Flying first class

So, I had a revelation of sorts last week while sitting in the British Airways Lounge. The wealthy had better be nice. Years ago my older sister, beautiful and very Irish looking, was baking a cake in someones kitchen, a very fancy kitchen in a mansion where she was mistaken for the maid and told to do something not very politely. A conversation ensued that night at dinner in which our family, decidedly not rich, decided rich people should be much kinder.

Take this traveling situation for example. I was ushered through security, smiled at, told to go sit in the Lounge where I consumed nice sandwiches, a cappacinno and several Perriers. I read the paper, called my friends and did not have to deal with the misery of the outside terminal. I could have had a hot meal but British Airways was feeding me. They fed me, hot toweled me, gave me fancy cosmetics, a bed, tons of snacks and 300 movies.  Yet, I overheard a woman complaining in the Lounge that the sandwich selection wasn't up to par. There was smoked salmon and pesto for God's sake! What did she want? Caviar?

My first encounter with the really rich besides my Princeton neighbors was in Brooklin Maine where I babysat for a descendant of E.B. White, his grandson, in fact. White was rich enough but the people that sailed their yachts were really, really rich. They were the Rockefellers, the Duponts and they had so much money they were consumed with buying boats and horses and cars and houses and, according to my employers, people. They had drug addicted children and corrupt nannies and one of the Rockefellers would ride a huge horse at sunset, a white horse, galloping along the rocky Maine shores, a woman with long hair. They had boat parties and fell overboard and played poker for more money then most people make in the year. My employer, a famous New Yorker writer, would claim to hate them but he didn't. He handed them gin drinks and cheese and called them their funny names-Pippy, Buffy, Muffy and Chas. He'd look at me and roll his eyes but he liked those rich people while I, Irish to my core, did not.

My next encounter with rich people took place when I travelled alone in Ireland hitchhiking mainly and staying with a few wealthy friends of my family or other friends. JP Donleavy lived in the hugest house I'd ever seen and his wife drank vodka in the morning and drove a Daimler while he wrote. They had  Irish Wolfhounds and talked smack about all the other rich people they knew like the Guinnesses and various Hollywood movie stars. I played soccer with Donleavy to earn my keep and drove around the country lanes with his tipsy wife in the purring Daimler. Despite their indoor pool, the car, the house they seemed mostly unhappy. They mainly complained about other people having more money then them.

I had a rich boyfriend. he lavished me with presents and paid for very expensive meals that I didn't eat because I was grieving and anorexic. We drove out to the Hamptons in his Mercedes convertible and he would call his drug dealer while I looked in the closets and saw his wife's clothes were still hanging there although he claimed to be divorced. He wasn't very nice to people and he was rarely grateful for anything. He actually told me he envied me once because I had so little. I was poor and he was rich but he wasn't all that happy.

The junior suite

The view from my ***** Hotel
Yet, I have never enjoyed travelling so much nor have I ever felt so welcome in an airplane. Usually they sneer at you and flounce away when you ask for an extra pillow or a ice in your drink. But I had three stewards beaming down at me. I think they liked me because I was nice and visibly grateful. If you're rich you should be aware of your luck. And if you're not, well, an informal poll tells me they aren't all that happy.


  1. Nice piece that I can totally relate to Molly. While I've never traveled first class (Patrick has) I've had similar thoughts after going from working with the poorest kids/families on the west side to some of the richest at a private school with their fundraisers and housewalks in the Gold Coast as well as time spent at Old Orchard or other North Shore stores compared to thrift stores or Aldi in Uptown or other gentrifying areas. You really feel the difference in how the wealthy and the poor are treated 24/7. BIG difference. If the wealthy knew how the rest of us schmucks were treated, maybe they'd be nicer. Then again, maybe not.....???

  2. My German mother taught me the old proverb, "As you yell into the forest, so it echoes back to you" -- in other words, on average, you'll be treated the way you treat others. I think most ridiculous, rude, overbearing behavior is rooted in insecurity, people who secretly (or not so secretly) doubt the superiority they're trying to prove or uphold. They're usually quite right to doubt, too.

    It's Caron writing this, by the way!

    For some reason, people don't extend the most basic civility to others. This stunned me: I live in Florida and a team of two gardeners comes to my house once a week to prune, weed etc. (I have no lawn, so no mowing). From the first time they came by, I've put drinks (vitamin water, water, iced tea) for them in the outside fridge, let them use the phone for local calls when their cell phones don't work, and left the pool bath open (when I'm home) so they have a toilet at their disposal. Apparently, I am the only person they work for who does this. (!!!) My mother ALWAYS does this and I learned from her example. This is baby shoes, not rocket science. People don't always live up to our expectations, but I feel that I should expect better, not worse -- always starting with what I expect of myself!


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