Through the terminal gate I ambled, down the walkway to board the aircraft. A toddler in front of me moseyed behind his parents, his mom carrying his tiny red and blue Spiderman backpack. Immaculately dressed, pressed and made-up flight attendants awaited us in the doorway. “Hello! Seat 27B, go right this way, towards the back…”

I handed over my boarding pass to an outstretched attendant’s hand.
“Let’s see, seat… 1D! Welcome aboard Air New Zealand!” I stepped onto the plane. Gesturing toward another attendant who was pouring wine, I was personally introduced: “This is Jenny, she’ll be taking care of you today.” Jenny beamed her best smile in my direction, keeping one eye on on her tray of glasses.

After stowing away my carry-on luggage, I plopped into my spacious seat. Across the aisle to the right of me, an elderly couple were getting settled. The curly, white-haired lady gingerly handed her small tote bag up to her husband. He took it, smiled at her, “Thank you, dear,” and placed it in the overhead compartment. From the opposite aisle, a thin, tanned, dark-haired late 20-something with gold bracelets and strappy sandals approached the empty space on my left. She tossed a Prada handbag into the seat and proceded to look left and right for an attendant to assist her with the moderately-sized rolling carry-on at her feet. Just as I began to wonder the need for my plastic-wrapped blanket and pillow on a midday flight lasting only two hours and change, a tray of beverages floated by. “Would you care for a welcome drink ma’am?”

Ma’am? Welcome drink? “Uh, yes… tomato juice?”
“Would you like that spiced?”
Spiced? “Um, as opposed to, what?”
“Mmm, well, spiced is hot, spicy. So…”
“Oh, I see yes, I mean no, no spice.”
“Okay then.” She smiled brightly.

So this is first class. I was flying the skies in the company of the big shots. The millionaires. The people who are the predicate nouns of the sentence when someone says, “I know people.” I was flyin’ in style.

On accident, actually. My mom had some frequent flyer miles to spare, the airline agent couldn’t find any coach class seats available, so I was bumped up into the front row of the plane. I didn’t complain. A flight attendant began making her way around gathering our lunch requests. “And what would you like today?” she asked the white-haired couple across from me.

“We’ll both have the fish. Oh, oh, that is what you wanted, right?” the husband asked his wife.
“Oh yes, thank you.”
The flight attendant made a note on her pad. “So what brings the two of you to Fiji?” she asked, pearly whites flashing.
“Oh we’re going to visit our daughter,” the woman replied with a smile.

The food and drink consumed my concentration for the entire duration of the flight. Soon after the lunch orders were in, attendants came around offering a second drink and a snack before the main meal began. The courses were endless, their presentation exquisite. I marveled at the white cloth, sparkling wine glasses, numerous sets of silverware, and oyster-shaped dishware.

Every so often, I looked over at the couple across the aisle. There was something about them I’ve noticed common in many couples in their prime. They exuded sereneness, contentment. Maybe it came from having children or grandchildren. My guess was the latter. Maybe it was the knowledge of having led a full life. But this couple definitely possessed that something.

A flight attendant cut into my theory contemplation. “Care for some dessert?”
I knew I’d take some no matter what it was. “What are you offering?”
“Neapolitan ice cream.”
Mm. “Yes, I’d like some. Thanks.”

In front of me she placed a bowl containing three round balls of pink, chocolate and vanilla, garnished with a mint leaf and cinnamon wafer stick. “More wine?”

“Oh, no thanks, just water, please.” I was still feeling tipsy from the first two glasses. If you really wanted to get happy, the funny part of it was at least three different attendants shared the task of serving, so they never knew how many times the others had poured you a drink. One thing I didn’t need, however, was myself intoxicated trying to pass through Nadi airport customs.

“Ice cream?” asked the attendant of my bronzed seat-mate.

“No.” She tapped her foot, seemingly irritated. Vexation hung around her in a dark cloud. Mentally I pushed her storm as far away as possble. I was enjoying indulging in every part of this first class exploit, knowing it probably wouldn’t happen again.

“Cheese and crackers?” What? I thought the food service had ceased. I was more than stuffed, but accepted anyway just for a taste. The elderly woman peered out the window, “Look!” she said excitedly, grabbing her husband’s arm. “It’s the islands!”

Her delightful anticipation warmed me. A lifetime of experience, and the world was still full of surprise. The captain announced we’d arrive in under twenty minutes. Kirk would be waiting for me and the gate. I was so excited, we hadn’t seen each other in over two months and had a great trip planned to visit the Yasawa Islands.

I looked across the aisle one last time. Flying first class to go island-hopping in Fiji might be a trip of a lifetime, but the journey of a lifetime existed between the pair next to me, who were still enjoying each other’s company.