How Far The Mighty Have Fallen…..

Only two 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.


Until 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 ticket. Minneapolis 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 somehow.


And I have no idea how I am going to manage all this with a baby on the way back!