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August 04, 2005


If you're on a flight and the woman you're seated next to asks you to switch seats with her husband, who's a few rows away, wouldn't you do it? Of course, you would. I've done it, even when I had to give up an aisle seat for a middle seat on a four-hour trip. And I've offered to switch even before being asked.

But that wouldn't be much of a story. And to write for the New Yorker magazine, you have to have a story. A few days ago, I picked up a two-month old issue of the New Yorker to read at the gym and saw this article called "Turbulence" in it. It's hard to decide who's more repellent -- the obnoxious woman who complains as soon as the author hesitates when asked to switch seats, or the author himself, whose reason for refusing is petty and who spends the flight taking out his anger on the woman as she sleeps. (Bonus question: Why does the author feel the need to let us know he's gay? (A) The private has all become public; (B) We are supposed to form base stereotypes; (C) The author needed someone to use as an analogue to the woman's husband; (D) All of the above.)