Happy Democracy Day in arrears to all Nigerians. There is no doubt that the tenor of the nation doesn’t appear to have much to cheer. However, I am convinced that Nigeria will overcome its present challenges and that things will get better until we have a nation whose passport we can all carry with pride. Until then, please don’t give up on Nigeria!
If you are a frequent flyer, you would be very familiar with the question titling this piece. It is what the staff at the Check-in Desk ask you when you are about to check in for a flight and you have not pre-selected a seat when you booked your flight. But this is a question that is only asked when the flight is not full and seats are not pre-assigned.
It is not every time that life offers you options. Many times, we get what we don’t like and like what we don’t get without having a say or control over the matter. Like it happened to me on a Qatar Airways flight from Houston, Texas in the USA. First, I could not travel on the date originally scheduled. Had to shift by a week because my Covid-19 test result was not ready. Second, it turned out that the airline staff that assisted with the change of date did not input my gluten-free meal preference even after I mentioned it to him. So, I didn’t have a good meal on the 15-hour flight to Doha. The VIP Lounge at Doha offered no respite in that regard as well. They had garlic in all their food! I am allergic to garlic! So, I had to endure an eight-hour layover and a seven-and-a-half-hour flight to Lagos literally on a compulsory fast.
Third, when I checked in online a few hours to the flight, my original seat selection had been changed. I was assigned a window seat which I thought I could change to an aisle at the counter. I was wrong. The lady at the counter, wearing an expressionless face, perfunctorily told me that the flight was full and so, my request for an aisle seat could not be considered. So I was stuck with a window seat. Only to get on the aircraft to discover that there were actually many empty aisle seats – there was one on the same row in which I was seated! In all the scenarios described, I wasn’t given any options for me to make a choice in terms of preference.
Life will not always give you options. You don’t always get what you like and you won’t always like what you get. You were not given any options about when and where to be born and in what circumstances (I probably would have chosen the British Royal family!). Nobody asked you questions about who you wanted your parents to be or what time of day you would have loved to be born. Unless you choose to die by suicide, life offers you no options about the time and circumstances of your death.
Thankfully, it is not every time that we are victims of life’s full flight where seats are pre-assigned. Very often, we do get to be offered options.
In my early years of flying, I used to love window seats. They afford you a view of what exists outside the aircraft. You get a bird’s eye view of the landscape, the hills, the clouds, the sun etc. However, after hundreds of thousands of miles in the skies, you get bored with cloud-gazing or landscape watching. Apart from that, I hate the part where I have to constantly inconvenience people sitting on my row, especially when I fly Economy Class, by my frequent visits to the toilet because I drink a lot of water in order to be properly hydrated on a flight. The corollary of that is dashing frequently to the toilet. With an aisle seat, I can get up without anyone’s permission and without having to wake anyone up from their beauty sleep, especially on a red-eye flight. Some people’s snidely looks can make you feel like hating yourself for wanting to visit the toilet. Thank God, looks don’t kill!
Sometimes when you want lemonade, all that life offers you is a sour lemon. It is what you do with it or your attitude towards it that determines whether it retains its sour taste or it becomes what you desire. Grumbling and throwing tantrums at every inconvenience is a reflection of immaturity and an attention-seeking ego. Discomfort and inconveniences are God’s way of teaching us patience. The worst or best of our persona shows up under pressure or when life offers us what we did not or would not choose.
The second takeaway from this is that as we mature in life, our preferences do change. In my early years of flying, window seats held an unrelenting allure for me. I could pay for one if asked to. I wanted to take pictures of sunsets and sunrise, landscapes, canyons and snow-capped mountains. Not anymore. Now I find the aisle more convenient and will usually ask for it even if the clerk does not ask me.
Learn to walk in other people’s shoes. Certain choices you make or which were made for you will inconvenience others at some point. You cannot totally avoid it. The best you can do is minimize the inconvenience and make it as civil and considerate as possible. The same way you don’t like what you got is the same way they don’t like what that does to them. They already know that they have to live with it even if they don’t enjoy the situation. Don’t make it harder for them.
Every choice or option that you eventually get comes with its attendant consequences. Even when you do get your choice, get ready for some inconveniences. When you sit in the aisle, be ready to shift or stand up (depending on the size of the person you have to make room for) whenever those seated on the window or the middle seat decide to visit the toilet. Sometimes, this happens when you are just diving into your meal or trying to get some sleep. If you have ever been on a red-eye flight, you will know the value of getting as much sleep as you can. So, imagine yourself just falling asleep and only a few minutes into it, you feel a tap on your shoulder or you hear an “Excuse me” sounding as if from a far distance to rudely shock you into consciousness. You make room for the person who wants to visit the toilet or stretch his legs and you know you cannot go back to sleep until they return and are settled back in their seat, by which time, your sleep may have cleared from your eyes. The cycle is repeated as many times as your neighbours desire to leave their seat.
If you plan to travel by air any time soon, whichever seat is assigned to you, enjoy your flight!
Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!
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