Dan’s View From The…Front

I thought business class would be “coach with a hot towel.” I was so wrong. So very, very wrong.

See, I’ve done a little bit of traveling this year. I’ll never be what you call a “business traveler” or a “seeker of exotic locales” or a “person who likes going anywhere but to his friends’ roof to drink cheap beer on summer nights.” But a quick perusal through the planner thus far this year reminds me of three trips to LA (for work), five days in Bermuda (for work), scads of drives to the nine closest states, and the Wedding Summer Camp that required more time in the Pacific Northwest than I would have spent if I’d been on an early 90s Soundgarden tour.

A cross-country flight on Sunday and another cross-country flight the following Sunday brought out the diva that dwells deep within, and I based my willingness to return to Los Angeles on the single contingency that I would only travel on a business class ticket. I actually asked for first class because I wasn’t even sure what I was asking for. I didn’t know if there was a difference between them, or if “business class” was just the fancy new name they gave to “first class,” the way “coach” has increasingly given way to the more generic “main cabin” over the last couple of years. “Oooh,” the average air traveler is supposedly inspired to think. “Main cabin! I’m the main something!”

So they bargained me back from row one to row seven, but I still expected a world of delights to follow. My first dream was dashed instantly: the thing I was most looking forward to was sitting in a seat that wasn’t the same color as every other seat on the plane, that gray pleather that makes the great unwashed feel of a lower caste as we make our way through the front cabin when we first get on the plane. But here in BizClass (have I hipped this place up or what!), the seats are of the same drab blue as all of the seats in coach, a color I’ve started referring to just as “American Airlines Blue,” the same way Everybody Loves Raymond is an “American Airlines Sitcom” and CBS’s Eye On American is “American Airlines Filler.” Seriously. People. Who watches that shit?

I do. Because they show that shit in Bizclass too, though it’s somewhat more palatable when served with the Hearty Combination Breakfast, featuring, “Scrambled Eggs topped with Tomatoes and Bell Peppers accompanied by Silver Dollar Pancakes with Maple Syrup, offered with Basil-Garlic Chicken Sausage.” The capitalization is suspect. The food is delicious. And I ordered it from a menu with a photograph of a beach on the cover and, on page two, the artist’s description of the photograph of the beach. You guys, the food is so good. And served on real plates and real clear glasses. My water glass was a glass, not Styrofoam, so it’s the first time on a plane I’ve ever been able to see clear through the glass. I stared at it for ten minutes and pretended I was about to be attacked by a marauding velociraptor every time the plane shook and the water moved, just like the water glass in Jurassic Park! After the film (there’s no class not subjected to the horrors of Shrek 2, I’m sad to report), I enjoyed the “fruit and cheese platter,” which was followed up by a “fresh-baked cookie” (where was it fresh-baked? In the fuselage?). I wouldn’t usually lay my hands on a sugary confection unless I was clutching a Starbucks latte in my other hand, but I couldn’t help it. It was free. There was even an Otis Spunkmeyer logo in the menu. I’m helpless against BizClass!

Oh, and the legroom. The leeeeeeeeeegroooooooooooooooooom. I was seated in the first row of BizClass, and all that was in front of me was a little divider between me and first class. That wall was literally thirty miles away. The seat also had a leg rest, and, if that’s not enough, a leg rest extender, so you can put your feet up. Also, there was a button on this futuristic console that read “lumbar,” but it didn’t really seem to do anything except make me giggle at the continuing silliness of the word. Hee. “Lumbar.”

I get nervous when people are really nice to me for no reason, which everyone was. I’m still the exact same person I was last Sunday when I flew steerage back from Portland. But my seat also apparently made me a very desirable chatting partner for the airplane’s staff. I don’t know why either. Oh, yes I do. Money. Well, joke’s on them.

But then, it’s still a plane. It’s still small and there’s always a wait for the bathroom (yes, though, we have our own bathroom) and I couldn’t get my laptop down for two hours because it was in a carry-on compartment that got blocked when the movie screen came down. I’ll put that grievance on my continuing list of reasons to feel personally offended by the Shrek. franchise. And though my feet were elevated and my seat was back so far my head was practically resting against my checked baggage, the tray table — a flimsy thing that folded out of the side of the seat — could barely handle the weight of my decisively coach class laptop.

And when you get to LA, you will still have been on a plane. You will still have waited at security and felt vaguely claustrophobic and vaguely nauseated and vaguely like the technology should have advanced past this already to some kind of molecular teleporting thing. If there’s turbulence, you’ll have turbulence. If there’s Shrek 2, you’ll have Shrek 2. And dream on all you want, but you’re still not allowed to use the first class bathroom.

Currently reading: Getting Over Jack Wagner by Elise Juska, published by Downtown Press. I blistered through the first sixty pages after twenty ill-informed minutes of Shrek 2, and I’ve giggled out loud quite a few times already. I’ll tell you one thing: these Downtown Press girls have moxie.