Ah, first class. The swift ease of being whisked to the airport or private jetway by your trusty driver. The elegant roll of your Louis Vuitton valise as it passes ratty backpacks and broken Walmart suitcases, hobbling pitifully on one wheel.
Sure, the security line may feel a bit pesky and dirty at times, but when you remind yourself our national security depends on this type of germy bureaucracy it ceases to be such a nuisance. Once through, you arrive at the gate just as they pre-pre-board your class. First class. Elite first class. Before even the babies and tiny children and wheelchair bound old ladies with oxygen tanks can get on, there you are, easing back into a plush seat while a smiling flight attendant bestows upon you a warm, moist towlette (to wipe those pesky Walmart germs away), homemade vegan cookies and a glass -- not a plastic cup like the peons in coach get -- a glass of fine Champagne. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight indeed!
Is this what traveling first class is like? Who knows? I'm guessing your version of plane travel, like mine, verges more toward the "those peanuts will cost $10 and your flight is severely delayed and we can't do a thing about that morbidly obese child behind you kicking your seat like a Muay Thai demon and oh also our in-flight movie would have been really awesome but the system's broken so suck it. Have a nice flight!"
Not that I need a valise or a moist towelette -- free Champagne sounds pretty good though -- but traveling ain't as fun as it used to be people. Unless you're George Clooney or Richard Branson, but let's get real. Sure plane travel hasn't always been as rosy as a 1950s beach blanket melodrama, but still. Meals and bite sized snacks used to be free. Flights used to be pretty much on time. It didn't cost $25 to check your luggage. Per piece. And it seems like there's more turbulence these days too. Let's blame the economy for all of this. Turbulence included.
It's hard to remain calm and collected as opposed to maniacal and red-faced when you're dealing with airports and buses and Carnival cruises with their food poisoning outbreaks and razzle dazzle stage shows. Note: I've never experienced a Carnival cruise and doing so sums up my ultimate nightmare, but their site says, "Our stage shows are designed to razzle and dazzle." So I'm just the messenger here.
Let's continue. Over the holidays traveling from LAX to AUS (Austin not Australia) I found myself sneakily stuffing my purse into a bag, which I then stuffed into another bag so I wouldn't have to pay to check a bag. It worked, which maybe makes me like a female Jason Bourne-type character, only less glamorous. One rule is never lose your temper, and if you feel it surging, don't lose it on the overworked and underpaid gate agent. Unless they're a total a-hole. At least you're getting on a plane and going somewhere. They have to deal with ... you.
I'm not sure if first class is actually so much better, or if the valise toting elite don't experience germy bureaucracy. The truth is, I doubt they do. And that's just the way it is. George Clooney can jet to his Italian villa with some model and the Beckham clan in tow, while most of us are waiting in lines and dealing with lost baggage just to plunk ourselves poolside at the Flagstaff La Quinta. Hey, it's not Lake Como but it's a body of water! I'll take it.
Portions of this article initially appeared on the blog Bureaucracy for Breakfast