something marvelous happened.
My original flight abroad had three legs: D.C. to Tokyo, Tokyo to
Amsterdam, Lisbon to D.C. If you haven't ever looked at flights to
Japan, they aren't cheap. Cheaper than, say, sailing a wooden ship
half way around the world... But not by much.
So when I got sick and had to rearrange things - and switch the three
legs to two, missing pricey Japan entirely - I didn't get a refund. I
got $$$ to use on the new itinerary when I only needed $$.
Hmm. Maybe I could go first class?
Ha! That requires $$$$$$ apparently.
I did get one part of the trip - D.C. To Dulles - switched up a level,
to World Travelers Plus. What does that mean? The British Airways site
mentioned 7 extra inches of leg room. I'm 5-3 but I'll take what I can
get. Hey, maybe there would be such luxuries as my own TV or an extra
bag of peanuts!
Fast-forward to a few days ago, when I arrived at Dulles airport, me,
myself and my one backpack.
The boarding pass (I checked on online at home) said those with only
carry-on luggage could go straight to the gate. Just speak with an
agent there, it advised, for a brief documentation check.
OK, easy enough. I go to the gate. I find an agent. I show her that
note on the boarding pass. She smiles kindly and, in a lovely British
accent, says: "Oh, is that all you have? You're fine; that's for
people with big bags."
Ok, sweet! It doesn't quite make sense that she didn't look at my
passport, but I'm so pleased to be called a light packer that I go off
about my airport errands happily: newspaper, check... Hmm, maybe
dinner? The flight is at 7. Would they serve dinner? I can't recall.
Will it be edible? I pick up a Potbelly sandwich. Then I set about
doing things I forgot before I left, waiting for the boarding line to
Finally, after nearly everyone is on and I've eeked out every last
frantic email I can, I get in line.
The same agent takes my boarding pass and scans it.
The computer screen reads:
"NOT CHECKED IN."
My heart plummets. Oh no. What happened?
The agent skips just a beat before typing quickly. The computer screen
skips around. I can't tell what she is doing. Then she takes out a pen
and scratches a few things on my pass. "Have a nice flight!"
Whew! I'm off!
I practically skip down the entrance ramp to the plane door. There,
another cheery Brit takes a look at my boarding pass and says, "20F -
make a right; it's at the end of the row."
I look down at my boarding pass. It has 31J scratched out. Now it says
Then I realize: The seats are huge. There is ample space to stretch my
legs - maybe 3 feet? The seat next to mine is facing the opposite
direction with a divider between us.
Is this what first class looks like?
I sit down, and a flight attendant comes by with a program of sorts.
It is a menu. It begins with a description of four kinds of wine.
This is going to be awesome.
Would I like a newspaper?
Oh dang. No, thanks. I already bought two.
By my seat are: a real pillow, a quilted blanket and giant ear-muff
headphones. The divider between my seat and the next includes a flat
TV that turns out in front of me, a remote control (because yes, the
seat has that much room) and a little dimmer light that rotates.
How long is this flight?
Not long enough.
As soon as we take off and are calmly buzzing around by the clouds,
the flight attendant comes around with a pile of something. White wash
cloths. Steaming. So we can "wash up."
I find myself watching the distinguished men and one woman around me
to see what they do. It's like being an uninvited guest at a fancy
dinner party with four unfamiliar forks, three spoons and three knives.
I'm skeptical about this towel thing but wow, it feels great!
Alcohol. The steady roll of the bartender cart will be a feature of
this flight. Champagne? Which kind? The man next to me, who gets a
kiss from his wife every time she leaves her seat, orders a gin and
tonic. I ask for a glass of wine, white.
"French or American?"
I think back to my menu. The American wine was a Pinot Grigio from
Oregon, A to Z. I don't know a lot about wine, but I've seen that one
in wine shops before. The French one is completely indecipherable.
"The French, please."
I'm headed to Paris, might as well get in the mood!
It's quite good. It comes in a glass, of course.
Then the flight attendant comes around and asks what we would each
like for dinner. The woman across from me says, "I'd like the fish."
There are choices?
Suddenly the flight attendant is in front of me, poised with her pad
and pen. "And what would you like for dinner?"
"Oh dear," I stutter.
"I'll come back to you," she says.
I wonder if the flight attendants know who has been upgraded, who
doesn't belong here. I feel silly.
And in the menu, sure enough, there are three choices for entrée:
Asian-style braised beef short ribs with wasabi mashed potatoes
Seared Mahi-mahi with a tomato, chili and cilantro vinaigrette,
sauteed spinach and fingerling potatoes
Wild-mushroom-stuffed rigatoni with Fontina cheese and roasted tomato
Wow. Good thing I have a roast beef Potbelly sandwich in my bag.
The flight attendant reappears. "The fish, please," I say.
Fake it till you make it?
First comes "the starter": "fresh mozzarella with roast pears and
balsamic glaze." (photo below)