People make a big deal about seating assignments. Everyone has an airplane story about being stuck between the wrong seatmates which, OMG, made it the longest ride of their lives!!!! But it's true--the wrong seat assignment can ruin a trip or any situation, really. Nowadays, I avoid flying Southwest altogther to ensure I can reserve a window or aisle (depending on the length of the trip). Even knowing you're stuck in the middle is worse than getting on the plane and being forced into it. But getting a good seat assignment is worth bragging about; just ask me about my first class trip to Buenos Aires.
Outside of airlines, seating assignments are important, too. In grade school, classmates wished they had my last name--mine starts with "T"--because it earned me a consistent spot in the fourth or fifth row back from the teacher. Out of the teacher's eye, you could get away trading Garbage Pail Kids and playing pencil pop.
But you know me; I wasn't throwing spitwads with the Smiths, Thomases and Youngs. No, I was taking notes and tucking in my collared shirt. Sidenote: the one time I took advantage of my back-of-the-class last name position, I folded and flicked a paper football. Just my luck: it landed near the eye of this girl named Kathryn. She claimed it hit her in the eye and blinded her. No worries, gentle readers: her eyes are fine. I see her walking around downtown without the aid of eyeglasses, or even contacts. My punishment for launching this "missle" ("missle" was the word used on the "Pink Slip" I carried with me) in the seventh grade was my first trip to the principal's office. For those curious, I received my one (and only) in-school punishment. My assigned seat for the following day was ISS, or "in school suspension" with the vice principal. Kathryn, I hope you're happy.
In middle school gym class, we started every class by sitting in assigned rows on the gym floor. This seated line-up eased the attendance process for our gym teachers before we embarked on learning a new hybrid ball sport that the gym teacher made up (e.g. basketrugby). I'm not making this up. The worst part was that we had multiple-choice (remember ScanTron?) tests on the rules to the gym teacher's fake game. You know me; I could have used some more practice on basketball.
Swimming competitively earned me a pass out of high school gym class, though the assigned seat concept was fairly consistent in classes through high school. I went to a high school of 3,000+ students, and I wonder if my seating assignments for four years resulted in my knowing the R, S, U, and V last namers moreso than the those with last names starting with the beginning letters of the alphabet. Probably not, because at my high school graduation, I sat next to a guy I'd never met in my four years of going to high school. His last name also started with "T-A."
The idea of assigned seats faded in college, but my assigned seat at my college graduation was next to my ex-girlfriend. Those four-and-a-half hours passed with a little awkward small talk and a lot of sweating under my black cap & gown.
Assigned seats give everyone a sense of belonging, a spot in the world. Just think how many awkward tray-holding moments I'd have avoided by having an assigned seat in the middle school lunchroom. My parents knew the potential trouble with unassigned seats at mealtime, and assigned my three sisters and me to permanent spots around our kitchen table (we also had assigned spots in the family station wagon). But people crave routines, and I think we prefer assignments to a free-for-all. Just think: people tend toward sitting in the same spot, even when it's not assigned.
My first job out of college, I had an assigned desk in an abandoned floor of the bankrupt company's headquarters. I shared the full floor with four other people. The desk (and the entire company) felt like a jail cell. Ironically, my first seating assignment at my current company was in a large, windowless closet. Despite the size, we had some good times there. We named it "The Den," and on Fridays, I'd blast "Do You Realize??" by the Flaming Lips on my sweet computer speakers. I miss those days.
I'm switching to a new job at work. And the new job is in a different department, which means a new desk assignment. This might end up being great. But I'm just so used to walking into work, saying hey to my workboo, hugging Nate (see earlier post), then powering up my brain and computer at my assigned desk. Nate and I sit next to each other. We have postcards of our travels on the wall. We know "who tall" people are. We have The Abuse Robot as a pet. We like our neighbors.
So now it's new job, new seat. I'll let you know how the new assignment sits with me.