Tuesday, June 18, 2002


There is nothing better in this world than love. But the one thing that might be able to challenge it is… free stuff. Mind you, not all free stuff will be up to the daunting task of competing against mighty love. But free stuff that you actually want is currently the number one contender to Cupid’s title.

Last night, My Girl and I were flying back to Los Angeles from a short vacation in lovely Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We returned the rental car and arrived at the airport several hours early, so as not to unnerve My Girl by cutting too close, as I am prone to do. As we were walking to the gate, she casually threw out a pointed question: “So, what's our threshold for getting bumped?” My first instinct was $400 worth of travel and My Girl seemed to think that was reasonable. So I approached the counter and asked if they were overbooked, found out they were, and immediately put our names on the volunteer list. They said there were a few people on the list ahead of us and they may not need us, so I didn’t get my hopes up too high. But, they did tell us not to board with the other passengers, so My Girl and I sat in the terminal and speculated on what our travel booty might be if we indeed got bumped from our flight. After everyone had boarded the plane, we felt it was time to ask the attendants at the counter what our status was. The attendent at the counter said they were definitely enlisting our help as volunteers and using our seats. Hooray! Naturally, our next question was: “How much is the voucher good for?” Much to our surprise, we were generously presented with travel vouchers good for one round-trip ticket anywhere U.S. Airways flies in the continental United States and Canada. No dollar amount specified. Plus, we were put on a nonstop flight leaving about three hours later. Unfortunately, they were close to being overbooked for the next flight and didn’t have any seats left in coach, so they had to put us in First Class. Hooray again! And finally, they gave us vouchers for up to $30 worth of food anywhere at the many airport dining establishments. While they were doing the paperwork, one of the attendants went to retrieve yet another passenger who had volunteered. When the young black woman got to the counter and was told that she was being bumped, she said, with attitude: “Oh yeah? And what are you going to give me for it?"” After hearing the words “free flight anywhere in the U.S. or Canada,” she quickly changed her tune and cheerily queried: “Really?!”

Luckily, Pittsburgh Airport contains a mall that proudly declares that the prices are regular mall prices, not airport mall prices. There's Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works, Sunglass Hut, and of course, The Gap. My Girl and I browsed the shops, then spent a very long while in a store that sold nothing but baseball caps, trying on hats before finally buying a few. Then we settled in at T.G.I. Friday’s to relax and allow U.S. Airways to buy us dinner. We started with some Fried Mozzarella, I ate some Chicken Fingers, she had some crappy soup and beer, and by the time we looked at the clock, we had killed a couple of hours. We left the restaurant and headed to our new gate to see if we could turn the trick one more time. At the counter, we asked if they were overbooked, which they were, and volunteered once again. This time, they said they had a list of names and would find us if they needed us. In the meantime, we had ten more voucher dollars to spend. Completely full, I still could not stand to see the potential for free stuff go to waste, so I steered us in the direction of Ben & Jerry’s. My Girl was so full she wasn’t going to order anything, which led me to suggest that we buy ice cream for some other people. As I salivated over which flavor to get, My Girl looked next door and noticed the candy store. Within seconds, I had ditched the ice cream idea and we were scooper-deep in candy bins. Ten dollars worth of candy is a lot. We repeatedly went to the front counter to weigh our Hefty-bag-sized haul until we hit the magic number. Armed with more free stuff, we rushed back to the gate to find that just about everyone had boarded. We asked the ticket-taker if they still needed volunteers, but she got distracted in the middle of her response and mindlessly handed us back our stubs.

We made our way down the jetway and into our luxurious seats in the first row of First Class. There we were treated like very important people with boatloads of money for the length of our five hour flight home. I saw the young black woman from earlier one row over and across from us. She offered to let us watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer DVD’s on her laptop, but then realized her battery was dead. My Girl noticed that she had about five or six Kahlua and Creams and then passed out. Apparently, she liked First Class as much as we did. My Girl and I enjoyed a few ice cold Heinekens served in real glasses and shared a dish of cold shrimp with pasta even though neither one of us was anywhere near hungry. We watched some of the Academy Award-winning “A Beautiful Mind” before My Girl picked up "The Dark Fields," the book I had brought with me intending to read. And then I did something that I find extremely difficult to do on airplanes… I slept. Comfortably. Peacefully. Soundly. I must’ve slept for a good three, three and a half hours. Those First Class seats are just so big and comfy and delicious. And the service is top notch. The male flight attendant was so pleasant and attentive that I wondered whether he was going to ask My Girl and I if we needed to be pleasured orally. After we landed, he remarked to our section that we were the lowest-maintenance First Class group he’s ever had. My theory was that most of the people were bumped from the other flight and were just so happy to be sitting in First Class, they didn’t want to make a fuss and jeopardize their stay in Mile High Paradise. Personally, I wasn’t very demanding because I was fast asleep most of the flight and when I was awake, I didn’t want anyone to think I didn’t belong. Because I did belong. All good people belong in First Class. I told My Girl to get used to it.

No comments: