This Just In!
By Lake Stevens, Man About Town
August 25, 2004
An Adventure in Coach
The other day I was enjoying my usual 2 pm luncheon with Keanu and Minnie at Ivy when
I was rudely interrupted by a most urgent call from the "wife." "She" informed me
that we were scheduled on a last minute flight and I needed to get to LAX on
the double. I couldn't possibly imagine what was so important as to make me hurry
over my watercress salad and fois gras on toast.
"Darling, really now, this can wait until tomorrow. I've got a massage with Horst at
five, followed by a fitting for the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards at seven...
What? We're going where?!?"
When I heard our destination, I nearly spit my San Pellegrino white wine spritzer
all over Jose, our cute Latino waiter. I just get the giggles every time he refers to
me as "Señor Lake." Who knew an illegal immigrant could be such a tease! I
jerked myself out of this reverie to reflect upon what I'd just heard. The "wife"
and I would not be arriving in the Hamptons or even at the Jersey shore. Our presence
was desired in...Michigan.
My poor, sweet "wife" (bless "her" heart) didn't have the good fortune of being born
into one of the more "American" states like Massachusetts, Rhode Island or even Los
Angeles. "She" came from not only Michigan, but from Detroit. How gauche!
It seems that "she" nearly forgot a family reunion. I know that it's tragic "her"
Aunt Esther might not live to see another Yom Kippur, but is it really that important
for me to be there? I decided to attend despite myself. It was an opportunity
to see how the common folk live, what with their Tupperware and tuna-noodle
casseroles. My "wife" also threatened to divorce me if I failed to come.
Normally this reunion business could have been neatly avoided by pinning the blame on
Consuela the maid. Whenever faced with a distasteful proposal, we simply tell the
host that The Help must have misplaced the invitation. Oh pity, at such late notice,
we couldn't possibly secure a flight in time...so sorry we couldn't be there.
Then we usually send them a little something from Fred Segal and they forget all about it.
This reunion was different. The placement of various relatives' wills was to be secured!
I could see why the "wife" was so insistent; Aunt Esther was simply filthy with money.
Time to dash!
Wasting no time, I kissed Minnie on both cheeks and Keanu on the lips. I threw Jose
a tip and a wink while yelling to the valet to bring my Miata around. In my
rush, I nearly slid right past the door. My new calf-skin moccasins weren't providing
adequate traction for a man on the run. I'll never understand what's wrong with those
PETA vegetarian types. How can one even consider life without calfskin?
I arrived at LAX in record time and found the "wife" ensconced at a public
bar drinking a martini. "She" looked shamefully away when I demanded to know why "she"
wasn't in the First Class Admiral's Lounge. It was only then that "she" told me
we were flying COACH. At first I failed to grasp the implications of this. I knew
it only to be very bad. The next thing I knew, the "wife" was brusquely patting my
face and shaking me by the shoulder. I must have fainted after learning that I'd have
to mingle with the unwashed. My hand went to the tender spot on my forehead where I'd
presumably hit the floor. This wasn't a dream, but a nightmare that had only just begun!
To calm my frazzled nerves, I quickly ordered a double shot of bourbon from the closest
airport tavern. Screaming children and dumbfounded tourists did nothing to help the
throbbing that was steadily growing behind my eyes. A group of teenage girls started
squealing when they mistakenly thought they spied Johnny Depp hurrying through the crowd.
After downing my third drink, we crept along the noisy corridor to the
America West gate. I stared blankly at my "wife." "She" hedged that America West
is an airline just like Virgin or British Airways...except not as good.
When we located gate C-4, I promptly asked the agent to allow us to board. Settling
in with a strong cocktail and the latest copy of Harper's Bazaar might make me
(sort of) forget the day's prior trauma. The agent (her nametag read "Sheri") snapped
that I had to wait for my row to be called. Stunned, I had no choice but to sit on
one of the tacky vinyl chairs next to my "wife." I was careful not to touch anything.
You can get herpes from anything these days.
Finally "Sheri" announced that "all main cabin passengers may board." A stampede of
sun-burned Midwesterners, encumbered with Old Navy and Ross shopping
bags, clogged the entry. America West apparently finds it easiest to shove
everyone onto the plane like so much cattle in a train car. I can't be sure, but I
think I may have screamed aloud at this point.
We began our parade of shame to the coach cabin. As we passed through First Class,
I looked longingly at the deep, cushiony leather seats and ample leg room. I made
eye contact with one handsome gentleman who appeared to be alone. Before descending
into the seventh ring of coach hell, I managed to lean over and whisper how much I
loved his ascot and slipped him my cell number.
We found our seats near the back of the plane. The overhead bin was almost full.
Did they really expect me to put my Hermés valise next to luggage that
was obviously of the Sears persuasion? I couldn't bear to look as I gingerly
slid my bag into the last spot. I quickly sat and clenched the armrests until my
knuckles turned white. Tiny beads of sweat formed on my brow.
When my knees bashed against the seat in front of me for the fifth time, I decided
then and there that I would become a crusader for the Little Guy. The Little Guy,
who must slave to earn those few hundred dollars for the privilege of flying the
friendly skies, only to be crammed aboard like a chicken in a crate. This was America
after all - land of the proud, land of the free!
"Just because someone is poor does not mean they have to travel like they are in
The "wife" hissed at me to shush or else "she'd" see to it that I wouldn't get anything
from Aunt Esther's will. "She" was right -- some things are more important than others.
The Little Guy would have to fight his own fight.
I signaled the Flight Attendant to bring my complimentary drink. "Gary" looked annoyed
at my request and lisped that "coach does not get beverage service until the plane has
reached cruising altitude." I asked the woman across the aisle when this flight had
become a time machine back to Nazi Germany. Her only response was to tighten her grip
on her garish handbag. You're not fooling anyone, honey. I know a fake Louis Vitton
when I see it.
Thankfully the "wife" had a Valium (or three) and I was somewhat pacified. I was
actually starting to get comfortable when I felt someone sit down next to me. Without
looking, I could already feel the cheap, flammable fabric rubbing on my silk blend
travel suit. Irritated, I looked over. This time I sighed in relief. It was Margaret
Cho. She wasn't so bad...maybe she could give me some material for my next column.
I had to put it on hold for a week as I certainly wouldn't be seeing any stars in
Michigan. There was always the outside chance that I might run into Kid Rock or Jack
White, but I try to give press only to those celebrities who bathe on occasion.
I looked closer at Ms. Cho and realized with horror that there appeared to be a penis
lurking beneath all that cloth. My eyes bulged. I opened my mouth but, for once, nothing
came out. Margaret Cho was a man! My "wife," who recognized the urgency of the situation,
quickly popped another Valium into my gaping mouth.
"Shhh, honey. It's just a very, very ugly Asian man...he won't hurt you. We'll get
through this. Now rest."
Midway into the flight I was roused by the Imposter Cho's overzealous use of an I-pod.
The stringy warblings of Ashley Simpson pierced my skull. Only four more hours I
told myself. If made it through the last Academy Awards, I could make it through this.
I was again awakened when I felt moisture collecting on my dry clean only Lauren
suit. What was this? I looked at Imposter Cho. With every exhale, a bubble grew
and culminated in a burst of spittle. It was pooling on my shoulder. I thought about
poking him, but somehow waking the slumbering beast seemed worse than the mini-surf
spraying from his lips. At least the beverage cart was finally approaching.
"Five dollars for a drink?!? Oh fine, give me a gin. Straight, no tonic."
The bit of gin warmed me and stirred a hunger that I didn't realize I'd had. My spirits
rose slightly as I eagerly awaited the arrival of lunch. I dreamt of moist chicken
breast accompanied by a crisp endive salad. "Gary's" recitation of the menu options
again reminded me that I was among the savages. There was a choice of entree: the
chef's salad, undoubtedly made with iceberg lettuce, or a chicken "wrap" that looked
to have some kind of white sauce dripping from each end. Both were ten dollars.
Ten dollars! How can the common American traveler afford a plane ticket and
then be expected to part with ten more hard-earned dollars for a sub-par "salad?"
I'd never been very political, but decided that it was time to write my congressman
about this outrage. I politely refused the selections, both that may or may not have
contained real chicken. I popped another Valium and slept.
After what seemed like a millennium, the plane finally landed. Imposter Cho smiled
gummily at me while we waited for First Class to exit, for fat people to un-wedge
themselves from seats and for old folks to retrieve their belongings. Careful, items
may have shifted during the flight! At least my Hermés bag appeared
unscathed. I saw one woman furtively stuffing one of the airline blankets into her
knapsack. If you need an America West blanket that badly, honey, I think
they'll let you have it.
My legs were wobbly after all that Valium and "wife" had to help me up the
aisle. Maybe they'll recognize my condition and have a wheelchair waiting at the
gate. Finally at long last, I breathed my first lungful of Detroit Metro
air. After all that I'd gone through, I was never so glad to be on solid
ground...even if it was in Michigan.
-Lake Stevens, Man About Town