Thursday, April 26, 2007

Flying First Class

Flying frequenty offers fewer perks than one may think. Even those of us who have earned “elite” status (that’s platinum, thank you very much) are still subject to the indignities of air travel. Those TSA varmints still can get their jollies poking through our undergoods, wanding and swabbing as they well please. How ironic - in an attempt to secure our nation we’ve empowered a fleet of otherwise-unemployable civil servants and have entrusted them to determine who may or may not pose a threat. These folks can’t even figure out how to get everything back into the bag they have just unpacked.

No, the frequent flyer isn’t above the mechanical delays, the weather issues, the overbooking, the waits on the runways, or the hurry-up-and-wait nature of air travel. But one perk has become an essential indulgence for me. I simply can’t imagine traveling as much as I do without the first class upgrade.

Yes, it is a different world in front of that curtain that separates us from those wannabees in coach. Our air is recycled separately from yours. The chairs are heated, and the flight attendants double as massage therapists when they have finished the safety announcements and the seat belt demonstrations. The lavatory in the forward cabin has a restroom attendant ready with a warm towel for your hands.

I remember the days in coach, before I earned my elite status, spreading the peanuts across the napkin in an attempt to make them look like more food. One peanut, and then I’d count twenty-mississippis before the next, while waiting for the privilege to spend five bucks for a headset so I could watch a movie that was in theaters a year ago. In first class, our HOT meals come on real plates, and a wine glass is refilled before it can ever become empty. And we don’t have to watch the “everybody” movie. Most planes in the modern air fleet feature multiple movie channels, complimentary in the forward cabin.

Truthfully, the differences are minute, but there are 2 main reasons I value the upgrades: the leg and butt room, and the rarity of bad parenting in the first class cabin.

I don’t know for whom airline seats are designed, but rarely am I in coach without butt-rubbing my neighbor. Of course there was the one flight, aboard a Canadair Regional Jet (AKA little tin can with no first class cabin) from Houston to Bakersfield, CA, when the gentleman beside me had his seat belt extender out to the maximum width. During the entire 3 ½ hour flight I was consumed with the task of trying to think about something other than the fact that his belly was riding to the west coast ON MY LAP. In first class, even we sizeable folk can fit in one seat. Also, with a little more room between the rows, I can actually get a bit of work done. I’m more at ease opening the laptop without the worry that some yutz in front of me will recline right into my screen.

And first class rarely has the bad parenting that has become prevalent in coach cabins on planes. Honestly, haven’t these people ever heard of taking a road trip? Now that airplanes are mass transit for the common folk, everything flies. Apparently everything has kids too. Running up and down the aisles, kicking the back of the chair, repeatedly mashing the flight attendant call button, these kids have the run of the place. The trailer trash parents are oblivious, knocking back a bunch of Bud Lights at forty thousand feet. I can fondly recall another flight aboard a regional jet when I boarded right after a mother and her “lap child.” I guess mom was hoping that the seat beside her would remain vacant, because the little sweetheart was already strapped into my seat, happily pouring apple juice onto my tray table. When we verified that yes, the seat was mine, and no, we couldn’t move because the flight was full, the little darling threw a hissy. All the way to Cincinnati, “ I want my seat back, I want my seat back, I want my seat back..” Evidently mom had enough money to buy a cocktail on board, but not enough to buy a seat for the precious one. We have to stow our cargo for take-off, but it was okay for this kid to kick and flail. First class children are much better behaved.

Maybe it’s snobbery, but I love my upgrades.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Born To Run?

It all started because of Starbucks. One Sunday morning last June, the hubby and I thought it would be a good idea to set a specific destination for our then-weekly constitutional. To Starbucks, we walked, taking in the relative quiet of the early morning. Walking and chatting, we planned for the coming school year. Sitting and chatting, we enjoyed our coffee, and then walked and chatted our way back home.

Maybe it was the caffeine, or perhaps it was because I had to pee, but one Sunday morning, we decided to step it up on our return trip. Post-espresso, we found that we had the energy to walk to one mailbox and then run to the next. “I’m a gazelle!” we’d croon as we took off for 100 feet or so, not knowing that we were employing a proven training technique. The gazelle intervals on the return trip became a jog to and fro, became a let’s try a 5K, became a lets-sign-up-for-the-Gate-River-Run, became a regular 13 plus mile Sunday run, became a maybe-we-should-try-a-half-marathon.

So it is completely by accident that we have found this new infatuation with running. I find that I am thinking about running almost all the time. I wake in the morning, planning my day around my run. I go about my post-run chores, basking in the glow of my run. I lay my head on the pillow, imagining the next day’s run. Just about the only time I don’t think about running is when I AM running. That’s when I’m busy trying to think about anything else in an effort to distance my mind from my throbbing legs, flailing boobies and frazzled cardiovascular system.

Even my reading includes running lately. The Nonrunner’s Marathon Guide for Women by Dawn Dais, a recent purchase, inspires and amuses. I can relate to accounts of chafing in parts unmentionable. Fellow runners can attest to the lubricating relief of Vaseline. A kindred spirit, the author’s previous activity peaked with getting up to change a channel when the remote was misplaced, yet she willfully chose to train and then run a marathon.

Is this in my future? Have I completely lost my mind? Why didn’t we drive to Starbucks in the first place? Questions unanswered, but I can’t sit here at my computer thinking about them too for long. I’ve gotta run now.

The heart rate monitor to verify that the ticker's still on board.

Gotta have my tunes. It drowns out the screaming of my knees and the unpleasant sound of bone scraping on bone.

Glow-in-the-dark running vest for optimal nighttime visibility (like anyone could miss me clomping down the road).

The fanny-pack-water-bottle holder. Just because I need something to make passers-by notice my jiggle-butt even more.

This is the box for My Running Shoes where I keep track of the miles of rubber meeting asphalt. Around 250 since the shoe purchase in January.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Everyone's a Stage Mother

My daughter, a future Broadway star, is suffering from post-production depression. Her run as Annie Oakley in Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun started and ended in the school play last week. Now she spontaneously bursts into tears, and continually rereads a note sent to her by her leading man who wrote, in his wiggly 11-year old manuscript, “your voice knocks my socks off.”

Mourning the ending of a production that consumed nearly every minute of her days for the last months, she’s finding that she needs to find a new something-to-look-forward-to. This pIay has been her work and her love, and now she’s feeling a little lost. I could be cynical and scoff the troubles of the poor, unfortunate 12 year old, but I understand what it is to pour your heart into something, and then to feel empty afterward when left with only memories. And however wonderful the memories may be, they don’t fill the space in your heart that grew when so filled with the love of your labors.

Take parenting, for instance. What a realignment of the heart that takes! With just one look at a tiny, wrinkly, gurgling, needy creature life is reprioritized indefinitely. Parenting stretches the heart to its limits, filling with love, worry, hope and dreams. So for 18 years or so parents are expected to be in rehearsal, working hard to perfect every little piece of their production. Opening night comes, and all we can do is hope to be a member of the audience from time to time. This show should be able to run itself, no longer really needing the production team that made it successful. Thinking back on the baby, the little girl, the child we knew, we have great memories, but I sometimes feel a great loss too.

So my 12 year old daughter has had a taste of a very adult lesson of life: to love something means to give away a part of yourself.