On Courtesy Upgrades
I thought that this post would be about how I am never offered courtesy upgrades. I look askance at those sitting in those first-class seats, sipping their complimentary wine, fingering their dainty hors d’oeuvres as I struggle past with my wheeled luggage and a hobo-pack filled with seventy-five pounds of books, shoes, and a change of clothes (just in case) slung over my shoulder, whacking seats on both sides of the aisle, all the while anticipating hours of cramped travel with unruly six-year olds kicking the back of my seat, and a squirming, crying infant at my left elbow (and that has definitely happened to me.) I do not apologize. Because, after all, I have never been offered a courtesy upgrade.
And then it comes to me that, yes, I have been the recipient of such largess. Not often, but once, or twice now that I think of it, I have traveled first (and business) class. The first was an upgrade because all economy seats had been assigned, and, with the luck of the draw, I arrived just late enough to be the providential recipient. Alas, it was a short connector flight and only lasted an hour – so, just drinks (and I refrain from alcohol on flights) and a bigger bag of nibbles. Well, the soft, roomy seats were nice.
The second time – how could I have forgotten this?—was on an international flight. Somewhere a mistake had been made (I knew it and chose not to point it out) and I was assigned to a seat in business class. I kept mum, sat in my seat, and avoided all eye contact, particularly with the man who came, ticket in hand, to claim my seat. The flight attendant was most kind, pointing out to him that it was my seat. When he showed her his ticket with the same seat number, she was even more apologetic. I allowed her to handle the situation, hoping that he thought that I did not speak English. Eventually, he was escorted to a seat in the rear of the airplane (where there just happened to be an empty seat), fuming and, I’m sure, formulating a response to the airline in question. I spent the next seven hours alternating between enjoying this luxurious lagniappe and worrying that he would appear and drag me by my hair back to that ignominious seat in economy.
I’ve been offered upgrades on rental cars several times, and normally refuse. For me, a bigger car is not better. But there was one instance, during a vacation in Slovenia, where the only car available had an automatic shift. I was miffed, I who consider clutch-and-shift driving the only “real” way to drive. I accepted, but pointedly turned up my nose at this change of plans. That said, as I negotiated the seventeen-switchback Vrsic Pass, I gave more than one thanksgiving for the Hertz representative who smiled graciously when I told him that I preferred stick shifts.
So yes, courtesy upgrades have come my way. And I realize that life is full of them, that my life is full of them. Sometimes they come as airline seats, sometimes with rental cars, but most times they are right in front of us, if only we look.
This morning I stopped to listen to a cacophony of crows. I even put aside my newspaper to savor the sound and the moment. A courtesy upgrade to be sure. A bequest of joy, given freely and accepted gratefully. And every day, my lovely daughter Sasha, the best courtesy upgrade anyone could ever ask for.
And so, for you, I wish a life of recognizing your courtesy upgrades.