Congratulate me, you guys – I spent enough time travelling on the same airline in 2014 to qualify for the bottom tier of elite status of its frequent flier program.
I take special delight in being able to use priority access security lanes when I arrive at the airport. I still have to take off my shoes when I go through the body scanner, though. And it’s not like TSA agents are nicer to me just because my boarding pass has the word PRIORITY printed on it all in caps. But shorter lines mean less time spent having my panoply of anti-aging creams scanned and more time eating Garrett’s Popcorn from the kiosk in Terminal 3 of O’Hare.
I get to board the plane first.
After first class passengers, active service members in uniform, passengers with super duper elite status, people with super status, passengers with small children, and passengers with medical conditions who require assistance getting on the plane.
I don’t get free upgrades but I do get to use the special priority boarding lane at the gate. Which looks like the regular boarding lane right next to it but for a placard that says PRIORITY BOARDING.
I find myself repressing the urge to yell “STEP ASIDE PEASANTS” to those people in boarding group numbers 1 through 4 when I move forward to have my boarding pass scanned by the gate agent.
I can usually get a seat with extra legroom which, frankly, is wasted on me as I’m not that tall nor are my legs especially long. I get huffy if there are only overhead monitors to watch heavily edited versions of network television shows like “Parenthood” instead of touch screens on the back of every seat. Not like I ever watch the TV as I usually splurge on wi-fi for my iPhone so I can spend my time in the air doing productive stuff like looking at stuff on Tumblr and (this only happened once) ordering a handbag from the J. Crew web site.
What? It was on sale.
I sometimes think to myself that it’s sad that it only takes the smallest amount of privilege afforded by not entirely frequent travel to go to my head in such a big way.
But then I look at the amount of money I spent on plane tickets last year and you know what? It’s okay to get excited when I get my favorite window seat (anything on the left side of the plane facing forward, just in front of or right on the wing, thank you very much). It’s exciting when you ask for a soda from the flight attendant and you get the whole can wrapped in a branded cocktail napkin along with a cup of ice. It’s not so exciting to shuffle through first class when you’re not sitting there but there is a small pleasure to be had in having all of the overhead bins in coach available to store your suitcase. I know these pale in comparison to past delights like smoking onboard and getting assorted free snacks.
It’s something about being up in the air that I tend to conflate what I want with what I need. Fizzy beverages. Ownership of the armrest. Maybe that hot dude in the hipster glasses and herringbone jacket two rows ahead of me could turn around and wink at me.
I was lucky to be able to travel as much as I did. To return to places I loved (Joe’s Shanghai Restaurant in New York City for soup dumplings, the city of London, England in its entirety) and explore new destinations (Madrid, Spain aka my colonial mothership). I got reacquainted with the majority of my high school class for my 20th reunion, where I got to meet their charming spouses and precocious children. I may have developed an obsession with eating as many fried padrón peppers in Spain as I could find. I ate a lot of McDonald’s breakfasts at O’Hare but didn’t buy nearly enough tea at Heathrow.
I wasn’t brave enough when travelling by myself. I changed travel plans so I could go to Madrid instead of joining a friend in Vienna for her birthday (terrible) and I didn’t even tell her about it before I did it (worse) and I didn’t apologize after (worst). I found myself short a few times when I wanted to tip a waiter so I didn’t, and I got shirty with a cab driver once when he hadn’t done anything wrong. I spent a night in London lost, wandering around Parliament, instead of doing what I wanted to do which was sit in my hotel room, watch English reality television, and sample every flavor of Walkers Crisps I could carry back from the Tesco Express around the corner.
I like to think I did well, travel-wise, in 2014. But I can always do better.
I’m not in the habit of making resolutions but I do believe in the power of good intentions. I am working on making those intentions into realities. I started 2015 on a good note, chugging towards New York City on the Lake Shore Limited with my beloved Jacinda. I frolicked in Boston with Christina and her wonderful dog Martin “Marty” Heidogger.
But then I said goodbye to Uncle Gerhard. And that totally sucked.
I miss Gerhard and his stories about his travels, which took him everywhere, over many years. I won’t miss his hours-long slideshows of said travels, though. I will miss him this spring, when I am hiking in Ireland (a new country for me), huffing and puffing on a steep hill while dreaming of a shot of proper Irish whiskey before passing out from exhaustion. But hopefully not for long, because those hills need to be climbed while I instagram the shit out of them for the people waiting for me at home.