On the Come Up

A 4:45am alarm, an hour-long drive, a hastily eaten $17 breakfast sandwich at PHL and a stuffed-to-the-gills gate is prelude to what will be a 6 hour flight.  I might as well be flying to the UK, it’s so far.  Sometimes it’s hard to fathom that we drove from one coast to another, literally, in 6 days.  Five?  I can’t remember now.  I’ve asked the gate agents if there are any upgrades left, and of course, there are not.  I wasn’t expecting it – clearly everyone is interested in going to San Francisco from Philadelphia at 8am on a Wednesday, even though I questioned the likelihood of this on the drive to the airport.  Answer:  100 percent of everyone is interested.

I am firmly ensconced in my seat in front of the exit row, which, not sure why these seats are considered preferred – there might be 1-1/2 inches of more legroom, but there is no reclining, which was clearly stated when I booked the seat, I just thought it might be a lark.  Anyway, that’s cool, I have the New Yorker, a book of poetry that accompanies me on every flight (Aja Monet’s My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter if you are curious – pretty sure I’ve left at least one dog-eared copy on a plane in the past, YOU ARE WELCOME) and the 2nd Tracey Thorn book on ye olde kindle.  I have a neck pillow that at times does more harm than good, and zero snacks, as I somehow did not have the time or fortitude to consider getting any.  I am resigned to what will be a ravenous hunger when exiting the BART station on Montgomery and know in my heart that the dim sum I will mercilessly devour from Good Mong Kok will taste all the more exquisite due to my current circumstance. 

It is a full flight, and yet, the last passenger has arrived and I am still the lone occupant of my non-reclining row, which either means I’ve hit the jackpot for being a nunce and picking this seat but also YAY ALONE, or my row mates will be boarding late and disheveled.  

All of a sudden, a very well-dressed and coiffed gentleman perhaps 10 years my junior approaches.  He leans in and says, “Hi, my daughters are sitting in those two seats –  (his daughters are timidly behind him, ages roughly 5 to 8?  Who knows, they are small with brightly princessed backpacks) – and I was wondering…” my brain pauses here, as this is clearly my punishment for either staying up too late, or renouncing Catholicism, or lying about having a boyfriend in the seventh grade – this nicely put-together man is about to ask me if I will keep an eye on his daughters for the flight.  Surely they are well-behaved and I won’t have to really do anything but pass them stuff and make sure they don’t choke or something, and I’m feeling generous, BUT THEN:

“…I was wondering if you would mind switching seats with me, I’m in first class but I’d love to be able to sit with them.”

I probably can die now, or buy a lottery ticket, or something to that end because this kind of nice thing doesn’t happen that often.  To me.  Without hesitation I tell him of course I will switch, and all of a sudden I am in 5B, in the land of noise-canceling wireless headphones on many dudes and gel nails on many ladeez.  There is a Very Good Baby in the row in front of me.  I ask the flight attendant if the nice gentleman would still want his meal, and they say they can’t give it to him now.  This makes me sad but not sad enough to bring him my fruit plate.  

However:  I will indeed figure out how to pay this forward, and tout-suite, as I don’t think it serves to let this kind of gesture just sit endlessly, without action. This is not a repayment for something magnanimous I’ve already done.  This is a clarion call to give something to someone else – with simplicity but extravagance – at my next available opportunity.  It’s too twee to say that this is the hand of my dead mother, who loved to fly and loved first class more than anything, but couldn’t do it often.  It’s too precious to say that because I’m yet again going back to her city that this is her doing.  Isn’t it?

Also, this flight is rerouted now for an extra hour of travel due to weather.  Through Texas.  Where she lived.

Real silverware, Mom.  Real fucking silverware.