So I arrived at the airport in Boston plenty early, but United hadn't assigned me a seat. It was plain I was going to get assigned to some middle seat anyway, so I just waited until I was about to board to get my seat assignment. And, because I dallied over the chowder I bought for dinner here, they were already nearly done boarding by the time I showed up.
I started talking to one of gate assistants about my seat assignment while a couple next to me was having an animated discussion with the other assistant. The man was then holding up his hands and pacing and exclaiming, "I'm going to miss my father's funeral! I'm going to miss my father's funeral!"
So then his wife, who was justjustjust about to start crying, asked if I would give up my seat for her husband because, as he was busy exclaiming, he was going to miss his father's funeral if he didn't get on the flight. There was another flight leaving in a little more than an hour, which was too late for their connection. The wife had resigned that she would have to miss the funeral, but at least if I gave up my seat her husband could make it.
The Old Me would have said yes immediately. The Old Me once handed his umbrella in a torrential downpour to a stranger who looked like he could use it more than me (a man, even, so there wasn't even a Chivalrous Protector Of Women angle). The New Me stood there a moment and calaculated whether this was one of those cases where the Old Me acted in ways consistent with my rural Iowa upbringing but which made me a sucker in the world of self-important-professional-on-the-go academics to which I inspire. Certain recent unbloggable circumstances have made me extrasensitive to the rube-sucker self-concept. And besides, I would already be getting there late as it was. The deliberation resulted in me deciding that I still wanted New Me to be the sort of person who would give up his seat in this situation, and so I did.
As it turned out, while this was happening, another seat magically became available for the husband, and so really the issue was whether the wife would get to be with her husband or not. They were just about to start processing the switch. The clerk looked at me like, "Still want to do this?" and the woman looked very awkward, and of course I said "Of course." And so now I'm spending part of the extra hour waiting writing this post.
I hope to God all this doesn't result in my luggage being lost. UPDATE from Evanston: My luggage was not lost. Apparently it arrived with the earlier flight, and was sitting by itself by that baggage claim instead of the one for the flight I was actually on.