What does it mean to be C-24?

If you are flying on Southwest, it means that your place in the boarding order was after all the people with numbers A-1-60, B-1-60 and C-1-23. It also means you are going to be sitting in a middle seat.

If you are sitting in a middle seat, you might watch the woman in the aisle seat read a graphic novel, then put it away, and do a word puzzle, then put it away, and read a novel, then put it away and drink her male companion’s coffee from across the aisle, then start again on the graphic novel and, all the while, drink her bottled water and eschew the offers of the flight attendant of drinks, coffee and ice water. You might wonder why Aisle Lady has a ring on her right hand but no wedding ring causing you to ponder the identity of the man across the aisle. Is he her husband or her paramour, so to speak, since they are both older, ‘ones who are hooking up’ seems inappropriate.

Aisle Lady is wearing extraordinarily cute sensible shoes with special little anklet socks. One might wonder where one finds such socks. The shoe-sock combo leads one to believe she has a level of comfort with man across the aisle that would bespeak husband.

If you are sitting in a middle seat, the man in the window seat might already have his shoes off, showing high quality, possibly LL Bean socks of newer vintage. Window Man might spend a lot of time rummaging in his backpack before he pulls out a giant set of headphones, a tiny set of nose plugs (see later description) and a yellow bandana.

Not wanting to be conspicuous as a middle seat occupier, you don’t stare at what the Window Man does with his various accoutrements until you espy out of the corner of your eye that he is wresting the plastic nose plug thingies into his nose and trying to be inconspicuous in doing so which isn’t easy in such close quarters. As a middle seat person, you might ponder the utility of the nose plug thingies but realize that some questions cannot be answered. Acceptance is key for a middle seat dweller.

Chastened by the sight of the nose plug insertion, you might keep your eyes trained straight ahead at the tray table. As a middle seat sitter, nothing is more precious than personal space, so you will focus on guarding the perimeter, ensuring that your feet don’t encroach on the neighbors – aisle or window – and that elbows are safely inside the arm rests. But then, out of the corner of your eye, you might see what Window Man has done. He has pulled down the window shade. He has put on a baseball cap and his giant headphones.

And he has blindfolded himself with the yellow bandana. With his head laid back, he looks like resting bandit.

Window Man has entered a state of total sensory deprivation. And because you are a middle seat dweller and no longer have any free will or identity as an autonomous living creature, you are submerged with him in a floating, undefined darkness the only relief from which is the tiny button on the overhead panel which gives light to the blinded where you can continue reading your book about creativity which is now getting redundant and annoying and you hope the flight attendant comes to ask you whether you want something to drink, therefore confirming your actual existence on earth. You gulp eagerly from the tiny glass of Diet Coke, grateful beyond human comprehension for the recognition, the acknowledgement of your existence.

Such is the curse of C-24.