My husband and I had a lovely holiday in Europe. Six splendid weeks of long walks, fine wines, blue skies, four-star hotels, and one five star hotel. It was bliss. We spent Christmas walking hand-in-hand through London, and warmed our hearts by sipping red wine at a cosy little Italian café in the Mayfair district. We re-enacted the Lady and the Tramp scene: we slurped up the same string of spaghetti and then ended up with our lips pressed together. We spent the rest of the evening determining who was the Tramp.
We spent the next few weeks staying with our dear friends in East Anglia, touring the English countryside by car. Our days were spent touring small villages and their breweries; all the while creating the fondest of memories.
We didn’t think it could get any better, and then we spent four days in Bruges and realized we had been wrong. Bruges is like an *&%$#@ fairytale, with quaint cottages, romantic canals and a quietness I had never before experienced. The city’s beauty made my heart stop. I had to be resuscitated with Flemish stew, Trappist ale and the most delectable confectionaries I have ever had the pleasure of ingesting.
It was with great sadness, and efficiency that I packed my suitcase for our trip home. I huffed as I pushed my clothes and souvenirs into the bag. My nose wrinkled up at the thought of unpacking the mess.
We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare, though I did try to postpone our departure, as I secretly hoped for a five-day delay. We checked-in and tossed our suitcases on the conveyor belt. We gave long hugs to our dear friends, and made promises to see them again. We continued to wave good-bye as we made our way through security.
We hadn’t pre-booked our seats so we were assigned seats upon check-in. When we entered the plane and located our seats, we noticed that they were in coach; in the very back row, right next to the washrooms. It was a ten-hour flight.
My husband leaned forward in his seat. I asked him what he was doing. He replied, “nothing”. So I knew there was something. I pushed him back in his seat and noticed a man sitting across the aisle from us with his bare feet stretched up and out, and resting above the plane’s window, for all to see.
His feet were cracked, blistered and bleeding. My whole body shuddered. Ugh. My husband said, “See?” I said, “What? You’re going to sit forward for ten hours?”
I got up from my seat and went to find a steward. The seatbelt signal flashed on the screen. A stewardess popped out from the plane’s galley and motioned for me to sit down. I pulled her by the arm and pointed at the man’s feet. She nodded in understanding and I returned to my seat.
She appeared a few moments later, with a pair of socks in hand. He waved them off, wanting to let his feet “breathe” but the stewardess held strong and insisted, shoving the blue cotton roll at him. She looked in my direction and I raised my fist in solidarity.
A few hours later, I pulled on my shoes and got up to use the restroom. There were eight restrooms on the plane, four directly behind our seats, two at the front of the coach section, and two in first class. I noticed a long line up for the four behind us, so I made my way to the front of the cabin. One had a sign that said “out of order” so I went to the other side, which had the same sign.
I attempted to slip through the curtain that separated coach from first class but was interceded by a male steward. “Excuse me?” I pointed at the “out of order” sign and asked if I could use theirs. He pointed to the back of the cabin and ordered me to “try back there”. I turned around, hoping no one had noticed that I was caught trying to ambush first class. Several people had, but they quickly diverted their eyes. I scurried to the back of the cabin and joined the line-up. A man excused himself past us and said, “they’re all out of order”. The stewardess, looking very weary, nodded and said, “’fraid so”.
There was a groan of disappointment from the crowd, while I skipped toward the front. I pushed open the first class curtain and stepped inside, the male steward lunged toward me. “They’re all out of order”.
“All of them?”
“Fine.” He ushered me past leather armchairs, and the D-list stars that reclined in them. I greeted each one with a smile and a half wave. He pointed to the door of the restroom and I went inside. There were deluxe toiletries lined up along the sink, embroidered hand towels hanging on the rack, and quilted toilet tissue on the roll. I sat down and exhaled. Finally, I knew what it was like to be first class, and I wasn’t leaving.
Six hours later, the seat belt signal dinged and I exited the restroom. I slipped past the male steward asleep in his seat and pushed through the first class curtain. As I made my way to the back of the plane, my husband spotted me walking down the aisle and looked confused, “Where have you been?”
I smiled as I gathered my carry-on and said, “I don’t do coach”.