On Sitting Six Rows Back

I’m in an airplane, sitting six rows back from first class. Just six small rows separate me and first class. Well, six rows and a sheer curtain that does nothing to obstruct one’s view of the fantasyland that is first class life but does everything to communicate the message that you are definitely not living the first class life.

Right now, the flight attendant appears to be serving the first class passengers meals on real china with actual utensils. I got to pay eight bucks for a plastic box of cheese and crackers. Well, I’m exaggerating; I also got walnuts and peanuts. My bad. Oh wait, now she’s passing around the bread basket in first class. I can only assume the meals have been paired with an appropriate wine straight from Napa Valley.

All is not lost, though. Hubby procured exit row seats for us. What this Faustian bargain entails is that, for a few extra (precious) inches of legroom, you agree to aid the crew in an emergency by opening the exit door and helping passengers out. So, yes, once everyone else has safely cleared the plane after it has crash landed, you will lag behind and be engulfed in the flames of the explosion. But, as tragic as that is, your knees will feel better at that moment of immolation, and that will bring a peace as you cross over the River Styx.

Okay, there are the hot towels. Bet that feels great. My small cocktail napkin probably doesn’t feel as good against my grimy skin. Okay, let me test that out.

Yep, I was right. That is totally uncomfortable.

So, Kim (that’s the name I’ve given the first class flight attendant — it just sounds nice) just had a really warm interaction with a passenger. Smiles were exchanged, a soft hand on a shoulder, direct eye contact, genuine sincerity. That was really nice to watch. Thus far, Ursula (that’s the name I’ve given my flight attendant) has hit my elbow four times with the beverage cart. I’m pretty sure she backed the cart up one time just to hit me again. That’s okay, the half glass of water I got was worth it. I wasn’t planning on using my elbow anytime soon, and the three days left in my vacation should give it ample time to heal.

Wow, Kim just surprised everyone in first class with giant chocolate chip cookies. Hold on. Yes, she is definitely explaining to the first class passengers that she personally baked the cookies in the galley kitchen. Oh, it’s her personal recipe. Handed down for four generations by her family. Okay, must be a French first class passenger, because Kim effortlessly switched to French, explaining the intricacies of the recipe, simultaneously, in both languages. The cookies do look amazing.

I have’t seen Ursula in at least half an hour.

Wait, another flight attendant just slid open the curtain separating first class and the rest of us. Could the first class lifestyle waft back to us? Okay, I see now. No, the first class lifestyle is not wafting back to us. What is wafting back, though, is the trash bag the flight attendant is carrying. Apparently, the trash first class generates cannot be stored in first class but must travel in coach. Seems only fair. As she passed, I do think I got a whiff of those delicious cookies.

So, a passenger three rows ahead of me just got up and opened the sheer curtain, attempting to walk up to the first class bathroom. At that moment, Kim was helping one of the first class passengers sharpen her resume for a job opening at the United Nations, but, when she saw the dude from coach cross into the promise land, she leapt up like a ninja, spinning over two rows like an Olympic gymnast does a pommel horse, landing in front of him. She was incredibly sweet but firm, explaining that the first class bathroom has special technology that only responds to passengers in first class. Should he attempt to use the lavatory, it would result in a mess appropriate for coach, not first class. Kim’s blue apron blocked his way, a silent guardian, a clear message to him that his bladder would find no solace at this end of the plane. From his posture, I could tell the passenger had to come to grips with his place on the plane, his place in life. Ultimately, though, he accepted the uncomfortable truth.

Speaking of uncomfortable, my chair, with its dearth of lumbar support, paucity of breathable fabric, and pinching sides, is positioned just so, allowing me to observe that the first class chairs are significantly more padded and ample. On the bright side, trying to sit with my back not touching the exposed springs of my chair does appear to lead to better posture. I guess the airline really does care.

The head flight attendant has come over the speaker, announcing a credit card offer. It seems that if you get the airline’s credit card, you can earn extra frequent flyer miles. Apparently, if you fly all the time, always using the same airline, in about 20-25 years, you can accumulate enough miles for a free flight. Domestic only. No holidays. No weekends. No summer trips. Fine print says it only applies to flights in and out of Topeka, Kansas. On Wednesdays. In January. Seems fair. During the announcement, I watched Kim hand out bundles of cash from a Brinks bag to the first class passengers. Again, seems fair.

So I’m not in first class. I can accept that. Hubby and I will get home. Eventually. Sure, we’ll feel gross, be exhausted, and ache all over, but we’ll get there. I don’t need to be fawned and fussed over, my every whim attended to. I can just sit here, admittedly uncomfortably, and wait it out. Wait out this misery. Wait out this endurance test, this crucible, this trial worthy of Odysseus. I’ll accept this as a challenge to my inner strength. My perseverance. I don’t need anything or anyone. I’m a self-made man. A rugged individual. Watch me find inner peace in this storm.

Wait, is Kim giving everyone in first class massages? Where the hell is Ursula?

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