God wanted you in the middle seat

I have a curse: I cannot be scheduled for a flight and then have that flight run on time (the lone exception is Southwest, those guys rule).  Ask anybody who has ever expected a flight of mine to arrive on time.

Last night my flight back from Lake Hypatia (which freaking rocked) was supposed to get back right before midnight.  At 1am I was boarding the plane to come home.  God must’ve had a sense of humor on this night because there was a huge church group (most of which was wearing shirts that read “pray for religious freedom”, which is kind of like praying for the freedom to breath; redundant and useless) occupying the entire back of the plane and my seat was somehow right amongst them.  No worries.  I’m cranky as hell and don’t want any piece of them.  I’m just going to take my seat and sleep.

I get to my seat to find it occupied by an elderly woman.  I look at her and my ticket inquisitively.  I opened my mouth to tell her that I thought she was in my spot, but she beat me to it.

“Is this your seat?” she asked.

“Yes ma’am.  I have 35A.” I responded with a smile, assuming she had just made a mistake.

She rolled her eyes and asked, “Does it really matter?”  I thought to myself that it must matter otherwise her ass wouldn’t be there and she certainly wouldn’t be rolling her eyes at the idea that she’d have to vacate it.  Ordinarily I’d be happy to give up my seat if someone asked nicely.  However, she did not ask nicely.

“Yeah, it does matter.  I prefer the window.  Sorry.”  The last part was a lie.  I wasn’t sorry, but I was in no mood to fight (take a picture).

The woman beside her sighed audibly and said, “C’mon maw, git up.”  And both of them proceeded to mope slowly into the aisle as though the world were ending.  I try not to lambast people when I’m tired.  I know it can make me unjustifiably cranky (and I prefer to only lay into people when my crankiness is justified).  So I waited patiently.

Finally I was in my seat and ready to nod off, but the woman (who was now planted firmly in 35B, much to her chagrin) wasn’t finished.  Some of her people were still boarding and she said, very loudly, “Hey Steve, A seats are by the window, I just learned.”

Alright, I thought to myself.  Let’s do this.

“God apparently wanted you in the middle seat.”  I quipped.

There was a moment where she couldn’t tell if I was a Christian who was joking or if I was mocking her.  Finally, the martyr complex took over.

“Are you making fun of me?” she asked.  It’s almost as if she suspected her purposefully antagonistic behavior might have annoyed me.

“No.  I’ve been mocking you in my head ever since you got pissy about having to leave my seat.  That last line was more of a taunt.”

Before 35B could utter another word, the middle-aged woman sitting in 35C tried to convince “maw” to let it go.  Maw was having none of it.

“I don’t see why it matters.  I was already in that seat…” she blustered before I cut her off.

“Yes, you were in that seat.  That seat was my seat.  Ironically, you had to move past your seat to sit in my seat.  And despite me being polite, you pitched a fit when asked to give back what wasn’t yours, as though you were entitled to it without asking.”  I continued, raising my voice slightly so the nearby members of her group could hear.  “And it’s really unfortunate, because I see the shirts of the people you were conversing with, which had me wondering what being a Christian was like.  Now I have my answer.  It apparently makes people think they’re entitled to what isn’t theirs and has me not even wanting to sit next to one, let alone become one.”

Silence.  She literally leaned away from me with eyes huge, before looking around to her group to check the looks on their faces.  I thought for a moment someone would volunteer to swap seats with her, but nobody did.

She gathered herself, looked straight to the front of the plane, not at me, and said, “Well, Jesus loves you.”

“Putting you in the seat beside me is a really weird way of showing it.  But hey, I’m open to the idea.  Do you have any evidence this god exists?”

She told me she had faith.  I knocked that softball into orbit and spent the next 20-30 minutes beating down a bunch of crap arguments for god.  Then it was a quiet ride home and a deliciously awkward deboarding when we got to Columbus.

For real though, happy Mother's Day, mom.
It's funny how ambitions change over time.
You guys are wonderful.
PERSONAL: Happy birthday, Hitch.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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