I sit in the boarding area for Alaskan Airlines Flight 340 and listen to the ridiculous parade of adjectives for flyer upgrades.
Top Tier. Gold Elite Class. First Class. Business Class. Firstborn Prodigal Son Class. Certified Genius Class. People Who Floss Regularly Class. Strong Jawbone Class. Women in Beautiful Painful Shoes Class. Preferred First One Gold Tier Business.
It seems “What’s the status of my flight?” has become “What’s my status on the flight?”
Everyone wants to feel special. The need is so intense, so intimate to people that they are willing to purchase status with dollars and repeat business. They want to buy deference and exclusivity. They want to buy kindness.
I want to give them all a hug.
Sometimes, I think “Oh, they just want a better experience. That’s totally understandable.” Sometimes, I want a better experience. (Who does not like First Class?) But, sometimes, everything seems sad, and I (really) have no way to help anyone about to board this metal tube with me.
If I could, I suppose, I would go back to everyone’s childhood, and fix whatever might have gone wrong. Stop the (intended or unintended) slights, making sure no harm really lands. Because no matter how slight or small or unimportant they seem at the time, these rents that happen, these tears in our human fabric, will grow bigger with the hours, the days, the years of this life.
Little will become big … and life will take its toll. And then things like purchased deference and preference will put a fleeting balm on the deep ache inside, the ache that disturbs sleep and rattles relationships like a saber used in battle long ago, with a dark red stain that never seems to fade. The ache that never ever really seems to go away, no matter how much we massage or cuddle it.
But I can’t change the past. I can barely change myself. So, instead, I merely smile and joke and allow a few people to go ahead of me in the line, trying in some small way to make them feel better, to hug them without arms.
And then I board the plane.
I have done nothing. And, when the overhead bins are full and my bag gets gate-checked, I find myself wishing I was Preferred First One Gold Tier Business. I can smell the warm chocolate chip cookies behind the blue curtain, and I imagine the melting goo on my fingers, if I was seated up front with the lucky others …
We yearned and wished and earned and longed,
But nothing made us feel better.
Although we came close, so many times.
“This is it!” we thought — and then, “No, not it at all.”
“Maybe the next one.”
Finally, we sat back down.
But not for long.
“Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be.” — Leo Tolstoy, “Anna Karenina”