I was waiting at the airport gate, groggy and anxious, for them to start boarding my plane to Kansas.
I flew a lot last year, between personal travel and trips for the t-shirt job, resulting my Alaska Airlines flight status getting bumped up to MVP.
It comes with a lot of perks, like free upgrades if they have them available, a free checked bag on every flight, etc.
But don’t be fooled. There are three other levels of Alaska frequent fliers and I have only grazed the bottom of the food chain.
I sometimes get upgraded to premium class, but not as frequently as I would like to or thought I might when I first qualified.
Usually I’m in the first row of premium class, sipping on my free drink and watching through the first class mesh curtain. I’m convinced it’s mesh specifically for the people in the back to get a glimpse that we aren’t good enough.
I watch them with their hot towels and metal cutlery like it’s the sign of all things just out of reach. I’m grateful not to be “first class in the back” as is my usual spot. But I usually watch through the mesh curtain thinking it’s unattainable.
So I was happy on this work trip to Kansas that I was upgraded to premium class.
I’d at least get a decent snack and a drink or two.
Then the gate agent announced that they were upgrading to first class for only $150 and had two seats left.
“Those were supposed to be mine,” I thought angrily as they were selling off something that I was waitlisted to get for free.
I marched up to the desk, ready to ask if my 4th tier MVP status was enough to get me the first class upgrade. All of the literature said so. But I’d never experienced it myself.
As I walked up and pulled up my ticket on my phone, I stopped in my tracks. They had automatically upgraded me. I was the first seat in the plane.
I boarded early, still in a daze as to how I managed to get this kind of a comp and feeling like I’d somehow conned them into giving it to me, and they would soon find out that I most definitely did not belong.
I was also dressed in my favorite hobo chic look, not at all fitting in with the folks with suits, further giving away my “doesn’t belong here” status.
I sat down and the stewardess came up to me, and asked if I wanted sparkling wine or orange juice.
It seemed like a trick question.
The man sitting across the aisle from me asked for a margarita. She kindly told him that they could make one later but for take-off it was strictly these two options. So he opted for nothing. I couldn’t believe it.
I was sipping on bubbly as everyone paraded passed me heading into coach. I didn’t make eye contact as I didn’t want to give myself away. The fear in my eyes would surely alert someone.
After we took off, the stewardess came up to me and said, “Hi Carly, how are you?”
“Shit how do I know this woman?” I wondered, racking my brain and cursing my poor memory for remembering people.
Then she launched into asking what drink I wanted and the choice for the menu.
She had memorized my name from some passenger list.
Mildly relieved that I didn’t know this person, I ordered a drink and some lunch and sat back in my extra-large chair enjoying my flight.
The guy next to me said he’d have that margarita now. She informed him they were out of mix and I had to stifle my laughter after he made such a fuss about it at the beginning of the flight.
So he ordered a ginger ale. Is that what people in first class do? Margaritas or nothing at all? I was so confused by the whole ordeal and tried not to stare.
Then the flight attendant came around with hot towels.
It felt rude to say no. But I also wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to do with such an item.
So I texted my friend, who had been getting a play by play of this whole situation. She immediately texted back jokingly, “It’s to clean your hands of the poor person germs you experienced at the airport.”
I texted back that I was hoping it was to sanitize my tray table and light since I didn’t have my Purell wipes on me.
I wondered who was watching through the mesh curtain. But I didn’t want to look like some sort of “commoner” and didn’t look behind me the rest of the flight.
My drink came in a real glass, and she kept asking if I wanted it “freshened up” before I could finish it. I felt that was a dangerous game, so kindly refused.
I felt like glass was a bad idea on a turbulent plane. I am barely responsible enough to balance all the stuff they give you in my normal seat back by the toilet. I frequently drop things.
So I made a conscious effort to make sure that I didn’t drop the glass. I pictured it spilling and breaking everywhere. That would be pretty much on brand for me.
But I figured I probably could intentionally shatter it on the ground and demand another one at this rate and they would oblige. I wasn’t used to this level of kindness on a plane and it was freaking me out.
My meal was served on a real tray and with real metal silverware. What was this world where things that are so normal were now seen as exotic and nice?
I guess flights just tend to be a nightmare, being crammed in like sardines the whole way. I could get used to having so much space to myself.
Once we landed, I exited, not looking behind me, and not realizing exactly how quickly people are able to get off of the plane if they aren’t in the last row.
It was a new world for me, but I kissed it goodbye immediately.
I enjoyed it while I could, but ultimately, my place was in the back with the rest of the common folk.