People say that money can’t buy you happiness. And Countess Luanne insists that money can’t buy you class.
But they’re both wrong (and dumb) — because money can buy you Business Class. To me, that’s the peak of happiness, and one day I pray I’ll have enough money to buy it whenever I want.
I know I’m not the only passenger who, on the way to Coach, eyes the lucky stiffs up front in their wide, comfy seats thinking, “Turd burglars. Hope you choke on your free, hot nuts.”
Surely there are plenty of people who long for Business Class just as passionately (and violently). But I don’t know that they continue to dwell on it once they’re back on the ground, the way I do. It’s a round-the-clock fixation.
I thank my father for this obsession.
When I was born, he was working as an industrial engineer for Eastern Airlines. He eventually gave up his airline career to become a psychoanalyst (way fewer perks, by the way), but he never let go of his employee ID card. On every family vacation since I was about four, and to this day, he’s whipped it out of his wallet at the gate in hopes of some industry insider love.
His spiel is the same every time: “Hello there. I used to work for the airlines. As a former colleague of yours, I wonder whether you might grant me and my family a courtesy upgrade.”
Hasn’t worked once. I can’t really blame the gate agents: the card’s faded photo, which shows him sporting giant glasses and greasy sideburns, mostly certifies that he used to look like a pervert.
My dad has never given up hope. He hasn’t ever said, “Nah, they never say yes. Why bother?”
From his persistence in the face of defeat, I learned an important lesson:
Business Class is the shit.
And it really is. In Business Class, you get treated like a human — which, on a plane, feels like the ultimate luxury. Really? For me? A drink before takeoff? A salad made of fresh, leafy greens instead of half-frozen iceburg with shreds of cabbage? And what’s this — a footrest? Enough legroom to help prevent deep vein thrombosis? Oh my, I don’t know if I deserve all this!
I finally got my first taste of hot-nut heaven when I was 25 and flying to Prague with two friends. My friend Stella*, learning that they’d canceled our flight and were putting us on a later one, insisted to the ticket agent that they upgrade us. She didn’t have a grimy, 1970s airline ID, but she did have remarkably good looks, and a turquoise blazer that the ticket agent determined looked “classy” enough for a premium seat. So that’s where she put us.
Plunged into this new world without any training, I was like the Fonz at a fancy dinner party.
The attendant came around with the basket of rolls, displaying it so I could choose between whole grain and sourdough. She had her tongs ready to serve me, but they were unnecessary. I reached in and blindly dug around the basket with my hand, like it was a Secret Santa grab bag. So I had some learning to do. But by the end of our eight-hour flight, I was plenty adjusted to flying like a rich person.
We all decided we were born for the good life. We didn’t belong back in Coach, despite what was printed on our tickets. So on our return flight, the group of us planted ourselves in some empty Business Class seats.
Did they ever check the tickets? We didn’t think so.
Of course, the flight attendant came over once we were up in the air with a passenger list in her hand and a polite, Business Class smile on her face.
“I just want to check that everyone’s in the right seat,” she said. “Can you tell me your last names?”
She looked first at me. “Ma’am, your last name, please?”
“Ma’am, are you okay?”
I closed my eyes and held my forehead, like I was woozy. “I don’t feel so good.”
I don’t remember anything that came next. I’ve blocked out the humiliation of being marched back to Coach.
It’s so hard to go back.
So hard to return to being the one traipsing to the rear, once you’ve been the one thinking, “Ha ha, look at all you suckers traipsing to the rear.”
I’ve used award points to upgrade a handful of times in recent years, and I admit, I’m as mean spirited in Business as I am seething and bitter in Coach.
I look at the grim faces as they march through, and say with my eyes, “Hey, you guys get a down comforter too, right? Don’t you love making the seat go flat into a bed when it’s time to go night-night?” Sometimes, mid-flight, I crane my head around to look back at them so I can add (again, with my eyes), “Hey, how come you guys aren’t eating fresh-baked cookies? Didn’t you get yours?”
Luckily, they can’t hear my eyes.
Of course if they could, they’d probably say, “Wow. Listen to that bitch in business class. She’s one unhappy person. Proof that money can’t buy you happiness.”
But they’d be mistaken, because those are my happy thoughts. And, because I didn’t pay with money. I paid with miles.
If I had enough money to buy Business Class every time, I’d be the happiest bitch you know.
* Name changed to keep my anonymity-loving friend anonymous.