Ignorance Is Bliss, Or, How I Never Should Have Flown Long Haul Business Class.
Sometimes a travel experience is so extraordinarily strange that it must be recorded for all time. My current flight counts as one of those.
I now firmly believe that ignorance is, in fact, bliss. At least when it comes to long haul business vs. economy travel.
I’m on a trip that will take me from New York City to Tokyo, then on to Bangkok and finally Chiang Mai, Thailand.
My leg from JFK to Tokyo/Narita was business class with Delta, using an upgrade certificate I was given by achieving Diamond status with them last year (I fly a lot for work. 180,000 miles in 2014.). I figured if I’m going to use it, I better take advantage of it on a 14 hour and 40 minute flight (which ended up being over 16 hours… but I digress…). And let me tell you, it was fantastic. Lie flat seat. The feeling of being in a cocoon, wanting to burst forth at any moment in joy of how good you feel. I was immediately approached about whether or not I would like a mimosa. Yes please and thank you. I was then asked for my meal preference. Beef tenderloin, lobster mac & cheese, buttered asparagus… that will do just fine. Oh but we’ll start with a delicious soup & salad? Twist my arm. While I’m dining on this absolutely delicious meal I settle on watching Big Hero 6. Heard a lot of good things. Doesn’t disappoint. Great animated film. As the conclusion of the film is drawing close, I’m given an ice cream sundae, topped with hot fudge, caramel, nuts and whipped cream. And a glass of port. And a cup of coffee. Because this is what you do in business class. I think. I’m not used to this. But I could get used to this. Because it feels amazing.
After the film and the ice cream and the port I decide that it’s time to give this bed a shot. I’m quite tired and haven’t been sleeping enough lately. If I was in economy right now, the thought wouldn’t be there. I’m the worst airplane sleeper. I mean, the worst. So on the little Star Trek panel I push the little button with the zzz’s and suddenly my chair turns into a transformer, twisting and contorting and, well, straightening out. When I got to my seat I was given two (TWO!!) pillows, one large and one small, as well as a thick, comfortable blanket. Probably nicer than the one on my bed at home.
Like I said, I’m the worst airplane sleeper. But, I slept. For awhile. I was in and out and in and out, but I slept. For roughly 6 hours. Which is a miracle. An actual miracle. As I was stirring from sleep they brought me a mid flight snack… Which just happened to be a meat and cheese and tomato and basil and other things I couldn’t identify because they were super fancy platter. So I had that along with another adult beverage and watched Fury, which I missed in the theater. Finished the film from a reclined but not quite sleeping position. Once it was over, there were still another, supposedly, 4 hours to go on the flight. So, more sleep! Why not? I thought I’d try for an hour, maybe and hour and a half if I was feeling good. Then if wake up and watch something or read something or just sit in awe of this experience. 3 and a half hours later I woke up. No joke. Apparently we were going to be flying longer than anticipated because of bad weather and air traffic in Narita. But don’t fear! It’s time for more food! This time, a guyuere cheese and mushroom omelette with chicken sausage, asparagus and a hash brown potato cake. Oh and a hot croissant. Because why not?
The flight attendant in my section was a middle aged woman from Poland, who was incredibly cheerful and wanted nothing more than to stuff us all with as much food as possible. Another croissant? Another drink? More food? More anything? Incredibly attentive, always happy. Always.
So when they told us we’d be in the air awhile longer. I didn’t care. At all. Keep me up here as long as you want. Fine by me. However, as we were approaching the airport it hit me. Uh oh, what time is it and how much time do you have to catch your connecting flight? The answer was quite literally no time. By the time we hit the ground I had 5 minutes before my flight to Bangkok was supposed to take off. Oops.
Turns out that the flight had been delayed and I was going to make it. By the time I got to the gate I thought we would be boarding but when they kindly told me to head to the lounge, I knew it would be awhile. This was also the devastating moment when I found out that my upgrade to Bangkok had not cleared because business class was full. Horror of horrors.
So when it was time to board the plane, I shuffled in, shoulders slightly hunched, knowing what I would be missing for the next 7 hours. “At least I’m in the bulkhead, first row of economy comfort.”, I told myself.
When I walk on the plane, there is a small person, a young child, standing at my seat, screaming. Screaming more than any other child I’ve ever heard scream on a plane. And I have heard a lot of screaming children on planes. And the scream coming out of this small person feels like it’s stabbing my soul. Every bit of my essence is shrinking. I put my passport and documents holder in the seat so I could put my luggage away. This screaming small person immediately grabs my things and throws them, while still screaming. I finally get everything situated and sit in my seat, in the middle. To my left is a grandmother, then her daughter and the screaming, document throwing small person, then bewildered me, then an older, intense, seemingly angry American man.
I sit down and Angry American immediately starts talking to me about how if he owned an airline, he would charge people double for bringing small persons, not for free, as apparently was happening here. He was saying these things loudly. The mother and grandmother spoke and understood English. I half laughed, half nodded, uncomfortably. I scrambled to put my Bose Noise Cancelling headphones on, wondering if it could block out the weeping sound that my spirit was making. Angry American was still ranting as I starting letting St. Paul & the Broken Bones try and take me to a happy place. At least this flight isn’t as long and I can just watch a few movies and distract myself. No. Because the entertainment system was not working for this flight. Because of course it wasn’t.
It takes what feels like an age and a half for us to take off. I’m in that awkward, half groggy, half awake stupor. We finally take off as St. Paul & the Broken Bones is coming to a close (yes, I listened to a whole album while waiting to take off) and switched over to Streets of Laredo. Now we’ve entered that awkward stage of waiting for drinks and food and wanting to sleep or SOMETHING but not wanting to miss drinks and food. Angry American is still angry. Screaming small person has fallen asleep but his feet are all over me. I mean, ALL over me. Mom cannot be bothered by this fact. At all.
We finally get the food as Streets of Laredo come to an end and I switch over to the Punch Brothers. I opt for the chicken and potatoes and a glass of red wine from one of those weird boxes. I start with the semi dead salad and do my best. I take one bite of the chicken, which turned out to be a giant piece of fat, followed by one bite of potato, and decided that dinner was, in fact, over. Maybe I’m being dramatic in calling it the worst airplane food I’ve ever had, but, it was the worst airplane food I’ve ever had. Meanwhile, screaming small person’s feet are still all up on me and my tray. Grandma leans over and says, “I apologize for my grandson…”, which is a kind gesture, but somehow it does not alleviate these feet from being all up on me. “It’s fine.”, I say, in the most passive aggressive moment of my life.
Meanwhile, Angry American is a bit frantic with his plate. We’re all pretty cramped, by the way. All of a sudden, Angry American becomes even more angry. I think he spilled some of his tea? Maybe? Next thing I know, he is up and ripping the curtain open to business class and in he goes. “Take me with you!!”, my soul screams.
Angry American eventually comes back, looking just as angry as when he left. He settles back in and, quite literally, starts stabbing at his salad. With force. I’m suddenly slightly terrified that this man has been given plastic utensils and I’m wondering at what point I’m going to be stabbed to death by the instrument of his salad’s demise. It is, at this point, while witnessing the stabbing, that I saw “Ah eff it” and switch from the Punch Brothers to Rage Against The Machine. Gotta go with what feels right. So with Testify blaring in my ear holes, I continued to watch this man massacre his salad and then move on to his strange looking beef.
Not long after this, fate says “Oh yeah, sorry, I was distracted. Forgot about this…”, and causes Screaming Small Person to kick my tray of food over onto Angry American. We all had a good laugh about it. Or not. At all.
Which leads me to now. I’m back to the Punch Brothers and it’s dark and I’m typing these words, wondering what else is going to happen before we land and I have to find this hotel somewhere in Bangkok so that I can get, maybe, 3 hours of sleep.
The moral of the story? I don’t know. Choose your own adventure. All I know is that I am forever a ruined man.
P.S. What happened is I landed, walked what felt like 17 miles to Immigration, became immediately and completley depressed at the Disney World-esque immigration line, collected my bags, grabbed a taxi and immediately got lost for an extended period of time looking for my hotel. So those 3 hours of sleep ended up being less than 2 hours of sleep. At least the hotel staff felt really, really bad for me. So that’s something?