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Smug as a bug in Clod Class

By Rick Koster

Publication: The Day

Published January 31. 2014 4:00AM

For reasons never understood, when traveling by plane, I always get a seat in the very last rows of the cabin.

Always.

It's a carved-in-marble reality and very frustrating because of one scientific fact: for every five rows you are from the front of the jet, add 10 minutes' time to the point when you actually disembark. This is because of the Flying Idiot Formula, which arithmetically takes into account time wasted by six additional people per row, each of whom must remove a giant carry-on bag from the overhead bins - typically requiring jaws-of-life extraction tools.

Sigh.

Of course, courteous people who check their bags in the terminal - and thereby do their best to eliminate the on-jet cloggery - are punished because they pay a $25-per-bag fee while the self-absorbed stooges who carry their bags onto the jet get to do so free.

Is this backwards? Yes.

(By the way, just about everything funny and true about the lunacies of air travel has already been said by comedian Brian Regan. Just Google "Brian Regan on flying.")

However!

Defying the odds, I recently experienced back-to-back flights with, respectively, a seat in the immediate row behind first class and, then, the second row behind first class. And both were aisle seats!

It was astonishingly revelatory. Not only was I positioned for rapid exit upon landing, but I got to observe from close range the behavior of people who fly first class and presumably enjoy rare shellfish entrees, massages, and the finest wines and liquors.

After all, these are important people. I know this because, once everyone gets on a plane, the air hostess/emcee gets on the speaker phone and starts the flight by saying something like, "We'd like to welcome you to U.S. Air Flight 1426 from Dallas/Fort Worth to Charlotte." She then adds, after a dramatic pause, "And we extend a double-extra-special welcome to our Prestige and Advantage Miles passengers! Welcome!"

Well, what does that mean?

Are those of us in Clod Class not supposed to hear that? Should I have closed my ears? Because, if we goofballs, too, hear the welcome, then what's special about it for the Prestige and Advantage customers?

But what became clear over the course of those two flights, as I peered like an urchin into the special Rich Person Area, is that there really isn't much difference between Clod Class and first class.

Yes, the first-class folks have bigger chairs and the arm rests are padded as opposed to the razor-edged armrests in Clod Class. Other than that, though: No shrimp! No hot tubs! No hot towels! I did see several passengers ask for water or juice (!), and they were indeed served promptly. Whee! Also, their private air hostess made several tours with a wicker basket full of the sort of bags of chips you associate with what your mother put in your lunch box at school. Free chips in first class!

Okay, let me see if I've got this straight.

The cost differential between a first class and a cabin ticket is probably $200 or $300. Which means, essentially, that the first class traveler is the sort of person who, when asked, "Would you happily pay $200 for unlimited water and potato chips for the next two hours?" exclaims, "Why, hell, yes! You bet I will!"

Now, possibly the first classers COULD have ordered 40-year-old Scotch. But the point is, they didn't. They're bigger losers than me!

Odd. Now I feel guilty.

In the future, I promise to plug my ears and not listen when the Prestige Folks get their special welcome, and I will wait patiently for fellow Clods to remove their bags, because it's the least I can do to maintain class difference.

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