First Class

Well, my blog disappeared for a while there. I bet you thought I’d taken myself off the grid–erased all record of me–and gone into hiding in London…assuming I’d arrived there, of course. Maybe this whole England business was a diversion, when in reality I’ve gone to Mexico and am spending my time fixing up a boat on the beach somewhere, waiting for my friend Red to get parole and then break it so that he can come down here and stay with me, assuming he finds the letter and cash I stashed for him under the black moon rock by that tree in that field.

That’s what you thought, isn’t it? ISN’T IT?

Well, in fact, my domain name had expired and the alert had been sent to an email address I rarely check. That’s what really happened, folks.

Anyway, I started writing this two nights ago, so the language is a bit dated, as you’ll see.

* * *

It’s 3:27a.m. here in England and I’m having trouble getting back to sleep. I’ve been asleep since around 10:00p.m., waking every hour or two with a full bladder. I’ve been fighting a cold since before we left and it doesn’t seem to be going away. My aunt and uncle gave me a couple of concoctions to deal with the constant runny nose (I’m making a good effort to rid their house of every last sheet of Kleenex). The second concoction put me out almost immediately, but now it seems to be wearing off–at least the drowsy bit of it. My body has decided that it shouldn’t be in deep sleep at 8:00 in the evening, as it thinks it is.

After missing our original scheduled flight to Heathrow airport in London and sleeping at a Holiday Inn in Denver on United Airlines’ dime, we went through security with some 4 or 5 hours to spare before our flight. After walking around looking at the shops (for some reason I’ve always wanted to buy a book at an airport, and there were several there I was interested in, but I bought none) we made our way to the Red Carpet lounge, to which international first class flyers had access.

We spent a couple of hours there reading and playing cribbage and helping ourselves to the complimentary snacks and drinks (alcohol excluded). I attempted to nurse myself back to health with a combination of fresh fruit and a steady stream of tea, water and orange juice, but to no avail. All the traveling and lack of sleep has just been too much.

There was no class system in our international flight from Saskatoon to Denver, but we flew to Chicago first class. It really is a different world up there. Upon boarding, we went to the seats on the left, everyone else to the seats on the right. They even had the little curtain between us and the proletariat in the back of the plane.

Almost immediately upon sitting down I was offered a drink of juice or water. I don’t think I’d even arranged my pillow nor removed my complementary blanket from its plastic wrap before they approached me. “Orange juice, please.”

Under the pretense of killing some of the bacteria in my throat, and because it’s “good for the stomach”, I enjoyed a glass and a half of complimentary Cabernet Sauvignon with my meal (a soggy but delicious toasted turkey sandwich, salad, and a bag of sun chips). My brother-in-law warned me that a glass of wine on an airplane in flight feels like three. I seem to recall reading that this was a myth, but then he’d experienced it and I hadn’t. I was ok after the glass and a half. Of course, my body mass index is probably three times my brother-in-law’s, so that could make a difference.

Arrived in Chicago O’Hare with an hour to spare before boarding, so we headed over to the Red Carpet lounge again. This was exclusive to international first-class travelers –club members and business class travelers had their own lounge–so it was much less busy and quieter (no business men their designer jeans and sport coats making a show of wandering around talking on Bluetooth ear-pieces to their associates).

The hostess told us to help ourselves to snacks and drinks, and this time it included alcohol. I’ll tell you now that I didn’t put a dent in that $8,500 worth of alcohol Dixie jokingly suggested I should drink, but here I was presented with an unusual opportunity.

I have a bit of a problem restraining myself in help-yourself/all-you-can-eat situations. I can’t remember the last time I left a smorgasbord or buffet feeling as if I had eaten the perfect amount of food to satisfy; I always leave feeling as if I’d had significantly over-eaten. I guess I would have myself believe I’ll never have another opportunity to try any of these things again, so I’ve got to try it all.

In the Red Carpet Lounge at O’Hare I was presented with a table of shrimp and (I think) sushi, sandwich meats, an assortment of cheeses and fruits, and a variety of desserts. What made my eyes go wide, however, was the fridge filled with all manner of international ales and a shelf with any hard liquor or liqueur I could think of. ALL COMPLIMENTARY AND SELF-SERVE!

I looked up the recipe for some mixed drinks I would like to try but would never pay for at a pub. Brandy Alexander, perhaps? In the end I decided not to try and mix my own drinks. Instead I had an Amstel Light, which is a Dutch beer I’ve always wanted to try but is not available in western Canada as far as I know (it wasn’t that good–couldn’t hold a candle to Heineken), and a bit of 12-year-old Scotch (“I love Scotch. Scotchy Scotchy Scotch. I’m gonna drink it down–down into my belly”). Also: a plate of shrimp and fruit and a couple of buns.

This was a mistake. Before the plane had even finished boarding, we were presented with menus for that flight’s evening meal, which could, if I so chose, include several courses. And I had just stuffed my face with shrimp and dinner rolls. But there was filet mignon on the menu, and I couldn’t pass that up. I ordered the filet, but opted out of the other courses and dessert. I drank water and tea on the flight. I know now to pace myself on the return flight.

I should describe our accommodations on this international first class flight. We each had an individual pod–only six of them in first class–which had a chair that could recline, put my feet up or lay down flat to sleep; there were two pillows and a thick blanket waiting, as well as a toiletries bag with a sleep mask, earplugs, toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitized and socks inside; each had our own approximately 14 or 17″ TV with a remote/game controller and a pretty good selection of TV shows, documentaries, films, and video games available on demand. (I got through about half of Iron Man 2; I’ll finish it on the return flight.)

Also, they gave us hot wet cloths before and after every meal. I’m still not sure what to do with them. The first time I used it to wash my face (felt really good), but Dixie gave me a funny look. So from then in I just used it to wash my hands. Waste of a warm cloth if you ask me.

It was a pretty good situation, I’d say. But then, as all those poor families in economy filed in past us, I felt quite stupid with my feet up playing a game of Texas Hold ‘Em. Next time I might try boarding last. I don’t know.

The flight was uneventful. I didn’t sleep well–maybe 3 or 4 hours of the 7.5 hour flight. Maybe less. We arrived at about 11a.m. (6:00p.m. the previous day, Manitoba time) and were off to Hampton Court Palace with my aunt and uncle.

4 thoughts on “First Class

  1. Jeff

    That’s EXACTLY what I thought you had done! I even looked it up: say-what-ta-ney-ho.

    And I hear you on the buffet. That’s why I get fat eating in the caf.

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