Monday, April 8, 2013

When "Exclusive" Stops Being Well...Exclusive





Something happened of substance during March of this year. I did not board an airplane once. I had meetings in New York so I drove the three hours and getting to West Virginia by plane requires a balloon connection in Fairmont followed by a ride on a mule the last five miles...so I drove there too. Oh yes, my status on my preferred airline dropped yet another level because it appears...I don't fly enough. Ouch. The level I currently hold is reserved for those who fly more than once a year but perhaps less than three times and yet...I am in it...and not happy.

So you can imagine my surprise when last week as I was about to print my boarding pass to Chicago I noticed I had been upgraded. That's right. Upgraded from the lowest level of "preferred" status. As a fairly veteran traveler I did realize that my day of departure (Tuesday rather than Monday) and the time (7:15 AM versus 9:00 AM) probably contributed to this happenstance. What I was not prepared for (I have not been at this status level in at least five years...perhaps longer) was that most of the people upgraded that day were in fact...pardon the term..."rookie first classers". I know...a bit of snobbery going on here but it was true. It became obvious when I was the first one on the plane. The others did not know they could get on "early". I watched as many people walked past me in the front back to the cramped quarters of "coach" while empty seats remained in "First". My second clue was the guy who started an argument with the flight attendant as he put his jacket in the overhead bin. The flight attendant offered to hang it up for him but he misunderstood and thought she was not allowing him to store it up overhead. Note to "new guy"...this is a perk not a penalty. The coat won't be wrinkled nearly as much on a hanger...

Finally the woman who sat down next to me had every possession she could bring on the plane with her and crammed most of it under her seat. She kept her coat on and also kept her nose...sniffling. Apparently she left her tissues at home...or they were stuffed under the seat in front of her along with her "bag - o -stuff" and possibly a deflated air mattress. Either way she had too much stuff, encroached on my leg space...and had a cold. I tried to forget it but the nose noise every thirty to forty-five seconds kept it front of mind for me. First Class didn't feel too "classy".

My hotel in Chicago is one where I have stayed many times prior. It is downtown and the rooms are very nice. Both held true this time as well...as one would expect. It also has a really nice, super deluxe club level where those of us with super high status can get snacks, drinks...even breakfast and dinner along with some dessert...after 8PM. It is a nice perk for a traveler and even though I have not been flying much....I have been staying at hotels...at a fever clip. So Wednesday morning arrived and I did what I always do prior to my meetings...I went to the club level and get breakfast. Instead of the normal routine of shuffling around a couple of other business professionals, navigating our way to the various "stations" of offerings all accompanied by a morning news program on the large screen TV, I encountered the unexpected...Daycare. That is the only way I can describe it. There were at least ten children under ten (many in sleeper pajama's...you know...those with the footies) some dragging stuffed animals with them, many complaining loudly that there were no "good cereals...like at home". The TV had been hi-jacked by a parent and had the most fearful children's program ever invented playing in Hi-Def...The TeleTubbies. I fear these things. They are the things that could haunt my dreams if I allowed them to...so I have always turned them off...even when our kids were young enough to want to watch them. I considered it my parental duty to save our children from them. TeleTubbies speak yet they do not move their mouths. They are larger than life...oversized really, appear to live in an alien planet and yet today despite my best efforts to avoid them...they were having breakfast with me...

Making my way from coffee station to the hot food station and back out to the now filled seating area was hazardous (many small people milling about, making demands while also trying to work in some quality "Tele Tubby Time" and therefore only half paying attention to their caregivers...some parents were clearly not there...perhaps they were downstairs having a grownup breakfast). I am a creature of habit and this day my "Status" had betrayed me and broken apart my routine. My "Club" had turned into Romper Room. This day, like the day before was off to a rocky start...

On my way home I was not on my preferred airline but I was pleased to note that I carry a special airline travelers "pass" that gives me privileges nonetheless...a corporate perk I enjoy since I am...a frequent traveler. One such perk was early boarding and given that we were about to get on a regional jet (airline code for small tube that still goes nearly 600 miles an hour that is often flown by pilots still shaving only twice a week) this would be helpful as space is  limited in the overhead bins. You almost always gate check your roller board bag but even a briefcase under the seat in front of you increases the chance of an uncomfortable flight becoming a leg cramped flight as well. So as the gate agent announced priority seating, I moved forward to board...along with everyone else. Everyone. No one was seated. They were all doing that airplane boarding resembles highway traffic when a lane is shut down for construction routine...all cutting in wherever they could. We were one big mass of humans trying to create a single line. I thought this was strange since they had only called priority seating and I noticed (okay strained my neck to see) a few passengers with something like Zone 99 on their boarding passes bumping up against those of us with priority seating. Gate Agent 1 was clueless and kept funneling them through. The other agent asked if she had called for the whole plane to board and she said she had not "But, what's the difference really...they are all going to the same place". Gate Agent 2 agreed and the mass boarding continued unabated. My briefcase enjoyed the floor level position under the seat in front of me and my legs wanted to show their appreciation to Gate Agents 1 and 2. I am waiting for the survey to come through email.

Finally on Sunday my wife read to me an article about small, easy pets for families. My guard was up as we have two large, difficult pets better suited to science than a family but what had caught her eye was one of the pets... a Sugar Glider...a type of "Pocket Sized Monkey". I had to admit this sounded pretty cool...not that I wanted one but cool still. We looked them up on the internet and what we discovered was that these are some of the most difficult pets to care for. Specifically, they bite if they are not happy with the way you try to keep them out of harm's way....and they have sharp teeth. They also have the freaky TeleTubby-like claws (I think TeleTubbies have claws even though they are not visible). They cannot be house broken and frequently choose their owners as the best place to relieve themselves and lastly, they have a palate more discerning that an upscale restaurant critic so it can take three hours a week to prepare their food. I am guessing they bite you if they are not pleased with that week's menu...oh and they live for fifteen years. All I could think was who would write such an article encouraging the masses to go with such an exotic pet that really required expert care. And then it hit me...probably the same person who upgraded my Tuesday flight companions, who opened a daycare in the club lounge and who promoted Gate Agents 1 and 2...



Two other notes about "exclusivity". One, I know all of these issues are "First World" problems but I am writing a blog after all. Second, to prove just how much the "Standards of society" have fallen, I scored tickets to the Master's This Friday. I am going with my youngest son who is an avid and very good golfer, a good friend and former co-worker, and a good friend and current corporate Attorney for a firm that represents the company who employs me. He has the tickets and appears to know what he is getting with me...I quote from his email this morning..." Look at the document I sent to you also – we won’t be able to bring that stuff inside of the grounds.  They take that stuff seriously and violations can get you thrown out and, even worse, cause the firm to lose the badges.   So, stick to the rules.

He knows me too well...


A note about the lack of a blog last week...I didn't get to it. I have some reserve blogs but none of them seemed good enough last week and work was quite busy so I skipped it. It will happen again so my apologies in advance.

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