Monday, March 16, 2009

The Friendly Skies

I took a business trip last week, traveling out and back on a Boeing 777 airplane, a behemoth that is twice the length and, when fully loaded, roughly the weight of the largest blue whale ever documented. As a modern-day Jonah, I enjoyed accommodations in my sky-whale that were deluxe Business Class, far removed from the original Jonah's accommodations, which were wet, dark, and smelly.

On the outbound flight, I luxuriated in a recliner seat having the spaciousness and padding to suit the most discerning posterior. For my entertainment, a private miniature television screen swiveled into viewing position from the armrest. The latest James Bond shoot-em-up was playing. A steward came by offering red wine. This was tempting, but I decided on a glass of orange juice instead. I am a novice at stylish living and didn't want to get in over my head. The steward gave me a heated crucible full of mixed nuts for an appetizer. Trust me, there is nothing like a warm, salted filbert to make a man feel like a dignitary!

Soon it was dinner time. The steward sailed a white tablecloth onto my tray with a matador's flourish and then speedily brought my requested fare: a salmon salad. It was a fine and satisfying meal.

By contrast, the return trip on the 777 was a letdown. I was seated on the last row of the Business Class, only separated from Economy Plus by a thin bulkhead. The chair was the same style of recliner as before but seemed a bit shopworn. The entertainment was a lackluster science fiction movie. When the steward came around offering drinks, he had white wine instead of red. I found nothing tempting about the white wine and, consequently, did not feel that subtle pang of regret one enjoys when choosing between attractive alternatives. Then I was dismayed to receive my crucible of mixed nuts and discover that they had cooled to room temperature.

The steward said that he was fresh out of salmon salad. My choice was shrimp salad or a sandwich. I chose the sandwich, which turned out to be heavily mayonnaised slices of beef on a doughy onion roll. Ugh.

I was working myself up to a fit of pique as I considered these minor disappointments. Fortunately, my perspective was restored when I thought of a young girl I am acquainted with. She lives in a slum in India and has never flown in a Boeing 777. What delight she finds in life comes from her baby sister and from skipping. She has won school awards for her skipping ability, she has told me.