honesty, hype aside, Mardi Grad isn’t that spectacular. It’s crowded, dirty, and smelly. For me, it was the company I kept that made the rolled ankle on a pile of deserted beads over hundred-year-old cobblestone worth it. We just laughed and danced and took a million pictures we’ll never even share because they seem to belong in that private memory bank. You know, the ones that are just for you and him.

Perhaps it’s to preserve how special it was. The moment I watched him dance without a care in the world. That smile, that rolling shoulder motion. It was like everything else around me fell silent and slightly transparent, because he was all I could see. Or the moment I caught him smirking at me as I chatted up total strangers because I wanted us to make new friends with people we’d never see again. He just let me be my butterfly self, and even though there were hundreds of loud people all around us it somehow felt like we were the only ones at Mardi Gras. Simply put, they’re the moments you can’t recreate even if you tried.

Today:

I’m once again going to give the “I’m a Western girl, in a Middle Eastern world” thing a go. Mark has business to tend to, but being as dedicated to nostalgia as I am, he’s invited me along for the ride.

Not to brag, but we have a pretty impressive list of both similarities and contrasts, which I think contribute to our compatibility as a couple. One of which is that he’s a window seat guy and I’m an aisle girl. It really is the simple stuff, guys. So I’m standing there in the aisle, tucking my belongings into the overhead compartment, when this ever-thoughtful man of mine offers to switch with me because our business class seats faced towards the economy class and he figured I wouldn’t be real keen on being gawked at by Arab men eating cheap airplane food on plastic trays. Yes, my hair is visible and blonde and my body is curvy, now lower your gaze, sir.

Looking around, I knew right away that they’d still be able to see me in the window seat, but when your man is chivalrous it’s best to accept his kindness. Plus, as my mind smartly shifted to my last few window seat experiences I was quickly reasoning how unwicked this seat must actually be. I mean, occasionally sitting there has kind of worked out wonderfully for me. Besides, I don’t feel so trapped in between him and a view. And there won’t be anything awkward about crawling over him to use the restroom. In fact, I think I’ll drink more water now.

Honestly, and in total hindsight of it all, it’s crazy how different things can look when your perspective changes. Now, I can gaze out this double pane window overlooking the middle of anywhere and know that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be. Or I can neglect to look out the window at all and just see him. Either way, the view is nice.

Before lying back to let sleep help dissipate this 14-hour journey, I begin to wonder where my annual contract with the window seat will take me next year? If it’s with him, I’ll go anywhere.

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