Who Sat in Goldilock’s Seat?

By Erika Hoffman

Ageism’s a thing; so is ageing. Ageing is real. A gal in her sixties may find certain modern things confusing. Although I’ve mastered word processing, email and sending off disarming photos of adorable grandchildren with captivating grins, there remains a dearth of knowledge on my part regarding sundry cyber chores, one being the procurement of airline tickets using the web. Recently through Cheap O’ Air I bought tickets for my husband and me to Boston. He was to stay two days, and I a week, so the reservations were more complex than “two round-trip tickets please.” Also, for him I made direct flights, but I wanted to schedule my flight later in the day on Saturday, so I chose one with a change of planes. Like the Cheshire cat, I felt delighted I’d accomplished this herculean feat without having consulted a son who usually makes reservations for us.

After my husband departed, I stayed to help my daughter play with my coquettish, four-month-old grandson. The eve before my leave-taking, I consulted my email ticket, and what did I notice: my husband’s name! I’d booked my return ticket in his name! I called up Cheap O’ Air. They informed me I couldn’t add a “Mrs.” to the name. My husband was a different person from me. To no avail, I argued I’d not have put in his name. It must have been an auto-correct or an auto-fail or a default something! My daughter overheard my exasperation and grabbed the phone and explained that her mom wasn’t good at computers, and they could see that her dad had already flown home Monday – four days earlier. In a sing-song-y voice, the fellow talked over her telling her there was nothing to be done. “Let me speak to your manager,” my daughter asserted.

“He’ll tell you the same thing.”

My daughter repeated, “I want the manager.”

“It’ll be three minutes. Hold.”

Thirty-five minutes later she still waited to speak to the manager. Meanwhile she motioned to me to call American Airlines on another phone and explain that I’m old and don’t understand how to order tickets on the web. So, I called American and told them I’m old and… stupid; fortunately, I spoke with a lovely lady who told me I’d have to clear it with Cheap O’ Air first. Simultaneously, my daughter got the manager on her cell who said he’d okay it if American Airlines did. The American Airlines lady told me there’d be a $50.00 charge for the name change.

“Bless you!” I exclaimed and meant it!

I whipped out my Visa, read the number into the phone and felt relief. I was on the flight.

I got to the airport over two hours early. The plane was sold out. Due to the crowd, it took a long time to load. My seat, 18E, was in the center. I struggled to lift my carry-on to stow above my seat. I placed my bulky purse under the seat in front of me and strapped myself into the middle seat. A youngish Asian girl signaled she had the window, so I unbuckled and scooted out to let her pass; a youngish, tall fellow in a ballcap and hoodie started to follow her. “If you are together, I can switch and take the aisle seat instead,” I said obligingly.

“No,” he mumbled.

“No,” she murmured. “We’re not together.”

She sat. I sat. He sat. The long queue of folks continued. I buckled myself in as did they, on either side of me. After a few minutes, a big blonde gal, also young, approached and said to my male seatmate, “You’re sitting in my space.”

He answered “Well, my seat is 18E, there,” and nodded over at me. I took out my paper which said, “18E”

“Better call the flight attendant,” advised the big, golden-haired gal.

I pressed the overhead button, and then turned to the young fellow. “Are you connecting with another flight”¯

I was gauging the chances. Perhaps if he wasn’t connecting, he’d not mind missing this flight. I secretly feared my snafu with Cheap O’ Air had screwed up the seat assignment. I might need to sit on the jump seat with the flight attendants… if they’d let me. What I really dreaded was being made to leave the plane and scramble to find another flight this Saturday before Thanksgiving when college kids were headed home and families with screaming infants were en route to Grandma’s.

No one was going to want to give up a seat.

A male flight attendant appeared. I handed him my email. I could even read “18E” without my reading glasses. The college-aged youth handed him both his passes. In a nano-second the flight attendant handed back his tickets. I braced for bad news, mentally preparing myself I’d need to retrieve my heavy overhead carry-on, fight the incoming queue of folks, and then perp-walk down the long aisle to exit the plane. I dreaded calling my husband to explain the new schedule because of my flub-up.

The attendant gazed at my neighbor, snug and smug in his seat, and said, “You’re looking at the wrong ticket. Your next flight’s seat is 18E. On this flight, you’re 10 E.” He pointed to the young man’s correct boarding pass.

I could barely believe my ears as the boy sloughed off. I turned to the young Chinese girl. “Phew! Had I told my sons about this snafu, they’d have blamed it on dementia!”

She laughed.

“Yeah,” I continued, “even I hadn’t entertained the idea that the young person was wrong. I figured I must’ve misread my boarding pass or had bungled things with the name change I made earlier or had done something else wrong!”

I almost felt gleeful. It wasn’t me who goofed. Ageism is real. Young folks usually are confident it’s the older person who’s messed up. But it’s really a bad-sad case of ageism when you, the older person, discriminate against… yourself!

About this writer

  • Erika Hoffman

    Erika Hoffman

    Erika Hoffman collected many of her travel stories and published them in a book called Erikaā€™s Take on Travel. Itā€™s on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.

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15 Responses to “Who Sat in Goldilock’s Seat?”

  1. Having just flown to Cali to visit our grandsons, I found this to be very funny. Flying is so fraught with uncertainty these days!

  2. I laughed out loud from the safety of my computer in the home office. Erika’s adventures further confirm my choice not to fly anywhere these days – except for the death of a loved one…and then, perhaps a nice plant might do….

  3. Margaret Toman says:

    This was an enjoyable read with a too-true theme the writer calls “self-discrimination”. She’s right. The rising epidemic of dementia and the assumption that “it must be me” based on accusatory stares and remarks from our youth-oriented culture, make growing older an uncomfortable, self conscious, experience. She writes with humor and irony, making palatable what can be a challenging road. A good laugh and a profound observation in one story.

  4. Cora Brown says:

    Can you hear all of us “of a similar age and level of technical competence” cheering Erika on? Chalk up one for us!

  5. Anne Mitchell says:

    I chuckled as I read this narrative! “That would be me!” entered my mind! Each time I make plane reservations I double and triple check what I’ve written because I surely will have made a mistake especially since I have “computer phobia!” These are different times and we really are out of our element and often depend on our kids to do for us even though we really are capable just not confident! I love Erika’s sense of humor and writing style in depicting “ageism” as she calls it! What a fun read that people our age can definitely identify with!

  6. Susie Kim Park says:

    I completely understand your situation on the plane. Something like that happens to me every time I fly. I decided it’s part of aging process for the grannies which I think the young ones decide. I ignore them all and do my own thing!

  7. Claudia M Frost says:

    This story made me laugh and cringe at the same time as I could truly identify with the easy errors that can be made when making reservations via the Internet. Having recently been traveling alone for the past four months I know the hazards of seat reservations, multiple time zones, juggling luggage and age related challenges.

  8. Love your story! I remember when air travel was fun and special. Oh, the good ol’ days from another over sixty.
    I also remember flubs that the airlines were happy to correct with no charges, building good reputations, regardless of who made the error.

  9. Linda O'Connell says:

    Every day this dang computer or some other new fangled gadget like my cell phone, confuses this old brain. Funny story I can relate to.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    You should have named it “Self-discriminator” or “Aging Road Warriors “. Unfortunately your humorous article is too true these days. Airline travel can be awful and online booking adds to the frustration. And from a flight attendant’s point-of-view—don’t travel during Thanksgiving (or any days close to it), the busiest travel time of the year. I enjoyed your article.

  11. Ann Goebel says:

    What a delightful narrative, Erika. I can relate — rather inept at “cyber chores” and aging problems with lack of self-confidence. Validation is so sweet!

  12. Rose Ann says:

    It feels so good not to be “the only one.” Thanks, Erika! Love and relate to your essay!!!

  13. Maria Frangakis says:

    I was quietly enjoying this piece by Erika, nodding at several of the similarities in my life, but when I read the last phrase, I just had to laugh-out-loud at her quirky way of finishing such a relateable story.
    Kudos for Erika!

  14. Sally Wehmueller says:

    Great story. Brings back many memories of
    flying and the trials that come with dealing
    with automation. Thanks for the smiles.

  15. Carol Trejo says:

    I can totally relate! Need I say more? Thanks for sharing. Great story.

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