Have you ever wondered why certain things are the way they are?
I sure do.
For example, this morning I boarded a United Airlines plane in Chicago destined for New York City. I have done this many, many times over my numerous years of travel.
What made today different? Not much. Just a small thing. But a small thing that caused me to wonder, to become inquisitive, to be curious.
I checked my boarding pass to make sure that I remembered my seat assignment. Sure enough, just like I thought, it was 10D.
I always ask for an aisle seat in an airplane. For a couple of reasons. First and foremost, the ability to make a dash for the bathroom on board if the need arises. And I am at a stage of life where that occurs more than I would like to admit. And when it does occur, there is a need to respond to the urge quickly. And I mean quickly.
The other reason for being on the aisle is to make disembarking the plane easier and faster. The person on the aisle can stand up when the plane has come to a halt, and can gather his or her belongings, get his carry-on bag out from the overhead bin, and get ready to go.
Enough about aisle seats, let’s get back to what was different about today’s flight that invoked my curiosity.
As I boarded the plane, I noticed the people sitting in the first class section of the plane. Just the first two rows were set aside for first class in this plane. Then, I begin to walk into the coach section of the aircraft. The first thing I do is look for the row number of the seats right after first class.
You would think that if the first two rows in the aircraft are numbered rows 1 and 2 that the third row, albeit in the coach section, would be numbered row 3. Wrong!
The first row in the coach section today is numbered row 7! Now, that bothers me. Does it bother you? But it doesn’t bother me a lot because I have seen this before. It does happen. I am not sure why it happens, but it does happen.
I am looking for row 10.
So the next row of seats is row 8. Makes sense. Obviously.
Remember I am looking for row 10.
Then to my surprise I look at the next row of seats and the sign says row 10. How can that be? 9 comes after 8, not 10. Everyone knows that.
I double check the sign to make sure that I have read it correctly. Sure enough.
I ask myself what is going on here. How can row 10 come after row 8.
Even more importantly, what happened to row 9. Where did it go?
Now this is a question that intrigues the hell out of me. I have to explore what the reasoning could be for such a thing to happen – namely, a whole row is missing on the plane. Where did row 9 go?
I try to brainstorm what might be the reasoning. The first thing that comes to my mind is superstition. That is why a lot of hotels do not have a 13th floor on the elevator buttons. Maybe the 9 was dropped because of 9/11 I say to myself. But then I immediately look behind me to see if row 11 is missing too, but it is not. Row 11 is there. So dropping row 9 without dropping row 11 makes no sense.
I am at a loss to come up with a possible rationale for why row 9 was eliminated from this aircraft.
For some reason I can’t let this go. I want to understand what was behind the reasoning to drop row 9.
As I muse about this the plane takes off. At some point in the middle of the two plus hour flight to New York City I start to focus on this again.
I ask myself, if this could happen to row 9, could it happen to other rows?
I unfasten my seat belt, get up and begin to walk slowly to the rear of the plane. All the time looking at the row numbers that are on the overhead bins just above each row of seats.
To my shock, after row 12, the next row is row 20!
Holy cow. What in the hell is going on.
I continue down the aisle and I am happy to report that all the rows between 20 and 37 are there and in correct order.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem.
Rows 9, 13 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 are missing.
At this point I seek advice. I seek out the cabin attendants, all three of them. They tell me they have no idea why these rows are missing.
One speculates that it has something to do with whom the plane manufacturer is. Boeing she says has rows that are numbered sequentially. But this is an Airbus, she says.
The plot thickens. International intrigue.
I start to do some internet searching to see if I can figure this out. Guess what? It turns out that in Japan the number 9 is an unlucky number because the pronunciation in Japanese means suffering.
But wait, it is not that simple. I find that in Norway 9 is a lucky number according to Norse mythology.
This is getting complicated and confusing. And I am no closer to an answer to the question of what happened to row 9, and for that matter the other missing rows too.
Hold on. I think I found the answer. My internet search found a 2011 article about United’s rationale for row numbering. United decided that all exit rows should be row 20 regardless of the size of the plane. The reason for this is that if for some reason the airline needed to change planes the customer would be assured that the seat in the new plane would also be in row 20, regardless of that plane’s configuration. That makes some sense to me.
Similarly, United decided to start all coach rows at 7. And that all coach rows with a little extra leg room would be in rows 7-19. So, if the plane is a smaller plane and only has 5 rows between the start of coach seating and the exit row, then the rows will stop at number 12. That way if there is a change of planes the customer will know that they are in an extended leg room section. Makes sense.
But hold it. This explanation answers the question about where did rows 12 to 19 go, but it does not answer the question about what happened to row 9. That is still a mystery.
Does anybody reading this have an idea? Someone out there must have a brilliant idea that will solve this dilemma.
Have you ever wondered why certain things are the way they are?
3 thoughts on “Have you ever wondered why certain things are the way they are?”
I wonder about many things: why didn’t 800 year old Notre-Dame Cathedrale have a sprinkler system?
why didn’t Paris inform the people that the fire at Notre-Dame caused the city to have huge amounts of lead?
I could go on and on about many things…
Are you sure you weren’t on Flight 33 in the Twilight Zone? Notice any dinosaurs out the window?
Only people our age remember this episode – one of Rod Sterlings scariest.
PS Welcome to NYC. We put out some great weather for you!
So funny and well written! Loved your story, Neil