First Among Equals

I never look forward to my trips to Dallas, a red-state city short on political tolerance but long on congenial in-laws, who welcome me to their comfortable little patch of sagebrush while trying to distract me from the latest Lone Star lunacy.

Last year, for example, the governor suggested that Texas secede from the union. Taking time off from his busy schedule of not staying executions, Gov. Rick Perry took a stand of independence to protest the socialist initiatives coming out of Washington. (Ironically, the Democrat Party was quick to affirm the secession, and even offered to help pack.) The governor also claimed the massive oil spill in the Gulf was “an act of God,” which infuriated Pat Robertson, who was just going to say that!
And then the Texas school board ruled that textbooks should de-emphasize certain important historical events, such as the New Deal and the civil rights movement. One imagines Texas teachers changing Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech to “I’ve got an idea I want to run by you.” To be fair, students will now focus on more important topics, such as the Alamo, which was attacked by future illegal aliens and defended by brave Americans who, at the time, were themselves illegal aliens in Mexico, where they had migrated looking for work. It’s complicated. (Thank heavens for history class.)
And I can’t shake the fact that, just a couple miles from the relatives’ house, construction is proceeding on the George W. Bush Presidential Library, presumably a smallish structure, given that it will house only a handful of books, each title ending with the phrase “for dummies.”
Yes, that’s harsh, and I shouldn’t paint Texas with too broad a brush (and with a state this large, you hope it doesn’t need a second coat), since on this trip I developed an unexpected appreciation for the values of our 43rd president.
I think it was the second hot towel that did it.
Through a quirk of circumstances at the airport, I was unexpectedly upgraded to first class, an area of the plane I had only previously seen by means of pulling back the curtain with my foot from my usual vantage point in steerage, where the seats fit like tourniquets and the “food” consists of a single peanut. (Passengers with peanut allergies are given a single cracker.)
Seated in what appeared to be a queen-sized bed, I may have revealed my lower station in life when I used the first hot towel to clean the window, not deducing a better use until I noticed my seatmate bathing his brow. How utterly civilized.
Soon I was savoring the background noise of the upper class: the quiet clink of silverware on porcelain, the whispered lists of today’s entrees, a nose blowing into a linen napkin. (Sorry. Still adjusting.) While the rabble in coach struggled with the pop-tops of their $5 canned sodas, I thoughtfully considered whether to have champagne stirred into my orange juice. One must not rush life’s important decisions.
As the first fresh strawberry was spooned onto my plate, a sense of entitlement began to grow in me. Thoughts of limousines and plant closings to maximize shareholder value came involuntarily to my mind. As the second fresh strawberry was spooned—this time on to my shirt, as I reached suddenly for a nearby Forbes magazine—I wondered what the common folk in coach did when their clothing needed to be laundered at 35,000 feet. Passengers in back can mop up spills with their neighbor’s pant leg, but in first class we simply sit back as fastidious attendants do the dabbing for us, using the same club soda that the folks in back were, get this, actually drinking.
As the dishes of the three-course meal were whisked away, a second hot towel was proffered, and I began to ask myself a question that has probably dogged the entitled class for generations: In a crash, why does the tail section of an aircraft have a higher survival rate? I mean, where’s the justice in that? No time to mull further, however, since the plane had landed and it was time for the attendants to bring down our luggage from the overhead bins. No rush, of course. If the folks in back miss their connections, quel dommage. Couldn’t be helped. (“The K-Mart shopping bag? Oh yes, that’s mine, thank you.”)
Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners. His book, A Hamster is Missing in Washington, D.C., earned the top prize in humor in the 2010 Independent Publishers Book Awards.

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