Recently I was on a trip from Chicago to Phoenix, the last leg of a long day of jets, airports, and connections. At the beginning end of the trip, I had left my home and family behind, on the waiting end was my cousin, and we had 2-weeks worth of plans logged in our heads. everything from steaks grilled poolside to a long hike in Sedona. And like every trip, the plans we logged in our heads weeks earlier were the bookends for unplanned sides, like a spur-of-the-moment trip to Cold Stone Creamery late in the night for ice cream and the flower purchases made at Home Depot on an afternoon when my work let up and we found ourselves with delicious unplanned hours, a whole afternoon stretching out in front of us we never anticipated.
Getting there is always a challenge, and it does not matter how much I travel, how many jets I find myself on, I will come home with a story every time, something that makes me shake my head and laugh when I think about it.
O’Hare was crowded. And the plane out to Phoenix was full to capacity and then some as they were making the all-too-familiar gate announcement, hoping to entice passengers into giving up seats and earning all sorts of airline perks for doing so. While now the incentives are three-hundred-dollar vouchers for trips and free hotel stays, I soon expect the incentive to be a voucher for a free trip for one of your bags, as that checked bag fee continues to rise.
I was stuffed in by the window and had promptly stuck my iPod’s earbuds into my ears and cranked up the music while the plane loaded, hoping to avoid conversation until beverage service started. I dozed. There are people I know who can never sleep on a plane. All I have to do is sit down on one and some mechanism kicks on in my brain that sedates me…well, that and the Xanax I swallowed between legs of the flight.
Suddenly I was jolted awake when the music stopped and I heard a flight attendant standing in the aisle next to my row. She seemed to be looking directly at me and saying, “We have a first-class upgrade for you if you would like it.” I could hardly believe my luck. For years and years I have flown crammed into the cabin with 150 other people, even my short legs cramped for space, and what is this I hear? A first-class upgrade? For ME?
Promptly I leaned over and began to retrieve my bag that was being crushed under the seat in front of me, pulled out my earbuds, and prepared for the people seated in the middle seat and the aisle seat to stand and make way for me. “They probably think I’m important,” I thought. “Maybe they are thinking, ‘Where have I seen her?’”
Then, though, I heard the man in the aisle seat say, “No, I’m fine, thanks. I…” (and here he sort of did that head motion, indicating the beautiful girl seated next to him in the middle seat)…”have someone with me.”
At first I was a little jealous of her, I have to admit. He was gorgeous, so was she. And I was a little pissed off that the first-class upgrade was for HIM and not me, though not totally surprised. But when she said, “Oh, I’m sorry I kept you from sitting in first class!” and he actually grunted an acknowledgement, I realized how lucky I was to be just a quiet nobody jetting off to spend two weeks with my best friend in an enchanted land, with nothing more important to say than, “Could you pass the steak sauce?”
Sometimes you just have to reevaluate and remember what is real and lovely and what is fake and ugly then sit back and enjoy your ride.