About That Time I Sat In First Class

It was a last minute trip to Denver and thus a last minute flight had to be booked. And on President’s Day, no less, so my selection was not great. It was either a $140 ticket booked on Spirit, where my seat was actually located in the back pocket space located behind someone else’s seat, or a pricey first class ticket on United.

I’m claustrophobic so I had no choice but to bite the bullet and book the United flight.

Price aside, I won’t deny I was excited to experience life in first class. I’ve known such luxury only two other times in my life. The first being in the mid 90s when coming back from a family vacation the airline upgraded three tickets (in my family of five) to first class and my parents gave them to my siblings and myself! Can you believe that? That either shows a parents true love for their children, or their true distain at the end of a long vacation when they’d literally do anything to get some time away from their kids- like sit in coach while their kids enjoyed hot chocolate chip cookies in first.

The second was our honeymoon. The woman across from me complained about the wine glasses being plastic rather than glass, and as someone who used to drink from actual garbage cans in college (it was called mop water and the frat boys used a plastic bag, don’t worry) I was appalled.

“These people are too snooty,” I whispered to Chris, my new husband at the time. Cut to four mimosas later and suddenly me and wine-glass-lady were sharing our love for the “old Maldives” back before it got so popular (I’ve never been) and why first class “just isn’t what it used to be!

So like I said, I was excited.

When it came to board I checked my ticket ten different times to ensure I was actually in first class. Impostor syndrome was setting in hard and I was sure I’d be revealed for a phony who was just one click away from flying in a Spirit seat pocket, and not allowed to enter through the magic curtains to the front of airplane. But I managed to step on the plane reminding myself that this was no big deal! People do it all the time… just play it cool. I casually found my window seat, which was huge by the way, and tried to pretend this was all very chill and normal for me.

“Can I take your coat?” The flight attendant asked, without a hint of annoyance I might add.

“No, that’s okay, I know it’s a full flight,” I responded.

We were told not to put our coats in overhead storage and as someone who’s been barked at, “please keep your small item by your feet,” by flight attendants a time or two, I didn’t want to cause a fuss.

“Are you sure? I’d be happy to hang it up for you.”

First class has its own coat closet! I KNEW IT. I freaken knew it. I texted Chris immediately, “THEY HANG YOUR COATS IN FIRST CLASS.”

“Cool,” he responded, albeit not as fast as I’d hoped.

“Really cool!

“So did you?”

“No, I got nervous. I’m sitting on it.” But next time, next time I will.

Then came the hot towels, presented once again by some of the nicest flight attendants I’ve ever met. This wasn’t my first hot towel rodeo so I knew what to do, you cleanse your hands, obviously. And when the woman next to me started to dab her neck, I followed suit. Why not. Everyone likes a clean neck.

It wasn’t until the hot nuts came out when I almost blew my cover. Like a total first class rookie, I couldn’t figure out how to unfold my tray table! I should have watched the woman next to me closer, but I was too busy cleaning my neck! Luckily, she saw me struggling and kindly offered, “They’re a little tough to get out, you have to pull from the back.”

“They are tough!” I said, perhaps a little too eagerly. But I got it just in time for the flight attendant to hand me a tiny paper cup of warm mixed nuts.

“Straight from the oven,” he said as he placed them in front of me, “I just love a hot mixed nut,” he noted, not an ounce of sarcasm on his face.

“Same,” I stammered. What a life.

When someone from coach came though to use the front bathroom (bless their heart) I couldn’t help but notice how dry their hands looked. They could really use a hot damp towel, poor thing.

I almost blew my cover once more when lunch was served. A tray with a variety of delicious food was extended my way, so naturally I assumed I got to choose one. I was just about to say, “I’ll take the mac n cheese, please,” when I realized it wasn’t a choice. The entire tray was for me. OF COURSE IT WAS. As I write this now I realize how silly it sounds, but as someone who’s accustomed to choosing between mini pretzels or mini Lorna Doone shortbread cookies, can you really blame me?

For the past thirty years I’ve been rationing my eight tiny pretzels in coach, trying to make them last for at least thirty seconds, all the while the people in first class have been eating a four course meal. With hot mixed nuts, to boot. How dare they.

I snapped these photos secretly, careful not to let anyone see me acting so… dare I say giddy? And then I put my phone down and ate with both silverware, like a proper person does. It was somewhere in between the flight attendants refilling my wine (without me asking, I might add) and being offered a warm cookie (everything is warmed up in first class) when the pilot announced we’d be landing early. And for the first time in my life I thought, no, slow down! I wasn’t ready for this to end.

But it did. Our wine glasses were picked up and the coats were retrieved from the secret first class coat closet. And as our wheels touched down and we pulled up to our gate, I could see something change in the eyes of the helpful flight attendants. They wanted us off. We were just a job to them, it was as if the last two hours meant nothing.

I got up from my seat slower than usual, sad to leave my life of luxury behind. “I think I left my–” I started to say just so I could stay a little longer, but the flight attendant immediately responded, “you didn’t,” and pushed me on my way through the curtains.

So there I was, back in coach, as if I’d been there all along. Mini snack bags littered the floor and people behind me started to push and I wondered for a second if it was all just a dream. The wine, the food, the secret closet, perhaps it was all in my head. But then out of the corner of my eye, I saw it. I saw a hot mixed nut lying under the curtain, it probably wasn’t hot anymore, but I could tell there was a time when it once was. And I smiled to myself, because I just love a hot mixed nut.