A First Class Fruit

I never thought my first time in first class would lead me to a revelatory perspective on a fruit I wasn’t fond of.

I had found myself buying a flight from New Jersey to Orlando, Florida. A short trip. The reasons for my travel arrangements aren’t important, but the fact that this was a last minute plan certainly had an impact on my purchase decision.

With only one day to book my flight the ticket prices were somewhat limited in their variability, i.e there were no sweet cheap deals. As I browsed and clicked my way through the airfare options something caught my eye. For just $100 more than the cheapest fare, I could spend my 2hrs and 49m in first class.

Wow. I had never actually flown first class before, and to be honest, I wasn’t certain that I ever might. But for the cost of a monthly phone bill, or a nice dinner out, or 1/10 of a weekend in Atlantic City, this experience could be mine.

“Confirm your purchase. Your credit card is about to be charged.” Leaping feet first, let’s see what this is all about.

Would I see anyone famous? Maybe I would be seated next to some eccentric billionaire. Probably not.

Would people act differently? Maybe there was an unwritten set of first class rules that I wouldn’t have the slightest clue about. The curiosity brain kindling crackled.

I arrived at the Philadelphia airport. A sign which read “U.S. Airways First Class” was glaring, greeting me as I approached curb side for my drop off. Normally this would have slipped right passed, but today it spoke to me.

I was cutting it close. Arriving at my gate zones 1 through 3 had already boarded, with the last of zone 4 tricking passed the attendant. I was one of the last stragglers to jump in line and board.

ZONE 1. There it was. Immediately visible as I turned the tight corner passed the cockpit. It was a small zone, only about 16 seats in total. But those seats looked massive.

I tried to act casual as I threw my carry-on into the overhead. I had reserved a window seat, and so I politely signaled to the gentleman in the isle I would need to squeeze by. He passed no judgement at my young age and casual dress. But really, why should he? What were these judgmental expectations that had bubbled into my brain? Some form of insecurity more than likely. After all, someone might figure out that I don’t really belong here, in this section.

I sat down in the cozy confines of that comfortable seat, quite uncomfortable in my own skin for a bit. Everything looked polished and neat. The legroom was quite majestic. I stretched my toes forward and straightened my legs. I buckled up. I jumped into my social media accounts in case I had missed something in the past hour that I would just need to know before flying through the air in this zone 1 throne. Maybe there would be a new like on a recent photo I had posted. Nothing like a little digital ego boost before flying in first. How pathetic. What did people in this section of the plane do with their time? Certainly it wasn’t Facebooking prior to take off. As I looked around I did notice one common denominator amongst almost everyone in Zone 1, they were all reading. I cracked open my newest Amazon purchase of Chris Hadfield’s book, “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth”, and I attempted to blend in.

TAKE OFF.

I wondered, would someone finger me as a first-timer? Would I give myself away through the inability to open my first class tray table? I almost didn’t find it buried beneath the arm rest. Luckily the gentleman next to me opened his first. I imagined him leaning over ever so slightly and saying to me, “first time in first class?” Like an uber cool, super observant character played by Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise. Maybe he spotted me a mile away. Had anyone already pegged me for a zone 1 noob? Maybe. Maybe not.

An announcement. “The beverage cart will be making its way up the isle with cold beverages only. The hot water has been turned off in the back so we’ll be serving cold beverages only.” Okay. No complaints here. Little did I know those rules don’t apply to our magical little section.

Our flight attendant approaches. The gentleman next to me asks her if there’s hot coffee available. There is. Clearly a Zone 1 regular. He also orders the cheese and crackers. I parrot his order, aside from the cream and sugar in my coffee. I prefer black. I was expecting a styrofoam cup of lukewarm coffee, and a package of crackers with rubbery orange tinted cheese. Of course those were tainted expectations from a coach class perspective.

We were served fresh coffee in a white porcelain mug, 3 types of thick cut cheese paired with grapes and crackers in a matching ceramic bowl, and a smaller bowl of mixed nuts which had been slightly warmed. A rolled up cloth napkin packed with real silverware was placed next to this impressive more-than-just-a-snack spread. The Zone 1 gods seemed to approve. I can see how someone could get used to this. I don’t even like grapes, but guess what, I ate them. And they tasted great. Really great. So great it made me rethink some things about grapes.

Why did I think I didn’t like grapes for all these years? And then it hit me. In the serenity of this zenned-out Zone 1 experience I flashed back to grade school. A noisy cafeteria, kids fresh from recess, stinky and sweaty. And there on the greasy, filthy lunchroom floor were a minefield of slimy, slippery squished grapes, splattered across the entire lunchroom. They disturbed me. Juices oozing onto the tile floors. Textural transitions from slick to sticky. All of this mixing with the crusty mud crumbs we had tracked in on the bottoms of our shoes. I would have a hard time eating grapes from those days forward. Until today. This was the day that a spontaneous one hundred dollar decision would lead me to a regressed reevaluation of a first class fruit.

Post meal. I should probably write some of these mad thoughts down.