Not long ago, I was accidentally seated in First Class on a flight from Portland to Houston. Accidentally, because there were no seats available back in steerage when I booked the flight, courtesy of my husband’s frequent-flyer work miles. The news of my good fortune came via my check-in 24 hours prior to the flight.
I did a happy dance right there in the living room with our hound, Scout. Scout was born in an undisclosed location, then discovered in a dumpster off highway 219 in Cherokee county, North Carolina living with her two brothers. She landed in the lap of luxury when she was adopted by us. When I say luxury I mean two squares a day, a faux sheepskin-lined dog bed, a rolled-leather collar and owners who don’t mind a French kiss now and then. Scout understands accidentally finding yourself in First Class.
The morning of my flight I awoke at 2:00 a.m. and touched my toes to the wood floor beside the bed. Recalling my lucky break, I decided to begin my travel day feeling a titch less resentful of the major airline I was flying than I almost always am. I was chatty and magnanimous with my taxi driver, a young woman planning a second solo trip to Thailand a few months off, and offered free advice on travel and writing. I smiled at the TSA folks. Granted, I also got to go through the pre-check line, which already had me in my happy place.
Normally relegated to boarding group 5, which is reserved for the unwashed, the unfaithful flyers, the ones who shop for the best deals on flights rather than go for reward miles, and who think an airline-sponsored credit card is just an inch away from pandering, I stood casually elegant yet hyper-aware in group 1. In my left hand I held a $12 magazine I had snagged off an empty seat in the airport terminal, which promised upscale living, luxury getaways and how-to-tie-a-bowtie articles. The paperstock was so luxurious and heavy I could barely lift it. Premier boarding was mine, but I glanced surreptitiously around, thinking the entire time, “Soon they will recognize that I don’t belong in group 1. My seat will have been double-booked. I’ll be slut-shamed into the economy cabin where I belong. There sits my ilk.”
I got away with it. I stretched out and still could not use up all my leg room. First, I perused my $12 magazine. Yawn. Then I read the inflight magazine reserved for first class passengers. It’s called Rhapsody. I kid you not. If I tell you too much about it, I am certain that I will be shot by my new handlers: the stewardesses of the First Class cabin.
I read about $10,000 cell phones, those bow ties, and Lenny Kravitz, who is super cool for rich folks now. I took pictures out the window of cloud formations because I could enjoy a window seat and still get out to use the toilet any damned time I wanted to without disturbing my neighbor. No one spoke above a whisper. Including my seat mate, who never said a single word to me in a nearly 5-hour flight. God bless him. The stewardess-wait-staff knew my name and offered me so many beverages that I availed myself of that ease of toilet usage more than I normally would. More than a 6 year-old would even. I received a lemon-scented towel before a hot breakfast of my choice was offered on a cloth-covered tray. Did you know they give first class passengers metal utensils? There are no terrorism concerns in First Class.
A Bloody Mary with my name on it accompanied breakfast, but that was okay because I turned my watch ahead to Central Daylight Time which made it nearly 8:00 a.m. It was the first Bloody Mary I have ever had on a domestic flight which did not require me adding my own smuggled-aboard vodka. Ditto for the second Bloody. My seat mate ordered a “fresh” Diet Coke when his old one had sat too long, which by my watch was 12 minutes.
Morphing into a faux-wealthy person happened so quickly my neck hurt a little from the snap. I found myself being more polite. My inner curser, who doesn’t tolerate stupid well and operates pretty much continually, was quieter and forgiving to a such degree that I wondered if she were banished forever. I even had better posture. Screw yoga.
Was the sunrise really this gorgeous back in steerage? I think not.
I started saying things like, “I think not.”
Five practically pleasurable hours later, I landed in Houston, with 24 minutes to make my connecting flight. On which I would not have a First Class seat. I headed with my roller bag toward the moving walkway. The one with the big sign above it stating clearly, “Stand Right, Walk Left”. Ahead of me, a couple stood conversing on the moving walkway. On the right and on the left.
“Excuse me,” I said, still polite from my First Class experience and because I was raised in Minnesota where politeness is taught in schools. Along with snow shoveling techniques and the rules of ice hockey. In fact, in Minnesota, you don’t even say “ice hockey” because the other kind is stupid. Except we’re too polite to say that to your face.
The illiterate woman standing in my way on the moving walkway, turned to me and said, “Well, SOMEONE’S in a hurry.” I felt my First Class sotto voce curser rise to the surface.
“It’s an airport. We’re all in a hurry, asshole.” The guy behind me added “Yeah!” in a squeaky voice. He needs advice on being a wingman, but I appreciated the effort.
After settling into seat 26D I looked around. My seat mate seemed sweet, despite the odor coming from what I guessed was lunch in the bag on her lap. My seat wasn’t three feet wide, but it reclined and was covered in leather. The stewardess joked around, and even though the soft drinks weren’t freshened every 12 minutes, we all accepted that as our lot. We even worked out the whole getting-up-to-go-to-the-toilet ballet without pepper-spraying each other. I managed to survive the 40-minute flight among my ilk, the compadres of Economy Class and came back down to Earth.