How Far The Mighty Have Fallen…..
years ago I was routinely flying a couple hundred thousand miles a year on
commercial airlines. And although I suffered from constant dehydration and
permanently cramped legs, the reward was what I like to think of the Flying
High Syndrome. I walked into
airports and people bowed, or so it seemed. I walked into any “lounge”
and was accepted. I looked askance at a counter agent and I was upgraded. It was my world and it was good.
That is, until
February of this year, when United, Delta, and American all simultaneously
realized that I was no longer filling their coffers with business class fares
to locales such as Freetown, Amman,
and Nairobi. And they cut me off. Oh, they eased me in, first just
dropping me from Platinum to Gold and then sending me a discreet signal by
threatening me with Silver. And all
the while I sat in Minneapolis,
grateful to not travel much with my job, loving the lack of recycled air, and
forgetting the taste of airplane food.
today. When it was payback
time. My premium status on United
ran out in February. I knew
that. But I had forgotten what it
was like when you are not a feudal lord in the fiefdom of the airport.
I checked in
well ahead of time in Minneapolis,
hoping to score an exit row or at least a good window upfront. The gate agent smiled (this time no
longer in a “I live to please you” way but rather in a “this
crazy Midwestern hick doesn’t know the rules”) and politely explained
that the exit rows and the seats up front were reserved for “Elite Members”. Of which, of course, I am no longer.
I asked him to
get me up front as much as possible in that case and could I have a
window? He smirked and handed me my
to O’Hare, seat 28C. A middle
seat in the last row. O’Hare to Frankfurt,
seat 42G. (There are only 43 rows
on the Boeing 777.) Oh, and it was
not a window seat, but I probably didn’t need to add that.
On to security
where I instinctively went to the Elite Members short line and was chastised
and sent over to the 700 person deep line next door.
I can barely
speak about the flight – I think I’m beginning to repress the
memory. I remember sitting very very very close to a young man who smelled (so
much so that the flight attendant actually apologized and gave me some tea bags
to smell, I kid you not) and who wanted to chat for a very long time about his
duty free purchase of Camel cigarettes.
And then proceeded to climb over me 4 times before the plane even took
off. Oh, and did I mention the
movie was Aeon Flux?
In Frankfurt, I realized I’d never actually spent any
time in the airport except for the first class lounge. Where to go? I can’t walk too far as my carry
on bag is about 70 lbs I think.
Wouldn’t you know that Gulbanu had a craving for sparkling apple
cider and so Jim sent out a request. I’m carrying three bottles and they
are heavy! I started off carrying
four. That is part of the repressed memory. Let’s just say my spare set of
clothes won’t be useful until they’ve met a laundry! Too bad her craving wasn’t for
say, popped popcorn or cotton candy!
Ha. Anyway, It turns out
there really is no good place to sit. So I type this from the floor of
terminal a 2 hours remaining of my 5 hour layover. Life is grand!
Of course if
Margaret were with me, we’d be having a blast right now. We’d be making fun of ourselves,
probably taking dumb photos and she’d be showing off her fluent German
And I have no
idea how I am going to manage all this with a baby on the way back!