I went to the hospital recently to visit a sick friend, but before we got a chance to talk, an orderly came to take him down for an x-ray or a knee replacement, or something else that he said was only going to take a few minutes. I decided to wait, but didn’t have a magazine to read. Fortunately, the TV was on and after a while, I figured out that if I lie in my friend’s bed, I could use his remote control to change the stations, or page the nurse to take my blood pressure. Unfortunately, all that seemed to be available on the hospital cable network were reruns of old TV shows. Then it dawned on me that the hospital only subscribes to old TV. Since their patients are all sick and halfway out of their minds on hospital-strength drugs, the administration figures it can save money by only renting old TV shows for them to watch. Used TV.
Then last week, I took a trip by plane for the first time in a while and found out the airlines have a new way of seating people. If you’re a big shot, or you travel all the time, they give you a seat in first class. You pay a premium for it, of course, maybe twice as much as the ordinary traveler, but for the few people on any flight with more money than God, this makes sense. The airlines have also created a second class section. If you want to be able to sit down without having your knees poking into the back of the person in front of you, you pay the extra 30 or 40 bucks per flight and get to sit close enough to the hallowed first class section that you can actually see all the free drinks and warm cookies they’re being served. Best of all, because most people are too poor or too cheap to do this, you usually wind up with extra seats in your row. And rarely are there any screaming, crying babies spitting up on you.
Maybe there are other differences, as well. The people in first class get first-run movies, the people in second class get B movies, and the people in third class get a transistor radio that plays hits from the ’60s. First class gets gourmet meals served with real linen and silverware with champagne to drink, second class gets to purchase sandwiches and beer, third class gets stale coffee that first class didn’t drink yesterday, and the chance to buy lottery tickets.
At the rental car counter, first class passengers just breeze right through. A chauffeured limo takes them directly to their Lexus or Porsche or Tesla sports model. The second class folks get on a rusty old bus that makes stops at every terminal and finally drops them in a lot 15 miles away from the airport, where they claim the keys to their mid-size sedans, and wheel away to meet friends for dinner at Applebee’s or TGI-Friday’s. The third class people wait in line for an hour to speak to the one rental car attendant on duty and see if there are any deals on a subcompact for the weekend. If not, they wind up on public transit, hauling their suitcases up and down flights of stairs, because the escalators and elevators are all broken.
The first class people head to luxury hotels on the beach, or if they’re doing business, to the nicest hotel in the center of town. A valet takes their keys, a bellman brings their bags to the room, and they head down to the spa for a sauna and massage before dinner. The second class people go to the nearest chain motel by the freeway, with stunning views of the parking lot and the shopping mall across the street. The third class people head to their relative’s apartment, only to discover that they were recently evicted and left no forwarding address. They wind up staying at a hotel whose primary clientele are sailors who rent rooms by the hour with girls they meet in bars by the docks.
After a gourmet dinner and a restful night on their Swedish foam mattresses, with a choice of six different kinds of pillows, the first class people have a busy day planned. First they’ll go water-skiing, then paragliding, then a little hot air ballooning, followed by a shopping excursion to replace their entire wardrobe, which they’ve found is no longer quite as fashionable as it was yesterday. The second class people go to the zoo and eat used hot dogs and French fries that have been sitting under the heat lamp since last Saturday. They buy souvenir t-shirts of endangered species at the gift shop. The third class people wake up itching from an infestation of bedbugs. They think about burning their clothes and buying new ones from Walmart, but that seems extravagant so they head to the Goodwill Store instead.
But the third class people have the last laugh because their new outfits are so strikingly odd that they become retro chic. When the first class people notice them standing in line outside of historic City Hall, waiting to pay for a five-minute tour of the public restrooms, they snap their iPhone photo and forward it to a designer in Paris. Within days, the Goodwill outfits have been recreated using the finest silks and linens and become the hit of Milan Fashion Week. The photo of the original creators of the look goes viral, and they currently are often seen on daytime talk shows, as well as in cameo roles on Storage Wars, Dumpster Divers, and several other reality TV series.