If at first class you don’t suc­ceed

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LIFE - Jim Mullen The Vil­lage Id­iot Con­tact Jim Mullen at mullen.jim@gmail.com.

Soon, the hol­i­day travel sea­son will start. What a de­press­ing thought. I re­mem­ber read­ing a story a few years ago about an air­line that lost a woman’s cat in transit. They looked for that cat for 12 days be­fore it fi­nally turned up — alive and well, but hun­gry. That was prob­a­bly 11 ½ days longer than they would have looked for a miss­ing pas­sen­ger.

Some­times I won­der what is worse: the air­lines or the pas­sen­gers. On al­most ev­ery flight I’ve taken the last few hol­i­days, some cou­ple will show up at the very last minute and have to be ush­ered on board with spe­cial air­line peo­ple hus­tling through the door, stow­ing their car­ryons for them and get­ting them set­tled be­fore rush­ing out again so the crew can shut the cabin door. All this un­der the hate­ful glare of all the other pas­sen­gers, who had the cour­tesy to show up an hour early.

Guess whose lug­gage will come off first? The late pas­sen­gers. Why should they bother to show up on time when they get re­warded for their bad be­hav­ior? They didn’t have to wait in any lines. They didn’t have to hang around the lounge for two hours, sit­ting in chairs that have been specif­i­cally de­signed to be un­com­fort­able so home­less peo­ple won’t live in them. They didn’t have to hear “Would Mr. and Mrs. Lipt­fit­ter please re­port to the main ticket counter” 40 times over a nerve-shred­ding loud­speaker.

They didn’t have to hear it be­cause, of course, they were the Lipt­fit­ters.

“Honey, this is so nice! It’s good to show up late,” said Mr. Lipt­fit­ter.

“Late? What do you know about be­ing late?” snapped the mis­sus. “If you had lis­tened to me, we would have been two min­utes later and they would have given us seats in first class. Don’t talk to me about be­ing late. I know how to be late.”

The shop­keep­ers in the air­port don’t mind if you’re late. They know that on any trip you take, there’s a good pos­si­bil­ity that you’ll have to spend four or more hours in­side an air­port with noth­ing to do but cruise the air­port stores. Where else could you find a news­stand that sells mag­a­zines like Fu­neral Home Man­age­ment, Cu­bi­cle Cloth De­signer, Pen­sion Fund Skim­mer, Me­ter Reader Monthly and Pro­fes­sional Llama Breeder? What, no Am­a­teur Llama Breeder? What kind of a dump are you run­ning here?

The book­stores are jammed with best-sell­ing self-help books like “How to Pick a Self-Help Book,” “How to Get the Most Out of Self-Help Books,” “How to Get to the Front of This Store by Your­self” and “Run­ning a Bil­lion-Dol­lar Cor­po­ra­tion Made Sim­ple.”

You can also pick up a $6 con­tainer of three in­di­vid­u­ally wrapped antacid tablets at any news­stand. Which you’ll need, be­cause the only thing you can buy to eat in the en­tire air­port with­out hav­ing to stand in an hour-long line is a frozen yo­gurt and a bag of cashews.

You’ll never get into any of the good restau­rants. Even if you do, you won’t have time to eat there. Wait, isn’t that the Lipt­fit­ters? They’re sit­ting in the win­dow of L’Ex­quis­ite, the fan­ci­est restaurant in the en­tire air­port. The line snakes from ter­mi­nal A to ter­mi­nal B and back again. How did they get in? They’re laugh­ing and drink­ing wine. She’s eat­ing beef medal­lions with crab­meat gar­nish, and he’s hav­ing the coq au vin.

I can’t worry about it now. I’ve ac­ci­den­tally dragged my coat through some­thing wet on the men’s room floor while try­ing to jug­gle my car­ryon lug­gage and use the sink at the same time. How can peo­ple put up with this kind of non­sense? As I leave the men’s room, the Lipt­fit­ters glide past me on one of those beep­ing, chauf­feur-driven elec­tric carts that ferry el­derly peo­ple around air­ports.

Me, I have to rush back to my gate on foot, just in time to see the Lipt­fit­ters dis­ap­pear down the gang­way with the rest of the up­graded first class pas­sen­gers.

I won­der where they’re go­ing. Wher­ever it is, they are tak­ing my hol­i­day spirit with them.

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