A question for you frequent fliers: Do you ever fly first class?
I don’t travel often, but I fly at least once or twice a year, and in all that time, I’ve been seated in first class only once. It was when the puddle jumper from Key West to Miami broke down on the runway. (Add “do you smell jet fuel?” to the list of things you don’t want to hear two stewardesses murmuring to one another back by the galley.) I missed my connection, and I was rebooked back to Columbus in first. Without going into too much detail about what happened on my last night in Key West, let me just say that a first-class seat going home felt like a gift from… well, not from God. God would never have rewarded bad behavior that way.
But it was wonderful. The wide seat, the halfway-decent food, and especially the Bloody Marys, which started on the ground and continued without so much as a raised eyebrow until I drifted off into a lovely nap somewhere over Tennessee — it all felt positively luxurious, at least as compared to the conditions in steerage. (And this was 1980. Conditions in steerage weren’t all that bad.)
I had a friend at the time who traveled often for business, and always flew first-class. It was company policy that the consulting work they did had to include the expensive ticket, and she always said that if I ever needed to travel as much as she did, I’d understand why. Oh, I understand.
Over the years, I’ve known many people who brag of their ability to get upgraded to first, either through strategic deployment of frequent-flier miles, shameless flattery of gate agents, or equally shameless lying about bad knees and hips and pounding migraines. One guy just had the gift, he said; he had mastered the combination of grovel and assertive confidence that made the person with the power helpless before the request, and would unhook the velvet rope to the front of the aircraft.
I ask because there’s always a pause during boarding when you have to stand in the aisle right inside the door, and you can examine the lucky 16 or 20 or however many who have the good ticket, and while there are always the obvious candidates — the women with expensive jewelry, the guys whose innate imperiousness screams CEO, Sarah Palin — there are always a few wild cards, too. The ratty-looking guy with the enormous stomach — does he absorb the extra cost as a comfort measure? Because I wouldn’t want to pack that basketball into coach, either. The kid staring out the window with no evident parent — an unaccompanied minor? Someone tell her it’s not like this, and not to get used to it, she’s just getting the parental-guilt upgrade.
David Sedaris once wrote amusingly about flying first-class transatlantic on Air France — I guess when you sell books like that guy, your publisher doesn’t mind paying — and being asked if he’d mind if the crew seated someone next to him, someone who spent the entire flight sobbing. Having flown transatlantic in coach, I can say that if that kind of midflight upgrade doesn’t cheer you up, you’re probably suicidal. My transatlantic flight nearly featured a mutiny; a bigger seat would have made it that much easier to bear. (Confidentially, I’ve always wanted to make that crossing on a no-name freighter, maybe in an unused crew cabin. I could get some reading done and stroll on the deck twice a day.)
But the best comment on the subject was, of course, “The Airport,” one of the best “Seinfeld” episodes ever. I’d like one of those ice cream sundaes.
Bleh day, bleh me, bleh bloggage:
Said it before, saying it again: You should add Planet Money to your bookmarks. Especially if you’re not much of a money person.
“Deliverance,” the novel, reconsidered. I missed this last week, but the novel’s been out for decades — the reconsideration didn’t get stale in seven days.
Tonight marks the official announcement of the end of the war in Iraq. Years ago, when my crappy newspaper planned a special Victory in Iraq issue, my husband spoke up at the meeting and said it was a ridiculous idea, and that we’d be there for years. It got him scowled at, but it’s good to know he was right.
And here comes another hurricane. Time to get to work.