Travel Articles




Two Types of People in this World

A very Wise SkyAnother installment in the series Lessons from a Wise Sky.

Yes, we’ve all heard it. There are two types of people in the world: those who believe there are two types of people in the world and those who don’t. It’s so true. But seriously, there are indeed two types of people in the world: window people and aisle people. Nobody in his right mind wants to sit in the middle on an airplane.

On a recent trip to Istanbul, I took a few hours to observe the behavior of these winged animals in their natural, brutal habitat: easyJet. On the world’s orangest airline, passengers are not given assigned seats. This brings out the beast in everyone, including myself.

I am an aisle person. A bit about my type:

1. We need to pee quite often, and we don’t enjoy talking to other people or waking them up when we need to pee.
2. We don’t like to be hemmed in. Some of us suffer from agoraphobia, which is unfortunate on a plane.
3. We are more savvy, experienced travelers than window people. We’ve seen all there is to see down there on earth or even up there in the clouds.
4. We like to be the first one to get up and out of the plane (perhaps associated with our agoraphobia).
5. We are, excluding my cute little adorable self, taller than most and see no problem with stretching our legs into the aisle. We own the aisle.

Window people are an entirely different species. Although it does indeed take one to know one, I’ll do my best to present a realistic description of these beasts:

1. They have incredibly elastic bladders.
2. They need their peace and quiet (and are usually traveling alone, which is sad).
3. They have longer necks than aisle people. Trust me. They manage to sleep comfortably against the side of the plane. Every time I’ve tried it, that stupid wall is at least two inches too far away. And on top of this, I think window people have some sort of Spiderman quality about them—or perhaps just sticky heads—that keeps their head from scooting down the side of the plane. I’ve tried a pillow. It scoots too. Maybe aisle people’s heads are heavier than window people’s?
4. They are happy to sit in their seat long after the plane has come to a complete stop at the terminal. These people are so calm it’s scary.
5. They tend to nest, with pillows and purses and stuffed animals and blankets and food brought from home. The window is their castle.

When these two species are allowed to choose their seat a few days—or months in my case—in advance, all is well with the world; but easyJet chooses to set the scene for a stampede of Biblical proportions. You see, window and aisle people have one thing in common: none of them wants to sit in the middle.

I’ll explain why by asking a few simple mathematical questions (get your thinking caps on):

1. How many seats are there in a row for three people?
2. How many arm rests in total would those three seats have?
3. How many arms would those three people have?

If you’ve done your math right, you’ll find that two arms invariably don’t get to rest. Whose arms these will be depends very much on the determination and girth of the passenger. Granted, the window person and the aisle person each gets at least one arm rest. It’s the two in the middle that have been the theater for more than a few territorial conflicts.

Take this morning, for example. I arrived at the London City Airport a bit later than usual, so the queue at the Lufthansa check-in kiosks was much longer. When I was finally prompted to choose my seat, there were only middle seats left. I kicked the kiosk.

The window person ended up being a small British man who read his magazine the entire time. He rarely took more than half the arm rest at any given time and never asked to get up. The aisle person—I’m so ashamed for my species—claimed both arm rests . . . and more. His untanned, unfit arm hung at least two inches over into my territory. I would bet he was a window person who was forced to sit on the aisle.

Middle people are saints. It goes without saying that they deserve to occupy both arm rests for their sacrifice, for they are really aisle or window people who got hung up in traffic, or weren’t able to check in online, or just had that one extra cup of coffee before leaving for the airport. They are one of our own.

How about you? Window or aisle?

I must be off,

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