The Middle Seat

I am back from Business Land…all sticky and wet.  Ya see, I had a middle seat on the flight home.  The mad-at-the-world lady to my left spilled her entire drink in my lap…with three more hours of flying time to go.  I just knew there was trouble brewing when she barked at the flight attendant for an Ocean Spray Cran•Apple and two vodkas.

An apologetic “I’m sorry” would have been nice…combined with a quick cleanup with paper towels.  No such luck.  She wiped up my seat with her shirt.  Then, she pulled a leopard-printed fake fur over her entire body and went to sleep.  So, I spent the remainder of the flight in vodka-drenched pants sitting beside what looked to be a human-sized cheetah. 

Not good picture-quality…but sometimes words are simply not enough…

Thank goodness there wasn’t trouble to my right.  Just a nice lady reading her book.  Thank you nice lady, because I hate being the meat in the middle of a disaster sandwich.

I feel like I’ve had the middle seat in life over the past few years.  My life in isolation is pretty good, but a lot people around me have been going through some tough times.  Health problems…money problems…relationship problems…Cran•Apple and vodka problems. 

And when you’re in the middle seat, your family and friends’ mixed-drinks problems are prone to spill all over your lap.

When the spill happens, you have a choice about how to react:

  • become a mad-at-the-world cheetah lady (place blame);
  • demand a proper cleanup (judge);
  • move to another seat (walk away);
  • order your own double vodka (ignore);
  • clean up the mess yourself (enable);


  • you can recognize the spill, get up, grab some napkins, dry your pants, make sure the middle seat is dry, and sit back down for the remainder of the flight.

Lately, I’ve been sitting back down in the middle seat.   But, there are certainly situations where I’ve placed blame, judged, walked away, ignored, or enabled other people’s problems.  My reaction usually depends on who the person is, where they fall on my People Pyramid, and the seriousness of the situation. 

In some situations, like dealing with my parents’ illnesses, I will never move from the middle seat.  I know there will be more messy spills…more leopard printed coats creeping over the armrest…and more books wide open on tray tables begging me to read a few lines.  That’s okay, because I know that I have a choice…and when I am in the middle, it’s because I feel it’s the right place to be. 

How do you deal with other people’s messy life-spills?  Are there any that you’re dealing with right now?

If you liked this post, you may also like Freeze Power and Emotional Osmosis.

9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Stacey on January 20, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Tracy, sorry the flight home was a drag. I have had a bloody-mary spilled on me wearing my just bought white sweatshirt but I was lucky that my person helped me clean up AND offered to buy me a new sweatshirt (I didn’t accept but the thought was awesome).

    I tend to be the get really mad but not necessarily place blame. Meaning I won’t blame someone who isn’t at fault but man if you are at fault, watch out.

    I am currently in the middle seat with a few things in my life as well. One is a friend who is in a bad marriage. The sad thing is neither she or her spouse are “bad”, just the marriage. Unfortunately, this marriage includes 3 children under the age of 12. Tough situation. My girlfriend and I talk often and somedays I feel like trying to encourage her to give it some time and work it out and other times I feel like she needs to grab those kids and RUN. It is a tough place to be because it is a HUGE decision and not one to be made lightly. So I feel in the middle, between encouraging them them to work it out and encouraging her to cut her losses.

    The other one is related to some volunteering I am doing. Trying to do the right thing appears to be an opinion in this arena and man can some feathers get rufffled. So I have to ride the fence to make sure the right thing IS getting done and make sure the the people who might be watching me feel that I am listening and doing it their way.

    My middle seats are far lower on the importance or priority scale to a family illness but they are still there.


    • A Bloody-Mary on white beats a Cran-Apple on denim. You win. 🙂

      I think a lot of people (particularly women) think they have to stay in their assigned middle seat. Knowing that staying there is a choice…unless during a takeoff, landing, or when seatbelts must remained latched…gives meaning to the choice to stay and perspective on how to deal. Best of luck dealing with your middles.


  2. Great post.

    I tend to deal with other people’s messes the same way you dealt with this topic in your post: I try and add humour.

    I’ve been an ‘observer’ all my life. When things erupted in my home — and they often did with nine siblings — I quietly sat back and watched, seeing how one person reacted to the other. I was seldom scared, worried or concerned. It was as though I was just taking notes. I was the second youngest, so I watched a lot of drama unfold at the kitchen table.

    During my observations, I sometimes saw funny things in the serious. I tried to stifle the giggles, but sometimes they erupted. During a heated argument between my siblings, I might point out that someone’s fly is down or ask, “Are you going to finish that cookie?”

    For the most part the things that seem so important at the time really aren’t. To break the tension, one must some times fling potatoes across the table or say, “Hey, look. A helicopter.”



    • Wow – 10 kids in one house…I can’t even imagine. Flying potatoes sound like they would just the right thing to break up some family drama. Thanks for stopping by Diane!


  3. Posted by Andie on January 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Great analogies! Sometimes it is helpful to sort life’s happenings into analogies. It makes things easier to understand and things don’t feel so overwhelming if we can break things down into a simpler definition or analogy as you did in today’s post.

    I too, react to other peoples spills according to my people pyramid. Sometimes when it is a good friend that I know needs to figure out the mess in their own time (and WILL), I simply give them a cheers (I believe in you!) and watch them grown and learn.

    This week at work I was dealing with the wrath of such a cheetah lady as you describe. She seems to be pure evil and I experienced all of the reactions to the “spill” that you describe. I soon remembered that no one can make me feel a certain way, especially someone so inconsequential to all that really matters in my life. These are my eyes and I will view things the way I choose and no one can control that but me. It was after that realization that I cleaned up the mess. I am sure the cheetah lady will be dealing with her mess for an extended period of time but that is her business, not mine. Thanks for sharing.


    • “Sometimes it is helpful to sort life’s happenings into analogies. It makes things easier to understand…”

      LOL – now I feel so biblical! The next time I write about sharing I’ll try to stay clear of references to loaves and fishes.


  4. dang missy, flying first class? remember to stuff that cheetah in your carry on those PETA folks don’t play


  5. Posted by suzicate on January 26, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Love your analogy on this…looks like we’ve been on somewhat the same wave length this week, like the way you brought your point across much better than the way I did though! great post!


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