Seat 27D… a lesson in disciplined pre-planning!

Its seems hard to believe but three years ago this month I had knee replacement surgery.  Today, three years later, I am doing great and my knee is strong (much stronger than before the surgery!!) and I am more active today than before the surgery.  Like many of my knee replacement brothers/sisters, the recovery process was VERY challenging and I am so thankful to have friends and close family members who really took care of me (physically and emotionally) in those first few weeks/months after the surgery.  It may seem far fetched, but its in this context that I want to explore the elements and focus points of “disciplined pre-planning!”

My surgeon and his team had been very clear with me, “no driving for 6 weeks, no flying for 8 weeks” and while I heard those words, I was “certain” that I would be an exception and already started thinking about car trips and flights ahead of that schedule; wow was I wrong!!  Once I came home from surgery, I was blown away by the pain management issues and the mobility/flexibility limitations so after a few days I forgot all about “beating the timetable,” and started trying to imagine how I would every be able to navigate a car, or an airport again.  While at that moment it seemed a distant aspiration, I dove into my PT regimen and really started feeling better and more myself after four or five weeks.  It was then, that I booked my first flight, ATL-PHX (atlanta to phoenix) and started working on really “pre-planning” the details of that trip.

Let me pause to say that I am so fortunate to have a trusted friend and work partner, Cathy, in my life now for over 22 years!  Cathy and I have worked closely together in numerous work situations, back when I was at Coke, when I was at Bolthouse Farms and most recently over the past four years with Levisay Consulting.  Wherever I am working/traveling, I try to start the day with a checkin with Cathy to get grounded on the issues and priorities at hand.  I am deeply appreciative for the past 22+ years and am looking forward to many more ahead!!  Back to the flight , ATL-PHX.

Cathy and I worked on the travel logistics together for that trip and I was obviously nervous and worried.  I was moving around without a “walker,” but needed a cane for support at that moment and knew I wasn’t going to be able to run or even walk very fast to make a flight.  In addition, my knee was VERY tender and any bumping or banging was going to be a disaster, so lots to consider when making arrangements.  Cathy worked on the travel logistics and got me into a large, exit row aisle seat (27D if I remember correctly) on the Delta 757 and the trip went without a major hitch!!

The reason for this story comes from my flight last week to LA where I sat in seat 27C of the same kind of airplane and had a fellow passenger coming down the center aisle of the plane completely banged into and jammed my right knee, my surgery knee!!  While painful and surprising, it wasn’t devastating since I have had such a good recovery over the past three years.  While no big deal last week (I felt fine the next day actually,) it did make me wonder what would have happened if that had occurred on that ATL-PHX flight back in 2016!  It would have been devastating and a total mess and as I was imagining the pain (yow!!) I realized that it probably wouldn’t have happened at all since I was in Seat 27D, not 27C on that historic flight.  Think about it, 27C is an exit row aisle seat with my right knee open to the aisle….. right in the action zone, where 27D is an exit row aisle seat where my right knee is protected from the center aisle and adjacent to the middle seat passenger.

This may all seem trivial and a bit technical, but it struck me last week how we ( probably totally Cathy!!) had really thought thorough the planning for that trip back in 2016 and insured that i not only got a exit row seat with a lot of room, but also one where my “weak knee” would be protected from the center aisle passenger traffic.  That was the lightbulb moment for me, “disciplined pre-planning” kept me safe on that trip ATL-PHX!  Really thinking though a situation allowed me to avoid the “bump” and the “jam” of the passengers in the center aisle that happens so frequently.  having a work partner like Cathy who really knew my challenges and issues at that moment allowed me to have a successful trip without accident or issue!

As you think about your future trips, or business plans, customer meetings, candidate interviews, board discussions, etc.,  take an extra second and ask yourself if you are looking hard enough at the situation at hand to determine the seat 27D (vs seat 27C) option that will allow you the most success at the challenge that lies ahead for you.  Take an extra moment to do the “disciplined pre-planning” and I am confident that you will benefit from the time and energy spent!