Secrets of First-Class Flyers

A newer model American Airlines Airbus A300-60...

Returning from some work in New York, the client booked me and my colleague Mr. B in First Class on American Airlines for the return flight to Chicago.  Considering I ended up in the last row (the one that doesn’t recline might I add) on the outbound flight on United, I felt ridiculously justified in my First Class seat.  As the flight prepared for take-off, the flight attendants repeatedly called for Ms. D to report for her upgrade to First Class.  How odd, I thought.  This must be a really important person since airlines typically leave lesser-level fliers (even those with basic status like me) back in coach. 

In the moments before Ms. D arrived to her seat, I imagined she was a harried global traveler, likely a literary agent negotiating deals around the world.  When she did sit down, I noticed her casual clothes (jeans) and stylish red briefcase bag.  As is my usual practice on airplanes, I chose not to ask her if my intuitive sense was correct — that is, I don’t like to talk on airplanes.  Neither apparently did she and we settled into the flight in blissful silence.

Midway through he flight however, I noticed that my colleague Mr. B in the seats directly behind us was still yapping on and on to his seatmate in his normal animated fashion.  That was when Ms. D casually remarked to me that the gentlemen behind us were quite the conversationalists.  I sheepishly admitted to Mr. B being my colleague, explaining that he had previously hosted a talk-show for many years and well, old habits die-hard.

Our conversation could have ended there with a little laugh shared between us.  Yet we continued on.  After exchanging pleasantries and the like, I shared with her my little reverie about what she might do for a living and asked if she indeed was of the literary ilk.  The short answer was no.  Ms. D. was in fact a super-powered IT executive for a global corporation who traveled the world managing a large staff and seemingly even larger responsibilities.  She traveled 200,000 or more miles a year, which explained the airline’s desire to re-seat her in First Class.  Then, quietly she told me, “It’s funny you mention writing because I do write a little.”  There unfolded the fact that every year she conducts a short-story contest with her family.  They self-impose a 30-day deadline and then share with each other the fruits of their creative efforts.  She had other writing stories as well, which simply made me happy to hear.  Ms. D. was, after all, a writer at heart.

It made me wonder:  Does everyone have a secret desire to write?   Or, on the same note, does everyone have a secret aspiration?

When I floated this thought to K, my literary writing coach, she explained, “Most people who want to write aren’t sure how to do it and that’s what stops them from writing.”

Do you think it’s true?  Do we all house a secret writer within us? Or, a secret aspiration?   I’d be grateful if you could share your story.

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Disfigured Dating Disclosures

My cousin Tom has become an unofficial advisor to this blog, responding to my request to him about which on topic ideas would be interesting. With characteristic aplomb, he suggested I post on dating. As you might expect for someone in my situation, dating in cold weather months was always my preference if only because my legs were covered.

Seriously, I always felt some mixture of anxiety/trepidation/vulnerability about “disclosing” my potential defect of a leg and probably spent more time than I needed to thinking about the timing of if or when to say something. At a certain point, I had to realize that either my burned leg was controlling me or I was controlling it. Like so many other things in life, secrets are powerful because they can control you. The only way to be free of a burned leg is to essentially admit that it’s there. What I found is that usually after over-analyzing when/where/how to say something about it, when I did mention it, it was — ta da — a non-event. I think most people understand that nothing is perfect. As they say, that’s why pencils have erasers. Or as William Safire put it, “Only in grammar can you be more than perfect.”

If someone thought my burned leg was so god-awfully ugly they weren’t interested in me, it wasn’t mentioned. For those who were interested in me, it was something that came with the package. Telling a potential date about my leg eventually became a routine disclosure as in, “Hey, did I mention that I was in an accident as a kid?” or some variation of that line. No matter how you try to cover up a secret, it won’t won’t stay under wraps a long time. For me, it was better and easier to say something sooner rather than later. As my mother used to say, “You get used to hanging if you hang long enough.” In the same way, I got used to providing my disclosure. I would be interested though to hear from others what they thought when they first knew of my burned leg and how it may have affected them. Thoughts anyone?

When I met my husband many years ago, I will confess I liked the fact that he had a big ole gouge on his head from a surgery. Trust me, it was a conversation starter. To my way of thinking, it made him immediately interesting because I was sure he had a relatable story. And he did. It’s easy to develop a soft spot for physical imperfection in others when it is looming large in yourself.

Over the years, I’ve taken a number of classes from Sonia Choquette (www.soniachoquette.com) and one of the things she’s said that has always stayed with me is this: “The physical is the least interesting part of a person.” This is, of course a belief that develops over a lifetime. I wish I had that thought in my arsenal years ago.