You know? The “relentlessly cheerful” thing has been flagging a bit. Yeah, I did make my connection, running late in the back row of an Airbus that seemed, um, boarding-challenged. You know that test they give you when you’re a kid, where you try to fit blocks of various shapes into slots so they all fit? It’s doubtful that anyone in the first 34 rows of AF1681 could have passed. And when we landed at CDG, each and every one of them needed to extricate their suitcases, steamer trunks and bassoons from the overhead luggage compartments in painstaking slow motion before I could disembark and sprint like crazy across the airport to my connection. I shouldn’t have been running like that – not carrying weight and not in those shoes. My knee’s still throbbing, but I was not excited about the prospect of another night in an airport hotel – City of Lights be damned.
I had I tried changing seats last night, this morning, on that flight, and on the next one, but my conversations with the Air France and Sky Team representatives were, um, unsuccessful. Tried using miles to upgrade, anything. They explained that I could only upgrade if I were on a class Y, M or Zeta-Prime fare class, and since I was a British Airways transfer, I didn’t appear to have any fare class. This novelty seemed to intrigue them: “Shouldn’t he have a fare class?” “Yeah, I suppose. Hmmm. Sorry, nothing we can do for you – next!” And in in any case, changes and upgrades needed to have been made 48 hours prior to the flight (“But…” “Desolee, monsieur – next!”)
Anyhow fine, I made the connection. Throbbing knees and all, I made it, to find myself in the back row again, sandwiched between two polite but enormous gentlemen who were either oil rig workers or linebackers. They did their best, but there was not much they could do to avoid protruding into my breathing space. Fine. It’s only six and a half hours. And only one of them is wearing cologne.
Now, I remember from my R.E.I. Zombie Apocalypse training course (no, really) that the key determinant of outcome in any crisis is a P.M.A. – a positive mental attitude. It’s what makes the difference between the zombies getting you and you spending your remaining days of despair starving in a barricaded shopping mall. Honestly, it wasn’t I couldn’t tell which outcome was associated with which attitude, but it was clear that our presenter thought having a P.M.A. was the important thing.
But I mean really – I’m extraordinarily blessed here. Extraordinarily. Well into the 0.001%. And as cranky as I am about still wearing Sunday’s clothes (it’s Tuesday, for future reference) and having the guy in front of me keep bouncing his seat back and banging my laptop screen, I’m going to use that positive mental attitude to remind myself that these are laughably first world problems. I have a laptop. I’m sitting in a comfortable seat in a freakin’ jet airliner traveling at will around the planet. Sure, I can get resentful about personal space, but I’m also going to remember that it’s just me having a expectations adjustment moment. I’m about to spend a week among people for whom having a second set of clothes is a luxury. People who can’t afford to see a doctor. People who watch their children go to bed hungry night after night. People who have lived through a civil war that wiped out entire villages. No, that doesn’t necessarily make me feel better – but those people are why I’m here. And it does help add a little context when the flight attendant has to reach across my snoring seatmate to ask if I’d like some chardonnay.
Yup, the importance of remembering “these are ‘first-world problems'”. We’ll keep the lights on, awaiting you in Ghana on the flip side. Have you seen the infographic at http://www.gmi.org/poverty-infographic.htm ?