Do you have a bucket list? You know, a list of things that you’d like to do before you die? I do – and while I know realistically that I may not complete everything due to my financial limitations, a girl can dream.
My daughter helped me to check off one of my bucket list items the other day.
I spent a bit over two weeks in Washington DC with my daughter and her family, helping out and getting to know my brand new grandson. I had purchased my economy airline ticket for the trip out on Southwest Airlines – their bare bones accommodations and no assigned seating works best for my budget – despite the occasional bad experience. Plus, I have a Rapid Rewards credit card, so I manage to get about a free flight a year.
My daughter offered to purchase my trip back home on Delta Airlines with some frequent flyer points she had saved up and I accepted. She travels a lot for her job and racks up the airline and hotel points at a pretty brisk pace – still, it’s always weird when your kids offer to pay for things for you. It’s my job to do things for them – not the other way around! It always makes me wish I would have taken my education and career choices much more seriously when I was young, so that I could be in a more comfortable income bracket now. But no, I thought that becoming a rich and famous radio announcer was much more important (and we all know how well that plan worked out for me).
As my daughter dropped me and my granddaughter off at the Delta departures curb so I could check in for my flight while she parked the car, she said (in a rather offhand way), “Remember, you don’t have to stand in the regular line. Your tickets are first class – so go to the priority line.”
My jaw literally dropped and I gaped at her. “What? First class?! Really??”
She laughed and told me it had only cost 2000 more points for the upgrade, so she had gone ahead and booked it. She explained that all of the alcoholic drinks would be free and I would have dinner on my connecting flight out of Atlanta. Dinner on a domestic flight?? I thought that kind of thing had ended for good after 9/11!
I took my granddaughter’s hand and, with the other guiding my rolling bag, made my way to the priority ticket line to check in. I was a bit tentative – was I in the right line? Was I dressed appropriately to masquerade as a rich person? Thank God I had washed my hair that morning! After a tiny panic attack, I decided I just needed to embrace the experience. The ticket agent was assisting a family at the counter, so I waited patiently and then I was approached by another agent.
“Did you attempt to check in at one of the kiosks?” She asked in a friendly voice.
“Um, no. Should I?” Dammit! I knew I wouldn’t pass for a rich person! I should subtlety let her know I’m supposed to be here. “Is this not the first class check in line?”
She assured me that I was in the right place and asked the time of my flight, saying she was just wanting to make sure my checked bag made it aboard before the cutoff. She chatted with me a moment longer and then directed me to an agent when they came to the counter. I was checked in efficiently and then the ticket agent pointed down the concourse about 30 yards, “You just need to take your bag down to those men in the blue shirts.”
Wait a minute, I thought, you want me to wheel my suitcase to the luggage screeners myself? But…I’m flying first class! Shouldn’t you have a minion on hand to do this sort of stuff? I had to give myself a mental shake – it’s not like you’re the queen of England, girl. Don’t let the first class tickets go to your head! I wheeled my bag to the pleasant young men loading them through the x-ray machines and then my granddaughter and I went to meet my daughter, who was just coming down the concourse with her new baby.
They escorted me to the security checkpoint where we said our tearful good-byes and I made my way through security and down to the gate. I was parched, but I saw that my flight was already boarding and I decided I didn’t have time to stop for a drink. When I got closer, I saw that they were boarding the coach customers and that all of the first class flyers had already boarded. I pondered for a moment — what should I do? Should I stand in line and board after everyone else? Or should I go right up to the front? In the end, I settled for standing, rather awkwardly, in the priority boarding area. After just a moment, the gate agent saw me and motioned me forward – I smiled an apology to those I cut in front of and handed over my boarding pass. It was scanned and the gate agent gave me a sincere smile and welcomed me aboard…by name!
The flight from DC to Atlanta was short and the plane was on the small side with just eight first class seats, located just in front of the coach seats. But these seats were large – just two on each side – with a wide console between the two where a bottle of water was waiting for me. My daughter, knowing me well, had booked an aisle seat for me (because, easier access to emergency egress in case of the plane bursting into a fiery ball of death – duh!) On the seat, there was a blanket and a pillow for my comfort (seriously, I thought they quit making those!) Just as I stowed my computer bag and purse under the seat, a flight attendant appeared and asked if I would like something to drink…before takeoff…while the riffraff were still boarding! (Cut it out, Jana – remember, you are not a multi-millionaire or royalty!) She promptly brought me the requested soft drink (in a large cup!) and promptly offered another when I finished (I was parched, remember?) I didn’t even have to finish it before we took off!
Once we were in the air, I perused the liquor selection listed in the in-flight magazine. Now, I’m not a big drinker (those of you who met me at the BlogU conference might disagree – but really, normally I’m not). I don’t like beer or wine, and I would never order a scotch neat or double whiskey (are those even things? I think I’ve seen them in movies), nor would I order something like a rum and Coke (because you can taste the rum – and I don’t really like the taste of liquor).
When imbibe, I drink girly cocktails – Fuzzy Navels, frozen Daiquiri, Pina Coladas – those types of things, so I wasn’t expecting to find anything that appealed to me. But Delta Airlines offers a Margarita! I asked if they had them available and one was quickly served to me – in a glass glass! A selection of snacks were also offered – not just your usual pretzels and nuts – there was fruit, bags of chips, cookies, and other things (I couldn’t make it all out and figured that rich folk probably don’t go rifling through the snack basket picking up and then discarding various snacks…or maybe they do…how would I know?). I boldly took two snacks. My margarita was replaced as quickly as I could drink it and I was feeling more than a little tipsy when the plane landed. I also had an incredibly full bladder – so I was thrilled to be the second person off the plane!
After visiting the restroom, I made my way to my connecting flight (what, no first class shuttle between gates for the elite?) bypassing the various food courts along the way, knowing that my dinner was free on the next flight. When I got to the gate, my first class status went to my head a little (or it may have been the margaritas) – I zigged and zagged my way through the crowd of peasants waiting to board, smirking a little as I planted myself firmly in front of the priority boarding area. It was only after we started to board that I realized I had also planted myself in front of other first class passengers who had been politely standing back a few feet waiting for the gate agent to announce boarding. Whoops – how gauche!
On the plane, I was directed to turn left when I boarded and was thrilled to find that the first class section of this plane was separated from business and coach – there was actually a curtain hanging to discourage snooping by the less privileged! After a few minutes, my seatmate arrived – a woman a bit younger than myself, dressed impeccably in designer brands and practically dripping with gold and jewels. She was traveling with a slightly older woman whose seat was in the row ahead. My seatmate said to her friend, in sotto voce, “I’m surprised we weren’t seated together!” Her companion replied, “Oh, how disappointing. I’ll miss you!” My initial reaction was to offer up my seat so that they could sit together – but then I saw that her friend was seated directly in front of her – in the window seat. We’ve already established that I don’t much care for window seats – it doesn’t do to be boxed in when the shit hits the fan! Plus, when I thought about it for a second, it occurred to me that my seatmate could not have possibly been surprised that she was not sitting next to her friend. These were assigned seats, for God’s sake! I smiled and greeted her, standing so that she could get to her seat and pretending that I hadn’t heard her comment (although she had obviously intended for me to do so and had been watching me intently for the several seconds it took me to analyze the situation and come to a decision). Now, don’t get me wrong – if she had been a mother and her traveling companion a small child, I would have given up my seat in a heartbeat – I’m not an asshole. But that wasn’t the situation, and this was my perfect and possibly only first class experience – and I wasn’t going to compromise it for someone who clearly traveled this way regularly. My seatmate did not return my smile and pouted in displeasure as she sat down.
Again, I was offered a beverage before takeoff and I again took advantage of the free margaritas. Shortly into the flight, the attendant appeared at my seat, asking, “Will you be joining us for dinner?” Well, yes! I’d be thrilled to be part of that exclusive club! She offered a choice between Chipotle Beef or Grilled Shrimp with Japanese Noodles. I opted for the shrimp and had to restrain myself from gushing to my seatmate, “Do you believe this?? Dinner on a domestic flight?”
Just before dinner was served, a flight attendant spread a tiny tablecloth on each tray table and brought a beverage (another Margarita in my case) in lovely glassware. The meal was served on a wooden tray, with a cloth napkin, real silverware, attractive dishes, and a tiny salt and pepper shaker.
I took a bite of the noodles and was surprised to find that they were cold. I then surreptitiously placed a finger on the shrimp – also cold. Were they supposed to be cold? There was a lettuce and red pepper mixture under my shrimp – rather like a salad, so that would make sense. Should I ask or would that make me look foolish? I glanced to my right and left, as the passengers around me had also opted for the shrimp – and they were eating with gusto. I followed their lead (it’s basically what I do in any social situation where I feel like a total moron). The meal was light and delicious and I didn’t regret my choice (although that hot Chipotle Beef smelled incredible).
A movie was shown on overhead screens. I wondered briefly if everyone on the plane got to see it or if it was just a first class perk, but then I remembered that airlines (other than Southwest and other bargain basement brands) still showed movies on cross country flights – or so I had been told. Just before we started our descent into Albuquerque, I made a jaunt to the first class restroom. It wasn’t any larger than a normal airplane bathroom – but it smelled fantastic! Really! I lingered longer than I needed to trying to place the fragrance, which I finally figured out it came from the hand soap and lotion offered. It was this lovely, rather herby patchouli-like scent. I confess that I raised my hands up to my nose several times once I got back to my seat, inhaling deeply and enjoying the lingering smell. It was like an unconventional, yet relaxing aromatherapy session!
When we landed, I was again one of the first passengers off (I really, truly loved that part! I can’t stand waiting to deplane) and my suitcase, with its bright, yellow “priority” label was one of the first to come down the ramp at baggage claim.
My son, who was supposed to pick me up, ended up going out of town with friends, so he made arrangements for his dad to be my ride. It could have been awkward, but I just pretended that my ex was the chauffeur and my mini-van was a limousine — all the better to extend my first class experience. I was still a bit loopy from all of those free margaritas, so that made it easier! All in all, I had a swell time from beginning to end!
Do you have a bucket list? What are some of the things you have checked off? Are there things on your bucket list you worry you won’t be able to accomplish? When you fly, do you prepare just in case the plane turns into a fiery ball of death? No? Just me?