So here’s how a violinist gets an aisle seat

So here’s how a violinist gets an aisle seat


norman lebrecht

April 27, 2018

From our diarist Anthea Kreston:


I have been home for four days, back from our Quartet USA tour. I still feel utterly wiped out – not only am I struggling to find my place again with my family (so far, the girls have refused to eat the oatmeal I have cooked every day – it isn’t made the way that Dada makes it), but emotionally I am weary, and my arms are still trying to find their way back from two weeks of overuse. Playing 11 concerts in 13 days, in the way my Quartet plays, is equally taxing on my body and mind. Last night my arms woke me up, with painful tingles running up and down both forearms. But, they are finding their way back. And I am finding my way back.

We are in meetings all week – individual meetings in all of our homes, and group meetings with our manager. So – without further ado, here’s a silly story from an airplane ride last week.

Getting on our flight from Houston to Oakland, I was filled with trepidation. We were flying Southwest, an airline with first-come-first-serve seating, and my boarding number was really high. It would be tough to find space for both my violin and backpack, and the jockeying for seats would be tough – I would probably get a middle seat in front of the bathrooms.

I made it about two-thirds down the aisle, when I spotted a coveted window. Middle seat empty! How is this possible? I quickly knew the answer – in the aisle seat sat an elderly woman, baseball cap on, hunched over her iPhone, punching letters slowly, one at a time, with her index finger, and swaying a-rhythmically in a kind-of figure 8 pattern. I took a breath and asked her if the seat was taken. She didn’t show any signs that she had heard me, and after a couple of more attempts, I tapped her on the shoulder and asked her.

She glanced quickly up, screwed her eyes at me, and mumbled something about seat assignments or something. I squeezed past her, and as I settled in, she looked over at me from under her brim, eyes sparkling and said – “if we play this right, we can have an empty middle seat!”. Ha! She told me to look strange, and I pulled my scarf over my head in a weird way and looked intently out the window. As the plane filled up, people had no choice but to ask about our middle seat. For the first person, I said in an awkwardly loud voice “I just ate an entire bag of apricots!”, and the person moved on. Thumbs up from my row-mate. The next person, after they passed my seat-partner’s test and had the nerve to move on to me, got “I am so sorry – I am going to have to pee like every 2 minutes. I just drank an iced-tea this big!” That seemed to work, but eventually the announcement came that the flight was sold out, every seat would be taken. We looked at each other, and Nan (we were now on first name basis, and it turned out that not only was she a classical music lover, but a fan of the Artemis Quartet) said – ok – now we have to be smart and pick a good middle-seater. She smiled warmly at a slender, cleanly cut middle aged man and said – our seat is open! He sat down, and I fell asleep to the two of them chatting away – waking several hours later to discover they had made fast friends.

So – Nan and I exchanged emails, and to my utter joy, she came to greet me after our concert in San Francisco. My sister grilled her on the details (sometimes people, for some reason, think I just make up these stories straight out of my head), and after the apricot comment was confirmed, we had a nice chat and selfie.

Have a great week!


  • Alexander says:

    I reminisced my seventeen while reading this , good job 😉

  • David says:

    “I just ate an entire bag of apricots!”

    This is the best thing I’ve ever read on the internet.

    Totally awesome.

  • Jaime Herrera says:

    Why didn’t you just lie and tell everyone the seat was taken? What’s wrong with that?

  • Bruce says:


  • Marg says:

    That just made my day, reading this over breakfast. I laughed and laughed. What nerves of steel to carry that ploy out on both your parts. And she was an Artemis fan …. sometimes you wonder about the syncroncity of things.