Weekend (?) anecdotes: A deer sighting and my seat-swap roller-coaster ride

July 30, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 30, 2017

My days have been a bit of a blur lately, so I’m only 99 percent sure that the following anecdote took place on Saturday, July 29.

I was walking a certain family dog around my Parental Unit’s neighborhood. We were heading toward a T-intersection of residential streets when I noticed that Lucky and I had company.

As per usual, the dog and I were walking on the street by the curb on the right side. (When there isn’t a sidewalk available, I typically walk along the right side of the road, as would be standard for a motorist or bicyclist.) But either a noise or something I saw out of the corner of my eye made me look to the left. Much to my amazement, I saw that a doe was walking parallel to us through the front yards of the houses on the opposite side of the street.

Lucky had taken no heed of the animal. Two or three years ago, before my parent consulted a trainer and began instituting a treat-heavy regimen during walks, Lucky might have darted towards the deer. She almost never does so these days, but usually when she sees wildlife she at least looks at it.

I verbally urged Lucky to turn her head, but she took no mind of me. My speaking may have spooked the ruminant. It picked up its pace from a walk to a run. That’s when the really interesting thing happened.

Just as the doe was about to reach the pavement of the street perpendicular to the one on which I was strolling, it pulled up. The animal then seemed to glance to its left and right, as if checking for cards, before proceeding across the street, past another house and down the slope into the woods.

Huh, I thought to myself. I could have sworn that that deer looked both ways before crossing the road.


The following anecdote definitely happened on Saturday the 29th. I know because I don’t take many airplane flights, and I took this one yesterday.

The plane I was taking was relatively full. I could tell this from the airline web page that I’d attempted to use to switch from a window seat to an aisle seat the night before, from the number of occupied seats at the gate, and from the gate attendant’s caution that the plane might run out of room in its overhead luggage compartments.

Although we weren’t taking that large a vehicle, the flight turned out to have five different boarding groups — 1 and 2 for the first-class passengers, 3, 4 and 5 for those of us in the rear. Not knowing this, I stood around waiting for a few minutes after group 3 was summoned to board and consequently — Oh, the indignity! — had to mingle with group 4.

Even so, when I got to row 19, both seats on the left side — A, which was mine, and B, along the aisle — were empty. I stowed my rolling luggage in the bin over seats C and D, slid my backpack beneath seat 18A, and settled into my assigned spot in 19A. Moments later, I was snugly buckled in.

I hoped against hope that the occupant of 19B wouldn’t arrive, thereby leaving me with an open seat and an opportunity to switch to the aisle. That wasn’t to be, however.

A 50-something woman paused at the row in front of mine and briefly conferred with the 20-something woman reposed in 18B. It turned out that the younger woman had mistakenly taken the older woman’s seat. The younger woman offered to switch, but the older woman demurred and simply settled into the spot next to me. “The view from here doesn’t seem to be any different,” my de facto row companion murmured to my would-be traveling associate.

My hopes of claiming the aisle seat were dashed. And yet the saga still wasn’t finished!

Gate to gate, the journey we were taking — Northern New Jersey to Raleigh-Durham International Airport — lasts about 90 minutes. We’d been in the air for perhaps half an hour when the woman on my right requested my attention.

She said, in so many words, that she was yearning to take a nap and would love to swap seats with me so she could lean against the bulkhead. I was willing to do so, hesitant only because the drink cart was approaching and I wasn’t sure that we had time to make a clean exchange.

My companion didn’t want to wait to make the switch, however, so we went ahead. The maneuver came off with only a minor hitch — I gently bumped against one of the flight attendants; it was fine. Alas, we didn’t have any time to swap out the bags and other belongings (in her case, some sections of The New York Times) that we’d stowed beneath the seats in row 18.

This proved to be a minor inconvenience later in the flight. I wound up finishing the book I was reading — You Don’t Love Me Yet by Jonathan Lethem; more on that in the coming days — and had to hold it in my lap rather than disturb my associate by reaching for my bag. This wasn’t a huge problem, since I don’t think I had any other printed reading material in my bag. But, you know, #firstworldproblems.

Since usage of mobile phones is now allowed on (domestic? all?) flights in the United States, as long as the phones are in airplane mode, I ended up retrieving my device from my pocket and powering it back on. (I’m old-fashioned: I prefer to turn the dang things off and keep them dormant when I’m flying.) I did a small amount of reading before turning to some word-game apps that I have that don’t require an Internet connection. (The flight had wifi, but you have to pay for it, so, again: #firstworldproblems.) That lasted until we landed and I was able to turn on my wireless data.

There’s one other thing that I want to mention about my seat-swapping non-odyssey.

I used to dwell on all the small decisions and circumstances that fashion our lives in immense and often unknowable ways. I didn’t spend much time dwelling on this, but I couldn’t help but wonder for a moment or two what would have happened if the woman who accidentally sat down in seat 18A had taken the correct spot. Probably nothing, or at least not much — but hey, maybe I (and she) missed out on a great romance because of this minor miscue.

I guess we’ll never know, will we?

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