When I saw those stark words — “Flight Delayed” — on my computer at 7:30 this morning, I went from barely awake to fight-or-flight (without the flight) caffeination. Within 30 minutes, I had speed-showered, rushed over to my office (one of the few places on the Goddard campus where I could use a phone that didn’t drop every call), and discovered all was well, if not delayed, in the universe, and something else too: a welcome to First Class.
What? I had to read it several times. Seems that my projected two-hour delay was bumping me from downstairs to upstairs. Having never flown first class before, my mind doggie-paddled with possibilities. Would there be champagne, caviar, jumbo shrimp, hot chocolate chip cookies? Maybe I’d be offered a steaming towel to refresh my face after the complementary manicure. What actually happened behind the blue curtain?
The whole thing reminded me of a lodging upgrade a few months ago in Kalamazoo when my cheapest-room-within-walking-distance-of-the-train-station was suddenly upgraded to a grand suite. When I checked in, the hotel clerk asked if I wanted dishes sent up, which was my first clue that something was different. “Why would I need dishes?” I asked him. He politely explained that they could be handy in the kitchen I was getting.
I was hanging out with my friend Stephanie at the time, who had driven me to the city and was going to look at my room with me before we dined and parted. Having just spent five days in her small book-lined house in the woods with a woman who wrote a book called Epicurian Simplicity, I was more than dazed when we went up to the suite. “I can’t stay here! It’s much too big,” I told her as we tentatively opened cabinets, ran from room to room, and opened the drapes to reveal floor-to-ceiling windows curving around the corner of the large living room/dining room/kitchen. I have no idea why I was given that space, but after detailed discussions about whether I should beg for something more humble, I surrendered to luxury. Amazing how fast we can get used to fancy digs: by the next morning, I was reluctant to leave.
It’s interesting to glimpse how the upper 10% (or whatever percent) lives, but the most fun part of it all was speaking with a U.S. Airways rep before the flight when I told her I had a stupid question to ask her. “There are no stupid questions,” she said.
“Actually, I think there are many stupid questions in the world, but here’s mine: do they feed us in first class? I usually grab some dinner at the airport, but is there going to be fine china and gourmet food in my near future?”
She checked the computer as if what I was asking wasn’t so stupid, then told me the truth. “No, not on the 5:15 p.m. flight.” Instead, there are slightly bigger seats with more room between them. Also, the plastic drink cups are a few ounces bigger, and we were offered a choice of a treat (pretzels, tiny packs of cookies, or potato chips). The cookies I surely don’t need are not baking on board, and there’s no hot wash clothes being doled out with sterling silver tongs. So I do have to wonder why people would pay hundreds of dollars more for a packaged fig bar with their slightly-taller glass of ginger ale.On the other hand, no need to look a gift horse in the mouth. Instead, we ride on, the whole plane engulfed in some turbulence right now, first class as well as coach class being jerked around in our seat belts as we dream of solid ground.