The joys of travel, a story of circumstance

A student takes advantage of an unexpectedly comfortable plane ride.

As a person who often finds myself trapped in transit, stuck somewhere between point A and point B, I’ve familiarized myself with the benefits and drawbacks of the popular modes of travel.

Buses: cheap, but seem to inevitably find themselves in the midst of a traffic jam that lasts for miles. Trains: direct, but victim to some of the same unexpected delays as buses. And then there’s airplanes, expensive but relatively reliable and often the only feasible way of travelling far distances.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve faced my fair share of challenges during airplane trips from being forced to grudgingly throw out my full-sized shampoo bottle in the airport security line, to waiting at the gate for indefinitely delayed flights. However, most of the “fun” takes place on the plane.

I’m one of those people who seems to constantly find myself with the dreaded middle seat on the airplane. In a window seat, you’re supplied with an ever-changing view of the land and the ocean to help pass the hours stuck suspended above. In an aisle seat, there’s the easy access to the walkway allowing for quick escapes to the bathroom. Instead I am stuck in the middle, the seat lacking all the perks, squashed between two fellow travelers who are slightly less uncomfortable than I am.

As a person familiar with flight, I’ve heard whispers of what I like to call the “gem of air travel.” This isn’t necessarily some plane that is overly high tech or luxurious, this is usually your average run-of-the-mill plane that for some reason is grossly under-booked.

Earlier this summer I was lucky enough to find myself in this circumstance. As I walked onto the plane, I braced myself for the nine-hour journey from Hawaii to Newark, New Jersey. I was crushed to find I was in the middle in a row of three. As the plane began to fill up, the two seats beside me remained suspiciously vacant.

My heart began to race with excitement—the pilot announced to the cabin crew to prepare for takeoff, and I discovered my hopes had come true.

I had a full row to myself.

Now, the value of these extra seats cannot be understated. While my fellow plane-mates sat around me, trapped in their allotted 4-by-1.5 slots of space, I was sprawled across a set of three, living the dream. And that’s only where the benefits began.

In addition to the added room that on a crowded plane felt like acres of real estate, I found myself with the unexpected perks of the extra pillows and blankets of my absent seat-mates.

Stretched out on my new makeshift bed, I felt as if I was living in the lap of luxury with my pillows piled beneath my head and my blankets layered across my body keeping me cozy despite the air conditioning’s relentless chill. I couldn’t hide the smile that inevitably slipped across my face—this is what it feels like to finally make it.

Mariam Dembele can be reached at


  1. I felt I was flying with you Mariam. The shampoo happened to me too. Very well written. Can’t wait to read more stories. A. Linda

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