I WAS SITTING in the Las Vegas airport, reading a discarded, day-old copy of the Los Angeles Times when I heard my name called over the intercom.
“Mister Allen Johnson, please return to the checkout counter.”
Oh-oh, what was wrong? Were my tickets out of order? Were they overbooked? Was there an emergency at home?
“We are changing your seating assignment, Mr. Johnson,” the attendant said smiling. “We need a little more room in coach.”
I looked at my new boarding pass. The number was 3B. I had never seen a number that low before. Three-B? Hey, that was first class! That’s cool, I said to myself; I can handle that. Instantly, I was transformed into the John D. Rockefeller of business tycoons. I puffed out my chest, flared my nostrils, and draped my topcoat over my shoulders continental style, both arms outside the sleeves.
I was the last to board—after all the riffraff. Everything about me said, “Yes, I am wealthy, I am successful, I am every woman’s wildest desire.” (Hey, why not? It’s my fantasy. I can think whatever I want.)
A moment later I was seated in an overstuffed, leather lounge chair. There was enough room for two of me. I crossed my legs with a flair and then gauged the depth of the seat cushion with a few surreptitious vertical plunges of my derriere. “Deep.”
“May I serve you a drink?” asked the perky flight attendant. She seemed more gracious, more fawning than any hostess I had ever encountered in coach. I was more accustomed to “Hey, you. That’s right, you, the one trying to sleep. Catch your peanuts.”
I almost asked for a glass of “the bubbly,” and then remembered I didn’t drink alcohol. So, I said, “Yes, a ginger ale if you will,” and then in a stroke of inspiration added, “with a twist.” Classic!
As soon as we were in flight, the perky attendant was at my elbow again. “Sir, will we be dining this evening?”
I giggled in spite of myself. I had never dined on an airplane in my entire life. I have nibbled, munched, even scarfed, but never dined.
“Indeed,” I said, regaining my composure.
A moment later the flight attendant was standing over me with a three-foot square of linen. For a moment I thought she was going to tuck it in under my chin. I put my book down and smiled up at her.
“Let me assist you,” she said. She popped the cover of my armrest, exhumed the double-fold table, and delicately flipped the small linen tablecloth into place.
My silverware—that’s right, silverware—was also wrapped in linen. There was a knife, a fork, a spoon, and a cute little set of salt and pepper shakers. Yes, I would be truly dining.
That was on the first leg of my trip back home. On the second leg I was in coach again, back in the galley with my friends, Riff and Raff. I sat with my knees squeezed together like a modest debutante in a high-water skirt, protecting the world from indiscretion. I looked longingly through the slit in the curtain that separated the world of first class from the world of coach. How agonizing to have once known the pleasures of aristocracy and then to huddle unadorned with the proletariat, fallen from grace.
I think everyone should experience flying first class. I plan, as a matter of routine, to volunteer my services anytime coach looks a little cramped for space. After all, I am worthy of primo service; I deserve to be pampered now and then.
Ah, but then there is the question of money; how often can I afford to fly in luxury? Not often. But I can afford to treat myself with first-class respect, attending to my personal needs with the same standards of service embraced by the best of first-class flight attendants.
I’ve decided. I plan to be gracious to me: speak well of myself and bathe in luxury from time to time. Heck, I’m worth it. I’m a first-class passenger, despite seating assignment 32B, one row this side of luggage.