Pensive Prowler #13 by Dmetri Kakmi
I don’t want to brag, but … I recently flew to Rome and London business-class. It’s quite the experience. There’s nothing like it. The problem is I’m now elevated to a higher state and can’t possibly travel cattle-class again. It’s too too ghastly, I tell you, sitting at close quarters with the plebeian classes, eating with a plastic fork sludge that wouldn’t pass muster at Hungry Jack’s. I mean, why drink beer when you can drink champagne, darling?
Seriously, if you want to study the disparity between the haves and have-nots, look no further than the internal socio-political workings of an airplane. From nose to tail, it’s a microcosm of the divide that exists between rich and poor. And we’re not even venturing as far as first class. No, we’re just taking a short stroll from working class to middle class.
Let’s be clear about one thing. Under normal circumstances, your correspondent couldn’t afford business class in a mad fit. Such indulgences are outside his means, and he is usually squeezed in a tiny seat with his knees under his chin in economy, cheek by jowl with a human fart machine, developing deep vein thrombosis and fighting off nausea.
But this was a special occasion and my partner paid for us to travel in style, shall we say.
First intimations of privilege surfaced when we were fast-tracked through customs at Melbourne airport and made our way to the segregated quietude of the business-class lounge, there to while away the hours before take-off with a plenitude of food, drink and wifi. Soothing muzak and sparkling bathrooms big enough to accomodate a Roman orgy cushioned the experience further. Not that centurions and gladiators were provided.
When the call to board came, we calmly made our way to the gate, knowing full well that as priority passengers we could board immediately. No waiting in line with the sweaty masses.
Dear reader, I was escorted to a pod of my own. It was a private booth with a larger-than-usual TV screen and room enough to fling my arms with gay abandon, should I wish to do so. At the press of a button, the arm chair turned into a bed, with real pillows and blankets. No sooner did my bum touch the seat, then a hovering angel, obviously devoted to my comfort and wellbeing, appeared to offer excellent chilled champagne. And then more champagne. I quaffed elegantly, pinky held aloft, terrified of giving myself away before these unruffled beings who addressed me as Mr Kakmi (which admittedly made me feel a right wanker) and who took an interest in what I desired to eat during the long flight. No trundling trolleys with chicken, beef or fish for us.
Before the meal was served, the ministering angel appeared to enfold a starched white napkin ‘pon my table wide, on which various tasty treats were laid with care and tenderness. Perhaps nothing on this flight surprised me more than the real cutlery and crockery placed at my disposal.
Plastic cutlery is so economy class, darling!
Which got me thinking. Does this mean terrorists don’t travel business-class? The implicit message was clear. Violence is the domain of the lower classes, herded in the back of the plane and waiting to explode with innate aggression. Refined professionals are too busy stuffing their faces and quaffing fine wines to grab real cutlery and run around a plane screaming “Allah akbar.”
The red wine, by the way, was excellent. As was the dessert wine that discreetly appeared at my elbow as I watched Blade Runner 2049. (As an aside, I should like to say the sequel to this classic was disappointment personified. Lady Macbeth and My Cousin Rachel were more satisfying.)
As they say, what goes in must come out. Before turning in for the night, I ventured forth to the facilities, there to purge and anoint the sated body with an abundance of fragrant oils and exotic unguents. Imagine my surprise when I stepped into a space big enough to accommodate two fat people from the mile-high club in economy. Obviously the news that the poor tend to be more horizontally challenged than the weight-conscious, gym-hopping professional has yet to reach airline ears.
With lights dimmed and ambient music on the headphones, I stretched out in my bed to seek nature’s soft nurse. Suddenly, I sat bolt up right and stared with wide-eyed horror into the gloom. A heinous thought galloped through my mind. Conditions such as these, thought I, brought on the French Revolution. If the people up the back had an inkling of the luxury heaped on me and which was denied them, there’d surely be an uprising. What if they stormed the bastion of entitlement with their plastic cutlery and ire held aloft and demanded a piece of the cake? What should I do?
Fear not, quoth a voice in my sleepy head. They’re probably sedated into a stupor by cheap grog and soylent green. Rest easy, sweet prince, for they surely are not.
But I’m loyal to my working-class roots. In truth I knew that if the plane went down, we all go down. Privilege or no privilege. That gave me some comfort as I sought repose in sleep, o gentle sleep!
Dmetri Kakmi (Episode 158) is a writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. The memoir Mother Land was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards in Australia; and is published in England and Turkey. His essays and short stories appear in anthologies and journals. You can find out more about him here.
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