There's always been this thing that people do that I never quite understood or noticed enough to think about. Planes are the one circumstance where you are guaranteed to witness it. And I happened to be on a plane today. And happened to witness it three times. It happens in other situations - usually ones where you want something, like a seat upgrade, but coming out and asking for it would make you seem entitled or high maintenance or whatever. So instead, you suddenly have a medical condition.
I'm calling it, for lack of a better word, "white lie diseases." It's the people that suddenly have claustrophobia, general anxiety disorder, panic attack / disorder, fear of flying / heights, chronic hyperventilation, motion sickness, back problems, leg problems, left-side-problems. I'm not saying that 100% of these people have made these problems up. I'm just saying, it seems like I encounter a handful of people during normal life who have some disorder or another but the second I'm on a plane, the entire world has it. It also seems like in day to day life, I don't know about your problem.
People don't say, "Hey insom, wanna grab lunch? I have claustrophobia, no worries though."
Today on the plane, the guy sitting next to me in the center seat goes: "Hey. I'm Tom. Nice to meet you." small talk small talk small talk "Oh yeah I have claustrophobia. The center seat always makes me so anxious and claustrophobic. No worries though – I'll be fine."
While getting on the plane, I overheard, "Do you want to trade my window for you aisle seat? I have [word I've never heard and belongs on House] and I don't want to disturb my neighbors when I get up and stretch every hour."
The third, not so well thought out, "Can I be moved to a seat towards the front? I have an acrophobia which sometimes brings on my motion sickness. I took dramamine but I'd still like to be close to the bathroom." (What I hope was the) answer: "No, you may not vomit in it the first class toilets, but row 35 is totally open."
What is it about things like flying that bring complete strangers to suddenly come out and announce their whatever issues to complete strangers? Or, what is it about shitty situations that everyone is in that makes you need to stand out - even if it's with some crazy chronic condition? And why are they crazy technical disease names? And just, why? The people I know who actually have panic disorders or depression or whatever, don't tell me about it until I'm close with them. Until trust has been built. They don't announce it or use it as a preposition in a small-talk sentence. They keep it a secret and hide it as much as they can. They don't use it to get a better seat or an upgraded meal.
No one enjoys flying you fucktards. I don't like the center seat. Not because I'm claustrophobic. Not because I looked up words in the dictionary. Because I have to sit in a itty-bitty seat in between two complete strangers for 2-16 hours at a time and I can't move. And that's fine.
But I can't even respond to center-guy's small talk because fuck! He has claustrophobia. And I could never relate to that. And if I were to relate my mere hatred of the center seat to his disease, that would be diminishing his disease. And now, am I a terrible person for not trading seats with this poor claustrophobic man who drew the short stick and has the center seat? Because I sure feel fucking guilty.
If you were to tell me "Hey - do you want to trade seats? I hate the center seat." I would have enormous respect for you. And, if you were nice and I was in a good mood, I might take you up on that enticing offer because I'm fucking tiny and if there is one place being tiny is a major benefit, it's on planes. Center seat vs window seat vs aisle seat makes a minor difference in comfort level for me. For my poor brother, who now clocks in at motherfucking 6'4, aisle vs center vs window is a big deal for him. He pays for the emergency row upgrade though. Because being tall isn't a disease and no one feels bad for you. You can't announce that you are 6'4 and get enough pity for a seat swap.
My dad always told me (usually when I was being obnoxious), "the only difference between an ordeal and an adventure is your attitude." Change your attitude, claustrophobic center seat guy. Don't try to change my attitude of you via pity and guilt.
"Excuse me? Ex - excuse me? Yeah, so, I'd like the burger, but I need you to make that gluten free. I'm allergic. Thanks so much."
The person at the bar to the left of you leans back with a smile and sips their beer.