Transcript: Success is Contagious. So is Failure
Rob Long on the slow slip down that happens to everyone — and the symbols we cling to because of that
This is Rob Long with Martini Shot for The Ankler.
Once, not too long ago, I was flying back to L.A. from London. The young woman in front of me, checking in, was doing her very best to finagle a free upgrade to first class.
She was under the impression that the way to get an upgrade was to ask for one, and then when refused, to call someone named Nigel on her cell phone, complain loudly, and then, after hanging up, turn to the person behind the tall check-in counter and say in a petulant tone of voice, “I’m actually quite well known.”
Which might be true for all I know. There are a lot of quite well-known people who aren’t quite well known.
For the record, I’m not quite well known, and I have a simple rule about air travel: if it’s on me, it’s very much a coach situation. If it’s on anyone else — and I mean, anyone else, I mean, even if for some reason impoverished world-disaster victims wanted me to come and tell them stories about Hollywood — it’s business class. Or better.
The particular airline with the passenger who was unknown to me or the check-in agent — but was, nevertheless, apparently, quite well known — has something called Economy Plus, which they try to trick you into thinking is just like business class, but trust me, I’ve flown it, it’s impossible to detect exactly what’s so “plus” about it.
Better to save your money, load up the iPad with movies, drink six glasses of red wine, fold yourself into coach, and sleep, snore and drool your way to your destination.
I was flying back from somewhere once, with my brother, and at the gate we ran into an agent I know. We were all waiting for the plane to begin boarding — my brother and I were in something I think they called Zone 43 — and after the polite chit-chat, the agent launched into a hugely complicated story about why, exactly, he was flying coach that day. He missed the first plane, see, and there wasn’t any space in first on the next flight, so he switched airlines, then couldn’t upgrade, then the flight was cancelled.
It was a strange, loopy tale, full of internal contradictions, and sad, really, because here I was scraping my knees into a coach seat and it hadn’t occurred to me to wonder what that said about me, my coach ticket, my sad little Cinnabon.
Not that I don’t splurge, of course — I’m no grim-faced Lonely Planet type, marching around with a water bottle and a map and a sour expression. But for me, when I throw money on a plane ticket or a fancy hotel, I don’t do it to impress people I know. I do it to impress people I don’t know.