I have a confession to make! You can call me perverse, wanton or just down right weird but I need to come out of the closet and bare my soul…..I love airline food! I’ve always been an airline food junkie. There, I said it and I don’t regret it. Maybe it’s because I am one of those annoyingly pedantic passengers, you know the type, the one that always stands for agonising minutes arranging the bag in the over head storage, making sure the blanket is just right and the cushion is in the right place before getting seated and then absolutely must check the pocket on the back of the chair in front to make sure that the in-flight magazine is there along with the duty free list and of course one must never forget the earphones and then trying to find the hole were to stick the dam things . Its just that after all of my pre-flight checks I am totally bored and cannot wait for that tell tale smell of over heated goodies and the sight of the hostesses making there way excruciatingly slowly down the isle before confronting me with that all important question…”chicken or beef?”
I love the anticipation that I feel when ripping the foil off the tray. Do the contents really look like the description in the menu? I love all of those little plastic packages and try to work out which is the starter and which is the salad. I love the excuse to have another quarter-bottle of red wine “with your meal” no matter what time of the day it really is. And I absolutely adore the feeling that un-wrapping the tray perched precariously on the back of the seat in front makes me feel just a little bit like a well travelled jet setter. My secret fantasy sitting there with head phones on, munching my food at high altitude making the airline meal the last bastion of retro futurism that we are allowed.
But most of all I love the fact that when they finally come round with the trolley, it means the plane is flying normally and there is a good chance that we won’t crash!
Now I have been going through this little routine for far too many years than I care to remember and of course doing it “cattle class” (economy to the less initiated) so finally I said to myself “self, it is about time you upgraded” After all with the law of averages against me the probability of my taking the last flight is getting closer. So I did it. I took the plunge, raided my piggy bank and indulged…I bought a business class ticket. Oh what joy! They actually smiled at me at check-in. No waiting behind the inevitable family with a trillion kids and luggage to match and of course with always A PROBLEM TO SOLVE! Instead I was able to smugly look at all of those poor souls waiting in line and revelled in my new found status. And finally I was given the key to the golden gates, to that forbidden land……..the VIP lounge pass (I even had the little tags on by bags to prove it; they are now framed on my bedroom wall)
My god what have I been missing all these years sipping terrible and over priced coffee and trying to down a stale croissant in the duty free area. Instead I found bliss in the VIP lounge. Was all of this food for me? Had I finally found El Dorado? My passion for industrial packaged morsels had started…before I even boarded the plane.
And once on board it was surreal on so many different levels. There was actually room to spread out (I didn’t realize how much room was stolen from those lesser beings in the back). A very shapely stewardess came through a bit after takeoff with a glass of champagne and asked “Will you be taking dinner service this evening, Mr. Hooligan?” “Um, excuse me?” I replied. The question was so alien to me I actually couldn’t understand it the first time she asked. Correctly taking me for a complete idiot she repeated the question and this time after regaining my composure and demeanour as a regular business class traveller I replied “Ah, yeah, well, umm, sure!” so she retorted quickly “Would you like the Beef Stroganoff or the salmon?” Of course you get asked that in economy, but only when they finally get to you with a trolley full of preheated trays. Getting asked in advance was just kind of bizarre.
And then, just the thought of this makes my eyes water up, the stewardess pulls out my personal little table that was hidden in the chair arm ( I was actually wondering how I was going to reach the usual back of the chair tray because the chair in front of me was so far away!) She laid the table with a table cloth!!! Could it get any better?
Unbelievably beverages were served in real glasses. For coffee we got mugs. And wonders of wonders the cutlery was real steel and sharp too. Obviously potential terrorists don’t travel business and need to bring their own knives with them!
The idea of having multiple courses in the air was just so weird with the appetizer course being served first and the main course coming next in a heated porcelain container and a nice choice of dinner rolls, bagels and pita bread (not the usual semi-bread). Dessert came on a dessert trolley with petit fours, cut fruits, cheese and more alcohol. By this time I was feeling slightly under the weather but I couldn’t bring myself to refuse a single offering.
This obviously once again identifying me as a business class novice in the eyes of the flight attendants and my fellow travellers.
The entire experience was surreal and I am not sure that now that I have actually eaten of the forbidden fruit I have lost my fantasy. You see, I am a creature of habit and my routine for flights is pretty well set. I always sit in an aisle seat because I just hate having to step over people to go for my hundredth pee. I put on my headphones and indulge in a chance to see the latest movies and intermittently mutter an answer to the flight attendants with preferences as they serve me. This bizarre experience of getting actual service really messed with my head.
I was also astonished to see how my fellow business class passengers treated this as routine. They felt and acted entitled to this degree of service. One obnoxious person even complained about the slow response of the flight attendants to his continuous and annoying requests. No thank you or recognition of this extra service, just taking it for granted that they as the privileged few have their special constitutional rights. I guess if you fly enough up here in front, you get world-weary to it. After a while of watching them treat the attendants so impolitely, I almost wanted to move back to economy and exclaim “That’s not me! I am not a pompous and self righteous executive jerk like these other guys! I’m with proletariat, I fly in cramped up economy all the time!”
But I didn’t. I am hooked. The legroom is too precious and the meals………!
Well let’s just say that I am now a business class airline food junkie