first-class vs. the simple life

*Post written in my paper journal on 2/26 and transcribed on 3/2.

Today, I’m on my way to Orlando – for business.  For the second time in my life, I’m sitting in first-class.  It’s roomy and very comfortable (and for the record I would never turn it down). But I’ve come to the conclusion that the people who sit in first-class are jerks. They think they are so much better than everyone else. They radiate superiority.  

I’m sitting in the window seat and on my right there is a man in the aisle seat. He is your typical suit-wearing, gray haired, unapproachable corporate man. I suspect he always flies first-class. He’s probably in his mid 50s although it wouldn’t surprise me if he looks older than he actually is. He’s overweight – not obese, but unhealthy (probably due to too many hours at his desk). His face is red and flushed – not from the sun – but rather out of frustration. He talks on his cell phone until they ask him to shut it off.  He hogs the common space between our two seats. He clearly thinks very highly of himself. 

As the flight attendant comes around the man is tolerant, but not kind. No smile for her and no polite laugh at her jokes. He instructs her to bring him orange juice with no ice and a ½ cup of coffee – no more. When she delivers his order, instead of thanking her, he says, “Very good”. I wouldn’t describe him as rude, but rather abrupt and self absorbed. Throughout the flight, he works on his laptop finalizing a PowerPoint presentation.  The presentation looks long and boring; 50+ slides with several charts and too many words. I’m glad I won’t have to sit through his presentation – snore. Periodically, he puts away his laptop to flip through a car magazine. He circles potential cars, no doubt searching for a 3rd or 4th car for his collection. I’m sure he’s a smart man and even a decent person, but I imagine he doesn’t have an ounce of personality or originality in his bones.

Bored with my first-class companion, I turn my attention to the window.  We must be flying over the Midwest. The ground is very flat and is carpeted with a monochromatic blanket of crops. The fields create patchwork squares of varying shades of tan and brown. Speckled throughout the fields is a sporadic “homestead” which consists of a house, a barn and a few trees. Each homestead is far away from the next. So isolated. So lonely and rural.  I wonder what life is like for the inhabitants of those homes.  I imagine it’s simple – not complicated.  Dinner together every evening. Space for a garden. Neighbors you know and trust.  A place where family is important. 

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I often think about raising my non-existent children in the city.  I worry about bringing up kids in such a materialistic culture where “things” are emphasized so much. Materialism has always existed, but recently it has started permeating our youth at an astoundingly young age. How do you instill proper values when 10 year-olds are walking around in designer jeans and talking on cell phones? When our days are driven by demanding clients and crazy traffic? There is too much focus on the car you drive, the purse you carry and what your home looks like. Don’t get me wrong, I get wrapped up in it too. Unfortunately, I find myself doing it all the time.

I wonder if it would be easier raising kids in a small town, living a simpler life. I’m not talking about the suburbs; I’m talking about a very small town. It seems like it might be easier to shelter kids from the extreme materialism if you lived in a rural community. Where they would attend a small school where they knew everyone in their class, rather than a school in the city where they would attend either a gigantic public school or a smaller private school (both of which don’t seem like great options). Either way, the city promises to expose them to extreme materialism. Exposure is both good and bad. I want my kids to be exposed to the culture, diversity and forward thinking that the city has to offer. But with that, the city also brings hard core drugs, unsolicited predators and worse…an over emphasis on materialism.

I know I’m probably romanticizing small-town life and I’m sure these rural communities are filled with many problems unbeknownst to me. I can’t help but imagine it as a place where you can actually afford to buy a home.  A place where I would have space for a vegetable garden and would make more time to cook and write.  On the other hand, I love the city. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I love the culture, the hustle and bustle, the restaurants, the bars, the neighborhood coffee shops and the local bookstores. I savor the city’s energy during the “Bite of Seattle” or during football season. In a small town, would I get bored? Would I constantly long for the city?

On my right is the quintessential corporate, city man – a symbol of materialism. On my left is a more simplistic way of life.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how things shake out for me. I should probably have kids before I start worrying about how to raise them.


7 Responses to “first-class vs. the simple life”

  1. 1 Jenny
    March 3, 2008 at 8:38 am

    A couple of thoughts for you–
    1. I can’t stand when people say “very good”. Makes me steaming mad.
    2. Re: materialistic kids. I was at Bellevue Skate King yesterday, where kids were skating in circles while talking on their cell phones and also texting. (DANGER!) It is a whole new world out there, for sure.

    I hope Orlando was good. I’ve always wanted to travel for work, but I don’t really have that kind of job.

  2. 2 Jenna
    March 3, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    I think where the most difference can be made in a child’s life is at home. If your children can come home to a sanctuary where you teach them the values that are important then the outside may have less of an impact on their lives. Sure, they’ll still see the violence and drugs, scandal and materialism, but they will have the tools you’ve given them to be strong and resist temptations and “bad” situations.

    I am scared being a mom. I’m scared being an aunt. I’m sure you worry about your brothers and sisters. Big town or small town, it’s families that keep people together (both physically near and mentally sound).

    Thanks for your post, gives us all something to think about.

  3. 3 ozoned
    March 4, 2008 at 7:28 am

    Unfortunately, the simple life has it’s problems, too. I live in a college town, but a lot of my family lives in nearby rural areas and alcoholism and drug use are very prevalent. My husband grew up also in a rural area and a good chunk of his friends ran into the same thing. He attributes it to the boredom factor.

    I can’t say it’s always that way, of course! Many a strong parent has brought up wonderful, nonmaterialistic children in rural areas with wonderful work ethics. But simple isn’t always simple — they have their share of influences as well and a lot more space to hide in!

  4. March 4, 2008 at 9:36 am

    You must remember, salaries in small towns aren’t what they are in big cities. Job opportunities aren’t, either. I live on the outskirts of a small town (around here we’d say I live “in the county”), and while housing costs are lower, so is my pay. And my husband’s salary is half what he’d be making at the same job in a large city (police officer). You couldn’t pay me to live in a city, I love the rural life too much. But it does have it’s disadvantages.

  5. March 4, 2008 at 10:45 am

    First class within the US is not as interesting as going somewhere overseas in First class

  6. 6 big mama
    March 6, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    As a frequent flyer in both coach and first I have experienced the don’t-talk-to-me-I’m-the-most-important-person-on-this-plane flyer in both first class AND coach, so I don’t believe it is a first class syndrome. I am the same person, regardless of where I sit on a plane – it’s really about the fact of being on a plane. I do not behave the same when I’m flying. I am usually tired and not looking foward to 3 or more hours sitting in a confined place, either too hot or too cold, no fresh air, afraid to use the bathroom, constantly having people bump into me, loud talkers for the entire flight, ear-piercing announcements by the flight attendants, and the list goes on. These things go on whether you are in first class or not. I am trying my hardest to just get along and not be irritated by all that goes with flying for work. I am afraid that I too might seem a bit grouchy and maybe even self-absorbed. So, it could be that you sat by a bad man – or maybe he was trying to just get along quietly on the trip. Having said that, I do believe in using “please” and “thank you”, I do politely laugh at flight attendant or passenger jokes, and I do smile when someone makes eye contact. However, I do ask for “water without ice.”

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