Sunday, February 25, 2007

The girl next seat

Will someone please explain to me this curious male fascination with having a good-looking woman sit next to you on a flight? So many men I know, perfectly normal guys in every other way, get stupidly happy about the fact that their travel companion was young, female and attractive. They'll even gloat about it afterwards. The whole thing is practically an urban legend. (There are also, of course, the people who tell you that so and so airline is great because their hostesses are so much better looking - another piece of reasoning I've never understood).

It don't get this. For starters, it's not as though she's choosing to sit with you [1]. There isn't a separate check-in counter for the seat next to yours (Economy Class, Business Class, Falstaff Class) with a mob of women fighting to be first in line. It just happened that the next middle seat available was in your row. And even if it's free seating, she's probably choosing that particular seat because there's space in the overhead bin or because someone in front of her just took the last aisle.

And even if she did choose based on the way you look, what are the odds that she was thinking "Oh wow! what an incredible hunk of man-meat! Let me sit next to him and bathe in the aura of his magnetic sexual presence"? Isn't it more likely that she thought you looked too old / emasculated / gay to be much of a threat?

Plus it's not like you're in a relationship or something. Say she passes you your lunch tray. Say you exchange a few smiles. Say at some point you say "Excuse me" and pass her on your way to the restroom (there's an association of ideas you want!). Say you get lucky and she needs to be taught how to buckle her seat-belt. Say you decide to live dangerously and offer her your newspaper after you're done with it. It's not exactly Antony and Cleopatra, is it? I mean, compared to this, watching your clothes tumble in the dryer next to hers would be wildly carnal. And what are the odds that she's going to get off at the first stop-over and leave behind a little note with the words "We'll always have Seat 14 A and 14 B"?

In theory, of course, you could use this opportunity to start a conversation, dazzle her with your suave charm and secure both her phone number and the promise of a first date before the seatbelt sign went off. There are, I'm sure, people who can do this. But let's face it - if you're sitting there dreaming about the vagaries of a boarding card algorithm playing cupid for you, you're not one of those guys. Chances are, you couldn't talk your way into a woman's affections over a candlelight dinner with the mariachi singing softly in the background, so the combination of crummy airline food, turbulence and uncle-ji snoring on the other side of her is certainly not going to work.

But let's be optimistic. Let's say you get really lucky and your plane goes down over the Atlantic. You rise to the occasion. You help her with her oxygen mask. You comfort her. You get that floating feeling inside you and you convince yourself it's love, not depressurisation. Before you know it you're sliding down the escape ramp together and she's clinging to you in the lifeboat while the sharks gather and the waves seethe. It's like something out of a Tallulah Bankhead film. Only trouble is, there are two dozen frustrated men like you on this lifeboat, and chances are you're the only one with a good looking woman on his arm, so when the time comes to decide who gets eaten first, guess who they're going to pick.

It hardly seems worth it, does it? Personally, I'd rather get a scruffy twenty-something sitting next to me. He's less likely to have too much cabin baggage, less likely to be finicky or complain, and if I end up having to argue with him over something I have the comfort of knowing that everyone in the plane will be on my side.

[1] Though I have to say it would be convenient if airlines would let you select a seat based on the profiles of people next to you. That way, I could safely avoid all women of child-bearing age.

27 comments:

Ashish said...

I'd say hope still floats.

Heh Heh said...

I see no wrong with women of child-bearing age.. unless they actually have children, of course.

But then I have always been blessed with the company of generic desi uncle.

venkat said...

> You rise to the occasion.

WHAT?! Oh! Like that....So you don't believe in the Mile High Club? ;-)
[ps: congrats on the award and all that!]

Payal said...

hi...me n my friend read thru your blog and had a huge laugh...we are travelling along w/ two of our male colleagues and wonder of wonders... they too are suffering from the symptons of "ISNTAFP" - I sat next to a female passenger !!! Each is busy congratulating the other at the good fortune of having met the love of their aircraft life on this trip !! So we to (females) can totally relate to this article...

Szerelem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Szerelem said...

Maybe because pople read stuff like thisand think there might be a chance for them?

it doesnt said...

14 hours of imaginary possibilities is still more entertaining than watching a boring movie hehe - so yeah, I always hope to have a good looking cheery female next to me!

S

witnwisdumb said...

Heh heh heh, I totally agree! Good 'un.

The Black Mamba said...

well, a couple of reasons come to mind. what are the odds that you have a young, attractive female sitting next you any place else, for an extended period of time? your grad school office? or work? or the lucky gents heir cutting saloon*?

And the key here is that she did not choose to sit next to you - this is not a bar or some other pickup joint. so the odds of getting a more attractive woman are higher, perhaps?

Also, say you are a books-man - here is an excellent chance to start a conversation about something she or you are reading. Its not like you are going to walk over to someone on a bus or in a cafe and talk about what she is reading. but in an airplane - given that you will eat or drink (hence, not read for some period of time) - you could talk about it.

And if this is any consolation - what of the curious female fascination with having a good-looking doctor care for you in a hospital?

* why someone would thank a heir cutting establishment is beyond me ...

Falstaff said...

ashish: Really? Hope? The thing with feathers? You're trying to tell me that Hope is a duck?

heh heh: Oh, I agree, but I'm pretty sure the airline won't tell which women will have babies with them, so I figure it's best just to avoid all potential suspects.

And yes, I saw that one. One of these days I must write post about generic desi auntys, who are what I always end up with.

venkat: Thanks. And ah, yes, the Mile High Club - you know what, that's just wrong. I mean why have sex in airplane lavatories, when there are more exciting uses:

http://2x3x7.blogspot.com/2005/08/ultimate-flight.html

payal: Glad you enjoyed it.

szerelem: I was wondering how to work Fiennes in. Now if he came and sat next to me on a flight I'd probably be yapping with excitement.

it doesnt: True. But who watches the movies anyway. What do you think books are for?

witnwisdumb: Thanks.

BM: Agree about the book conversation bit - which is why I live in hope of someday ending up on a flight with someone (male / female, good-looking / not) who's reading, say, Zagajewski. Dreaming about that makes sense to me. It's the good-looking woman bit I don't get.

The heir cutting saloon - I have no idea. That's just how they spell it.

dazedandconfused said...

Loved the 'falstaff class' bit! :)

The humor was refreshing. And I was thinking this blog had become too intellectual for me...

M said...

my friend though, just got engaged to this guy she met on a flight...

Big Wave said...

oh thank you, thank you. so much better explained than my seething and soundless arm-waving.

Falstaff said...

d&c: too intellectual? Me? never.

m: Really? So they got off the lifeboat all right then, did they?

big wave: You're welcome.

Tabula Rasa said...

speaking of child bear...

Corp Serf said...

Come to think of it, I married a girl I (almost) met on a flight ... been while since I thought about that.

Well, I actually met her before, at the consulate, but still, it was the second meeting and it was quite a surprise for me to meet her again. In any case, the consulate is about as desolate as a plane, the only thing going for them is they don't try to serve you $%^# and call it food.

Shantanu said...

That was hilarious! You are good at this; hope to see more such posts.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant story telling!

Ambuj Saxena said...

Big deal. I have never fantasized about it, but I did manage to get the phone number of a girl I sat next to on the only occasion it happened. However, I agree that it was a lucky break and not something that I expect would happen every other time. And yes, this blog comment is the first place I am "bragging" about it, though the incident happened some two years back.

Kusum Rohra said...

Like Dazed and confused said, the humour was really refreshing :)

Really liked it, reminds me about why do I still read your blog :)....after all the wrong conclusions I derive reading your stories :D

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Anonymous said...

I had this chance of flying to India via Dubai on Emirates last year. Oh! I had a good looking desi girl next to me and no prize for guesses- the fascination caught me too. We started chatting about generic things - weather, traffic and junk. Not for long though. We enjoyed the meal and started a nap. Gradually her head sank and dropped on my shoulders! I did not know if she did it intentionally but I enjoyed it as well. Later we woke (ofcourse not at the same time) and I asked her if she got good rest. She smiled and said she did. We shared the seat arm rest with our arms touching almost all the time. Withdrawing apart and getting closer all the time. That I know palmistry a little bit I had a few minutes playing wround with her hand. We exchanged email addresses. We enjoyed the flight!

The fascination is not something just men have but women as well. It is just more subtle!

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