I have never blown in business class before. Well, that is not exactly true, once I was flying with a college to Florida for work and she had the stomach flu so I upgraded us on Air Tran to business class so she would be more comfortable. On Air Tran that essentially meant we got ice cubes in our water. That was all fine and well, my friend was going to feel like hell regardless. I am just sure she appreciated the additional three inches of leg space that the upgradeave us. She still owes me twenty-five bucks.
My first real experience with the upper class business traveler occurred coming home from Asia. My company decided to fly me coach on the way there and business class for the way home. I had not really known what to expect with the special treatment I was anticipating. I had heard you got some extras, extra attention, extra special food, and free booze. I was all over the idea of free booze. You find out quickly is that sitting up front is clearly a unique club. It's like being in the front seat with Dad when your youngger sibs are smashed in the back seat all sweaty, snot nosed, and screaming, “Daddy, Danny is looking at me!” As I did not know how to work anything, I watched in fascination as everyone went through his or her rituals. Some people quickly put on their first class slippers, others ordered a drink, and a couple had some odd punching routine with their pillows. I could not find my little TV. Everyone seemed to have one but me. In a somewhat pathetic tone, I asked where my TV was. I just said it out loud to no one in particular. The flight attendant came rushing over, like I had asked for a defibrillator. She pointed to the armrest. “Oh” I said, “down in this skinny slot.” I was peering down into the slot, when the flight attendant nicely, but quietly whispered, “there's nothing else down there.” I wanted to say in some exasperated tone, “Well I know that.” But, that would have been a lie. Everything around me was so neatly packaged. How did I know there was not a pop tart or something waiting to be rescued?
Amazingly enough, before the masses have even gotten situated in coach, they are bringing us food. Not just food, but real choices. Pasta? Steak? Fish? “Are you kidding,” I asked? It's hard to be such a rookie and have everyone know. I could have been savvier, but I had not really slept in eight days so I was unable to fake anything. I was expecting no one would ask me if his or her hair looked good, or if they looked fat in their new jeans. I felt a bit emotional too, which is usually what comes with exhaustion, lack of routine, and stress. Every time the flight attendant either said something nice or asked me if I wanted a refill, I would tear up.
I chose the fish and then … it began. I could not stop eating. I felt oddly compelled to eat everything they put in front of me. It was so pretty, they were so pretty, everyone was so nice, I just ate everything in my path. I knew I had crossed the digestive line, but I could not stop. There I was, “yes, I would like that, sure another glass of wine, oh, Baileys and ice cream, sounds great.” I felt like the evening of Thanksgiving after having also just gotten my period. It's called “full.” It becomes so out of hand, I say to the guy next to me, “are you going to eat that cookie?” I was afraid to actually nap, what if I missed the pound cake or something?
This got me thinking. Something takes over when you go into business class. And that alerts me. I say to the guy next to me, what I've had a great couple of hours of conversation with, as well as munched on his leftovers, “do you know that there are 300 people behind that curtain who are miserable, cramped, and feeling homicidal? ” He says, “huh?” I say, “EXACTLY.”
My content is when you've been flying business class for a fair amount of time, you FORGET. You simply FORGET. You think that the plane is actually only 4 rows of seats, 6 across. You believe that the world of travel is this amazing, nice, tidy, and comfortable place. That everyone in real life has their own TV monitor, slippers, blanket, personalized toothbrush, and little bag of mints. Maybe you thought that all three hundred people in that “other” part of the plane are also struggling with the menu and whether to stay on Atkins during the flight. Hello. The noise you hear that sounds like crinkling are three hundred people ripping open their 1-ounce bag of pretzels. Perhaps you thought the was the wrapping around their filet?
Not so much. Sometimes they do not really feed people back there because they are afraid that that many people may then have a bowel movement and four bathrooms for that many does not bode well. I found out that they do not let the people in coach use “our bathrooms.” I'm sure its because those people have some undesirable elements that we in business class would not want to catch. Do people in coach not wash their hands? That must be it. That curtain preventing them from even thinking about our designer stalls looked thicker than the new doors put on the cockpits. As they stand in line to pee, we're watching movies, reading the Wall Street Journal, and having someone fluff our pillows. There is Aveda in our bathroom, both a facial mist and hydrating lotion. I did not realize how much the mist could rejuvenate my mature skin until now. I wish my friends could have seen me. I was totally glowing. Unfortunately my stomach was distributed about 7 inches, but whatever, that mist took 6 months off my face.
Now let me be clear. I am grateful and appreciative of my company's willingness to go the extra mile for me here. It is not about that. It is the bigger picture. A lesson for everyone, next time you are flying a great distance and you are in business class, force yourself to remember about that last 37 rows. Throw them a brownie or something. On second thought, maybe some cheese.