Middle Seat

The cushion directly in front of my face has a bottom border that meets up with the plastic top part of the tray mechanism. Mostly because I’m searching for any excuse to ignore the wailing toddler about 5 feet behind my eardrums, I notice that strangely enough, in what is an otherwise well-put-together plane, the border of the top of the seat with the middle section of the seat is unfinished, by which I mean that there is no seam preventing the material from fraying and sprouting threads along where it was sheared into the correct shape. Most of the imperfections are rather small and innocuous, of little concern.

About 3/5ths of the distance from the left edge of the seam, a blueish-silver thread hangs down about an inch, overlapping the word WHILE in the the FASTEN SEAT BELT WHILE SEATED notice. The thread quivers in the airstream from the nozzle above my seat, tempting me. I pull on it, adding about a quarter inch to its length and moving it from the center of the WHILE to the W. I wonder how the thread got there. Was it an artifact of careless work by the laborers undertaking the recent interior renovation of this aging Airbus A320, when Delta added more comfortable ECONOMY COMFORT seating? Or did a bored passenger notice a small thread and pull on it? Did that passenger, in exercising his or her destructive indulgence, realize their contribution to the entropy of this plane?

I reach out and pull on one of the smaller threads along the right third of the border, the act a remorseless acceptance of nihilist urges that have been demonizing me lately. My activity catches the attention of the passenger to my right, who looks up absently from his perusal of the airline magazine. He’s an older black man who has been sleeping for most of the flight, except for those 15 minutes or so when he paced back and forth in the aisle, nursing what appeared to be a pain in his lower back, or perhaps his leg. He’s turning the pages of the magazine too fast to permit any actual reading or studying of the contents within.  I notice that he is watching me pulling the thread, and turn my head to meet his look. But he quickly goes back to his magazine, aware that his mere observation of this subversive little activity could result in unwanted conversation or confrontation.

Meanwhile, the passenger to my left continues his inexplicable and incongruent obsession with solitaire on his phone. Seriously man, you’ve spent almost 2 hours playing solitaire. Is there not a better use of your time?

I pull some more on the new fraying until I am satisfied that the rough seam of the cushion in front of my face has achieved something of an aesthetic balance. There are now two long threads hanging below the beige plastic, one on either side. My contribution has resulted in the partial obscuring of the O in the word BOTTOM in the phrase USE BOTTOM CUSHION FOR FLOTATION.

How many times has this cushion been farted on? Is it wiped down by the cleaning crew on any sort of regular schedule, or does the airline rely on the automatic wiping inherent in regular contact of clothes with a shiny vinylesque surface?

I shudder at the thought of how many germs must breed on these seats, and the subsequent thought that tragic circumstances could  plunge us all into the sea, turning that floating seat into my closest friend and savior.


I fart silently on my seat and adjust my noise-cancellation headphones. The damn toddler is now laughing. Spoiled brat.