So, I’m flying to Denver the other day, have my nice aisle seat picked out, and I’m settled in as the captain announces they’ve closed the cabin door. The middle seat next to me is still empty, and a mother is headed toward me with her young daughter in her arms. The daughter looks like she is on the verge of tears or just finished emptying the waterworks before they boarded the plane. Mom seemed a little stressed as she searched for their seats.

A flight attendant was helping them navigate, and it became clear one of their seats was the empty one in the middle next to me. I stood up and asked where their other seat was, offering to let them sit together in my row, and you would think mom had just won the lottery from the look on her face. The flight attendant said something to the effect of, “Thank you, we’ll comp you whatever you’d like for switching!”

Now, this isn’t a story about how nice or chivalrous a guy I am. I’ve flown enough to realize that the more generous we can all be towards one another, the easier it makes the journey for all of us. One cranky guy arguing that his over-stuffed carry-on really will fit in the overhead bin, or that he wants the keep the seat he picked out at check-in, can put a few hundred people on edge as they anxiously await him to concede so the plane can leave. By comparison, being kind to a fellow passenger, and offering that kindness freely, makes everything go smoother for everyone. The flight attendant could go back to more important things than trying to help negotiate a seat swap amongst reluctant passengers, the mom could get her daughter settled and happier more quickly, and we could get away from the gate and on our way sooner rather than later.

What struck me from this episode was how surprised everyone seemed by my willingness to change seats so quickly. Another flight attendant came and asked if I wanted a travel credit or mileage credit in exchange for switching seats. Of course, I appreciated this gesture on the part of the flight crew, but it really wasn’t necessary. Changing seats seemed like the natural thing to do, not something done in exchange for a perk on the flight. How terrible are airline passengers these days that my behavior seemed above and beyond?

So, I ended up in a middle seat three rows back next to a guy who a) didn’t bother to wear deodorant today and b) ordered a Bloody Mary mix for his drink. The entire crew suddenly knew me as “Mr. Allison” as opposed to “the guy in 31D”. Later, I saw the mom and daughter on the train to baggage claim, and both were in a 100% better mood than when we first met.

I had a good flight that day.