Monthly Archives: November 2011

How we roll in first class

Another added bonus: a new Yomiuri Giants cap courtesy of JoAnna

NEWARK, N.J. – It’s almost 6:30 a.m. here at Gate C132 and the last thing I should be doing is sipping on a latte. With my flight back to the Bay Area slated to take off so early, and with my (rather justified) paranoia of sleeping through an alarm and missing a flight, an all-nighter was my only viable option.

In any other circumstance, I’d fight off my drowsiness just enough to board the plane, find my seat, and close my eyes, determined not to open them again until my flight lands at its destination. But this is not a normal morning. Today, I’m flying first class, and I don’t intend to miss out on the experience.

I’m not sure how many flights I’ll take in any given season, but I’m certain that at most, a first-class upgrade comes my way maybe twice. Most times, the upgrade comes on a short flight, one in which it’s nearly impossible to truly take advantage.

But for just the second time ever, I’m taking a cross-country flight in the comfort of first class, which is why I’m guzzling this cup of coffee. Though I’m resigned to the fact that I’ll fall asleep at some point, I’m going to stay awake as long as I can, at least long enough to enjoy some of my favorite parts of the first-class experience.

And mostly, that consists of watching the other passengers wallow in their misery.

I know this misery well. Flying is a mostly tedious and joyless experience. The cramped conditions, the security lines, the hassle… no fun. One of the low points of getting on the plane is having to pass by all those privileged blowhards in first class. As you’re worried about overhead bin space, they’re sitting in their oversized seats sipping on free booze. Few situations generate this level of resent.

Which is why there are few things better than suddenly finding yourself on the other side of the equation, when you realize that you are now that privileged blowhard.

They say that the biggest jump in sports is going from hitting Triple-A pitching to hitting Major League pitching. I say they the biggest jump in transportation is going from coach to first class. The faces tell you all you need to know.

If you’re lucky, your first-class seat gives you a direct line of sight with the door, where you can study the fury on the faces of the ham-and-eggers as they shuffle to the back of the cabin. I like to imagine them looking at me and wondering why they’d let such a shabbily dressed hobo sit in such a premium spot. I like to think that they’re wondering whether their upgrade had been given to me by mistake. I doubt that any of these irrational thoughts race through a normal person’s head. But it’s more fun to think that they do, and to think of their fury.

I find that the experience is enhanced with a drink.

As an added bonus, for this flight I’ve got Seat 1A, which should afford a pretty decent view.

Once the boarding process is finished, and the flight attendant closes the curtain separating first class from the proletariat, my next objective will be to stay awake long enough to have breakfast.

Honestly, I’m not even a huge fan. There’s always something off about the eggs. Not off by much, but just enough to know something isn’t quite right. Also, I’m never quite sure of what the dessert should be. It has the look and texture of some kind of pudding though it clearly isn’t pudding. And the bowl of fruit is composed mostly of sliced pieces of cantaloupe and honeydew melon, both of which I make my throat itch. If I eat enough of them, my throat starts to close.

No matter. I’m going to eat the fruit anyway, because that’s how they roll in first class.

Or, more to the point, that’s how we roll in first class.

– 30 —

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Awash in a feeling of joy

Greatest. Day. Ever.


HARLEM – Living in New York requires that you accept that everything here is a pain in the ass.

What are otherwise routine chores everywhere else in the country are transformed into harrowing, patience-testing productions. Wanna go to the grocery store? Don’t buy too much, because you’ve got to carry it all home. Wanna get out of the city? Don’t forget to consult the train schedule, which may or may not be honored that day. Wanna park your car? Don’t bother.

More to the point: why the hell have you bothered keeping your car?

I love the city, so this isn’t so much a complaint as it is a display of resignation. As with everything else around here, living in the city comes with a toll. Which is why, in my building the last few days, you’d think that New Year’s Eve meets D-Day. Or that the city has indefinitely suspended alternate side parking.

For years, the folks who run the building have promised tenants a laundry room in the building. A few days ago, they finally delivered. And I’ve spent the last 48 hours indulging myself in the convenience taken for granted by everyone else. I’ve been doing laundry — pretty much nonstop — all without having to leave my own building.

Until the sudden appearance of the laundry room, I was forced to lug my dirty laundry a few blocks to the crowded laundromat down the block. For awhile, I stubbornly did the laundry myself, mostly because I could never get my mom’s voice out of my head. “Hey,” she told me once. “There’s no maid working here.”

But that didn’t last long, and for the last few years, I’ve instead paid to have the laundry done for me. In this scenario, the city had left me with two choices: a.) Waste time. b.) Waste money. I chose the latter.

On Saturday afternoon, everything changed. My roommate said she had heard a rumor that a new laundry room had been installed. She hurried to the basement, confirmed the amazing news, and promptly began a load of laundry. I wasn’t far behind. Her reports were accurate. It was our own dank, dingy, slice of heaven.

Objectively, it was a space that only a serial killer would love. The white paint couldn’t hide the roughness of the old walls. And despite the peach-colored paint splashed on the pipes overhead, it didn’t change the fact that some of them were low enough to conk your noggin.

Against the wall stood three shiny new washing machines, one of them industrial sized, and three dryers big enough to fit a smart car. A long folding table stretched across the opposite wall, waiting to be covered clothes that were still toasty from the machine. The building super even included a laundry cart to haul damp clothes from the washer to the dryer.

To me, it was Vegas on a Saturday night, and I had a laundry bag filled with cash.

It has been about 24 hours since my roommate let me in on the secret and I’m just finishing the last of my laundry. The first day, I had the place to myself. Three loads of laundry, uninterrupted, no crowds, no screaming children, no substances of unknown origin clogging up the detergent dispenser.

“How did it go?”

“It was everything I thought it would be. And more!”

But people in this building talk, and news of the new laundry room has spread like wildfire. Sadly, I’ve already seen two others down here today. I suspect there will be more. One of them celebrated appropriately. Upon walking into the laundry room for the first time, she jumped up and down, and threw her arms around her boyfriend in a moment of unrequited joy.

“This is the happiest day of my life!”

“I thought the happiest day was when you met me?”

“Want me to do some of your laundry?”

No more than 20 minutes later, as I loaded one of the smart-car sized dryers with newly-bleached socks, she used the washing machine I had intended to fill with a bag of dirty T-shirts.

Alas, the gleaming new laundry wasn’t going to stay a secret forever. But a break is a break, and when you live in the city, you learn to enjoy them. Even the small ones. They don’t come around often.

– 30 —

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