W Bruce Cameron – I recently received awards and recognition because of my butt.
What I did with my butt to earn the accolades was to sit it in an airplane seat for a lot of miles, earning me the coveted "100K" classification, which I enjoyed for a year.
The torrid pace of travel eventually slowed, and the other day I received a letter from the airline telling me that it’s disappointed in my butt. I’ve lost my 100K designation and will no longer be treated as royalty. I’m just a regular customer, so the airline will treat me as livestock.
I didn’t think I’d miss being a 100K until I took my first flight without the distinctive 100K gold card. (It isn’t real gold; they had to switch to plastic because of the metal detectors.)
100Ks have their own special check-in at the airport: velvet-lined ropes guiding you past the masses while you toss them coins from your carriage. At the counter, attractive people check you in (if they aren’t at least model-quality in looks, they apologize profusely).
Your bags are taken from the bellman and given to a bag handler, who carefully places them on the conveyor belt and then lies down with them – he’ll travel with your belongings in the luggage compartment, cradling them gently to his chest. At your destination, he’ll leap out of the airplane the moment the wheels touch the ground, sprinting to the baggage-claim area so you won’t have to wait.
The line for regular travelers, by contrast, is so long that you calculate that by the time you reach the counter, you’ll qualify for the senior discount. You don’t get to speak to a supermodel; you speak to a machine, a cold kiosk that asks you to insert your credit card so it can go online and download songs. Invariably the couple in front of you spend 40 minutes reading the instructions on each screen, terrified that they might accidentally be putting their children up for adoption.
As a 100K, I had my choice of seats on the plane. If someone was sitting in the place I preferred, he was removed from the airplane and beaten with sticks. (As a courtesy, I never asked to sit in the co-pilot’s seat.) Regular travelers are asked to sit in seats designed to evoke the phrase human wedge.
When you’re 100K, you receive regular updates on your flights, even when you’re sitting on the plane. If the flight is delayed for, say, mechanical reasons, the flight engineer will allow you to inspect the part they’re replacing, and then you’ll be given a photo album so you can select which airline executive should be fired. Non-100K travelers are merely told that their flight is delayed and that they should sit in the airport and practice the human wedge.
In the event of cabin decompression due to, oh, a hole in the side of the aircraft, regular travelers are asked to assist the 100K with his oxygen mask and then stuff themselves into the hole. In a water landing, 100Ks use other passengers as a flotation device.
Non-100K fliers are asked not to attempt to engage 100Ks in conversation – if you do, you’ll find yourself talking to the air marshal. 100Ks just want to be left alone to enjoy their gourmet meals. Sometimes, though, to amuse themselves, the 100Ks will invite the regular travelers to perform tricks for cold shrimp.
And the 100Ks do talk to one another, often to play the airline game "Let’s Turn on the Seat-Belt Sign and See Whose Bladder Gives Out First." 100Ks aren’t required to obey the seat-belt sign – if they were buckled up like the regular passengers, they’d miss their masseuse appointments.
I told the flight attendant that I used to be a 100K.
"But you’re not anymore," she pointed out.
"True," I admitted, a sob in my throat.
"Well . . ." she gave me a sympathetic smile. "How about I let you carry some 100K luggage when we land? Would that make you feel better?"
I miss being a 100K, though the only way to be re-inducted is to spend another 100,000 miles as a regular traveler.
I’m not sure it’s worth it.
Write to Bruce at [email protected].