The Poverty Jet Set


This week, The Scientist packed his bags and took off for sunny Florida, leaving behind his darling wife with their 3 kiddies in subfreezing weather.

You can guess which of us was bitter.

Yup, it was him. He had to fly an American airline, one he wasn’t elite on. “There was just no legroom,” he complained. Note that though not as vertically challenged as some of our beloved fellow members of the tribe, The Scientist is under six feet (and with a few more complaints while I feed, clothe, change, and everything his children, he might just end up under six feet another way).

It might surprise you that someone as poor as The Scientist would be elite with an airline. If so, it’s time to return to the Poor Princess Diaries’ primer:

To wit, Coupland writes of the Poverty Jet Set: “A group of people given to chronic traveling at the expense of long-term job stability or a permanent residence. Tend to have doomed and extremely expensive phone call relationships with people names Serge or Ilyana. Tend to discuss frequent-flyer programs at parties.”

Since I do reap the benefits of The Scientist’s status at times, I’ll say: that’s us. Chronic traveling? Check. No long-term job stability? Check. No permanent residence? Check. Friends with names like Serge or Ilyana–how close is Sergiy? He lives in Ukraine (thank you, JSF, for teaching me to omit the “the”) and recently suggested we skype (fortunately, we have the modern-day advantage of not racking up extremely expensive phone calls). Tend to discuss frequent-flyer programs at parties? I think it’s one of The Scientist’s favorite topics.

If I had to pick the 3 best reasons it’s so wonderful to have elite status (or be married to an elite fellow), they would be as follows:

  1. Not only do you get to hang out in the lounge, drink endless cappuccinos spiked with the free alcohol they give out (only in the Canadian lounges, mind you–the American lounges suck), but you can also get really snooty about which lounges are the best and which the worst (see parentheses above)
  2. Free baggage, free heavy baggage, baggage that arrives first. Coach class, I know they tell you that union rules dictate that there are problems taking bags heavier than 50 lbs, but you should know those rules only apply to you.
  3. And best of all, bragging rights. On a recent trip to Florida, our flight into Houston was late, and we missed our connection. It was Friday. The next flight that we–and pretty much our entire flight, all of whom, it seemed, were also going to Florida–could get on took off Monday morning. A whole weekend in Houston! (how not fun). When The Scientist pointed out he was elite, they kicked some coach riffraff off of the next flight and put us on it instead (whew!). See ya, riffraff. Another time, we were flying home, the whole family, and for no good reason other than that there was extra room in first class and The Scientist was elite, we got upgraded. By chance, we ran into a friend, Mrs. Brain, who was also on the flight, her two kids in tow. The Brain family has, one will admit, all those things we don’t: a real income, a real house, the ability to pay for the Brain kids’ education–the typical stuff. On the other hand, Mrs. Brain did not have first class. So when she got on board and saw us, right there, at the very front, in our big comfy leather chairs, our legs stretched out to kingdom come, awaiting our fancy meals served with real silverware, boy was she surprised. “Well, I will have to tell my husband that being a DOCTOR clearly does not cut it!” she declared. Feeling sympathy for Mrs. Brain, I schlepped back to coach halfway through the flight to offer her one of my bonbons.

All this is not to say I forgive The Scientist for abandoning me and still kvetching, but I will encourage him to take flights that rack up lots of points so that I can continue to fly the friendly skies in style.




4 responses »

  1. I do feel the need to defend Mrs Brain. Although I am not Dr. Brain, she did scream at a group of middle-aged women at a local health club after they commented that I did not look like a GLD on television, and looked better in person, saying “How dare you speak about my husband like that!”

  2. I know your prose is meant to be satire but you sound incredibly spoilt.
    Do you have any idea how fortunate your family is even to fly anywhere ?
    I’d love to trade places with you.

    • Dear Southern Belle, You are absolutely right–we are amazingly fortunate. As you also note, this is meant to be tongue in cheek, and not meant to offend, so if I did, I apologize. Thank you for reminding me to always be grateful for all that I have. Best, PP

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