Alas, if this was only an article about the dreaded worst seat on the plane going away. Instead, it’s a bit of a sad day as we say goodbye to a column that’s been a part of my weekly required reading for over a decade. The Middle Seat is a weekly column published by Scott McCartney. After 20 years he put pen to paper from the middle seat for the final time.
His final column, a list of his favorites over the years, follows a piece where he chronicles his view of the travel industry for the past two decades. Both are a must read, even if you’re learning of The Middle Seat for the first time today (I hope you’re not). I read both with a mixture of joy and sadness. Much more often than not I found myself nodding my head reading Scott’s column. Frequently, there would be laughter, usually because he was pointing out some eccentricity of road warriors that was a “normal” part of my life. Even when I disagreed (those annual airline rankings) it was still fun to read.
The only moment of disappointment I can recall over the years that I’ve read The Middle Seat was when I first learned about it, back around 2008. I had started a travel blog and was trying to come up with a name for it. I settled on “The Middle Seat”. Before settling on the name I figured I would Google it real quick and was disappointed to realize I was almost a decade too late. I’ve read the column virtually every week since.
Though this story is about Scott and the retirement of The Middle Seat, I was incredibly fortunate to be mentioned in the column a number of times over the years. It was an exciting moment when I realized that one of those columns ended up on Scott’s favorite list. Seven years ago I can recall Scott interviewing my wife for an article about spouses married to frequent travelers. I wasn’t a part of the interview so I really had no idea what she discussed. Scott expertly coaxed a story about my “hair dryer promise” out of my wife. A few weeks later I got to read about it in The Wall Street Journal and it became the butt of many jokes between my wife and I over the years.
Scott’s favorite article is one of my favorites as well. His late wife penned an article about what it’s like to be married to a human encyclopedia of travel rules. It’s where we learned of Scott’s fascination with hotel pens and so many other details a loving spouse is privy to over many years of marriage. I can imagine what a joy it would have been to listen to her tell stories of what it’s like to travel with someone whose career has been molded by all the creative ways airlines have come up with to torture us. What I couldn’t imagine was an ending to the story where his wife wasn’t there to celebrate the last Middle Seat. Because, at the end of the day, I was fortunate enough to learn that Scott is a better human than he is a columnist. And he’s a pretty darn good columnist.