Damon Young: No, I will not switch airplane seats with you

I am an assertive driver. Not aggressive, because that word is too aggressive. But I am decisive with speed. Still, if I’m attempting to merge and someone lets me in, I will roll down my window and wave to them. If it’s raining, I will just have a wet hand.

I pray before meals. Not every meal. But meals with meat.

I tip generously, regardless of the service. (This tipping dogma could be somewhat due to some subconscious behavioral subversion of the stereotype that Black people don’t tip well. But unpacking that would take much more space than I’m allotted here, so let’s move on!)

I attempt to be the last to enter elevators, and the last to exit. (Sometimes though this can backfire, when multiple people are playing the same elevator chicken game, and the door closes. This is why I prefer stairs.)

If I am eating a meal with you, I will make every effort to sit with my back to the wall, to ward off potential danger with … my eyes, I guess? A soup spoon? I don’t know. I haven’t really thought this through.

I don’t ride city buses anymore, but when I did, I wouldn’t just give up my seat for women, elderly people and those who appear to have a physical disability, I wouldn’t even sit if the bus was packed and seats were limited. Few things made me feel better about myself than when I did this. There was no difference, in my head, between me standing in the aisle, satisfied with my sacrifice, and a soldier diving on a live grenade to save their troop.

I also perform all of the boilerplate chivalry: the opening of doors, the holding of umbrellas and even the walking closest to the curb. So, if you’re with me, and a car jumps the curb, we’ll both probably die, but at least I’ll die first.

Do I do all of these things because I’m a good person? Or is it just a performance of socially consensused goodness? I don’t know! What matters is that I do these things.

But there is one thing I haven’t done. Will not do. Will never do. Will grow angry enough at you to throw spitballs at you if you ask me to do. And that’s move my seat on a plane to accommodate you so that you can sit with your friends or family or concubines or whoever else you’re flying with.

Your grandma’s on the flight with you and you want to sit next to her? Granny should’ve taught you to plan ahead. Maybe Granny wants a break from her thoughtless progeny. You ever think about that? Of course not, because you’re thoughtless. You’re separated from your 6-year-old son? Braylin has to learn to fend for himself. Plus, this ain’t Antarctica. It’s an 80-minute, temperature-controlled trip to Albany on a flying couch. He’ll be fine next to his new Uncle D.

Your grandma’s on the flight with you and you want to sit next to her? Granny should’ve taught you to plan ahead.

The rationale for my abject refusal to budge is simple. I hate flying. It is a thoroughly uncomfortable experience for me, from the moment I enter the airport. There’s the vaguely fascist security line, where we’re de-shoed, de-walleted and de-belted while waiting to jaunt through a doorway of allegedly targeted radiation. There are (White) people in line with tank tops and flip-flops, and then the heavily armed (mostly White) people waiting to accost you after you get through it, like you’re on an assembly belt to 1923. There’s the dystopian vectors of pestilence and Chick-fil-A called “airport terminals.” And then there’s the flying itself, which I cannot do comfortably unless under the influence of a narcotic and whichever divine grace five Hail Marys provides me.

To somewhat alleviate this anxiety, I’m very intentional with seating. I need a window seat, so that I can rest my head against it and sleep. I am also 6-foot-2 with a big head, a short torso, long legs and big feet, and airplane seats are apparently built for Simone Biles. Which means that paying extra for legroom — even if that means an exit row or first class — is paramount. Not for comfort, but for less discomfort.

So, asking me to change my seat to accommodate you is essentially asking me to give you money and give myself a panic attack just so you can whisper in your wife’s ear about hummus. (“Babe, did you try the garlic? I think I tasted a hint of ginger.”) Nope. Naw. Never. I will fight you.

Maybe this makes me a bad person. That’s fine. I’ll be that. I’ll also be asleep, so I don’t care!

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