Saturday, February 27, 2016

When Giving Up Your Seat Means So Much More


I read this New York Times article today about an accomplished retired lawyer who was asked to move from her seat on an airline just because her fellow seat passenger refused to be seated next to a woman for "religious" reasons.

I was riveted to this story as a very similar incident happened to me in a Saudia flight from Riyadh to Dubai a few years back.

I had specifically selected an aisle seat in a packed economy class cabin.  There was a Muslim woman in a hijab and abaya in the window seat, and a few minutes later along came a large Saudi Muslim man. He took one look at both of us already in our seats, then at the empty seat between us, and told a nearby flight attendant he wanted to move as he claimed he couldn't sit next to a Muslim woman to whom he was not related. 

All the classes in the flight were near capacity and there wasn't another spare seat he could take that wasn't next to a Muslim woman. So the harried flight attendant leaned over to me and asked if I would move over to the middle seat. 

Now all this happened very rapidly and it was somewhat chaotic in the plane which was already delayed. Nearby passengers were stuffing their oversized luggage in overhead compartments, others were trying to squeeze by with young children in tow, so I initially had difficulty hearing the request, which resulted in me half automatically saying OK whilst feeling mildly exasperated and alternatively thinking it was not that big a deal; I then moved over to the middle seat. 

I regretted it the moment I agreed to the request and still do to this day; it wasn't only that it was physically uncomfortable for me to sit in the middle, but more due to the fact that I did not stand my ground, stay in my aisle seat and tell that male passenger to go find an alternate seat somewhere else. 

It's not even a case of being noble or unselfish or considerate, because if I believed I was all of those things to justify my action, then that would be a huge lie. The truth of the matter was, in that second when I agreed to swap seats for no reason other than to accommodate one person who didn't want to sit next to another for "religious" reasons, I was a patsy, a doormat, and an enabler, and I will never let that happen again.

 
http://nyti.ms/1TDgsCx



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