Traveling is a great time to notice preferences, and how they can rob me of peace of mind.

On the Lufthansa leg of the journey, when I was so squashed in, I would have much preferred to have decent leg room. And arm room. And a little bubble around myself. That wasn’t happening, so I did a bit of a check and realized I was frustrated but not in any discomfort. I could, however, get uncomfortable when I thought, “Nine point five hours of this?” because that future seemed unacceptable and restricted and would probably give me a blood clot and I just might die.

It was good to be able to laugh at myself a little. I did have compression stockings, in an attractive argyle pattern, no less, and sometimes when I stretched my legs I happened to knock up against the feet of the woman whose reclined seat was restricting my movement. Yeah, mildly retaliatory. The real problem? My preference for space wasn’t being met. My preference for reading and writing weren’t feasible. My preference for Quatar Airways certainly wasn’t being met.

But I had no real discomfort. Not physical, anyway. And I wasn’t dying of a blood clot, although my heart felt restricted in a spiritual way. So, I recognized, it was just preferences. Reminded me of a recent New Yorker cartoon: a mother and her young backpack-wearing child are entering an office, the door labeled “Special Services,” and Mother says to the woman at a desk, “My child has special wants.”

One of the great things about traveling is noticing preferences. When I realized I was dealing with a special want and not a special need, I felt better. (I still don’t plan to travel via Lufthansa when I can avoid it.)

P.S. – Judgments: A few years ago I thought a woman was genuinely stark raving mad on another flight because she grabbed the seat in front of her, angry at its occupant for reclining all the way, and shook it aggressively. I was shocked and very judgmental: This lady is crazy! Wow! Terrible! On the Lufthansa flight, I realized I was entertaining a fantasy of doing the same thing, but in my case it seemed far more reasonable and justified. I still suspect the woman was unbalanced, but she simply expressed an unfiltered, primal desire lurking somewhere deep and unacknowledged in my own mind.


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