Middle seat: where else would you want to be?

We all hate the middle seat … but how much? According to a survey commissioned by 3M, 56 percent of respondents would rather sit in traffic than a middle seat, with the same amount preferring a blind date (at least the getaway is easier). For 54 percent, a trip to the dentist is preferable. To avoid a middle seat, half said they’d take a later flight to avoid a middle seat, with 20 percent willing to spend a night in an airport hotel instead of spending a few hours crammed between two other passengers.

So, what bugs us about the middle seat? Everything, it seems. A hefty 84 percent didn’t want a nosy neighbor engaging in over-the-shoulder reading, with 83 percent lamenting the inability to stretch and the fact that they have to climb over someone to get to the lav. Then, of course, the “overweight” issue came up. Eighty percent feared being sandwiched between two large passengers. Finally, 71 percent don’t like the middle seat because there’s nowhere to rest your head.

Fortunately, being booked in a middle seat doesn’t have to mean that that’s where you’ll wind up. MSNBC was kind enough to offer a few tips:

1. Try to get out of it: start a communication campaign with the airline. Start a few days before your flight to see if there’s anything better (including an affordable upgrade). Check in 24 hours in advance (the earliest for most airlines), and try to change your seat. And, ask at the check-in counter. Finally, if you’re out of options, try the gate. Be polite and first in line, as both make a difference.

2. Look for a “2-3-2″: planes that have two seats, an aisle, three seats, an aisle and two seats only have one middle seat per aisle. Planes that are “3 & 3″ have two middle seats per aisle. Do the math.

3. Move before your neighbor gets busy: if you need to get to the lav, fetch something from your overhead bin (putting a bag up there lets you put your feet under the seat in front of you) or anything else, do it early. Once the aisle seat dweller pops open his laptop or shuts his eyes, everything becomes a project.

Need more ideas?