The first argument I had with the woman who became my wife concerned not punctuality, past romances, who pays for what, or any of the usual early-relationship bones of contention, but the proper response to a 3-3 seat configuration on a transcontinental flight.
I’m partial to windows, meaning I need a damn window seat, while Nilou is an aisle person. This being a full flight, I’d booked us a window and a middle, stupidly assuming she’d want to sit together.
“Wait—you didn’t get me the aisle?”
“And put a stranger between us? What good is that?”
“Good for my sanity is what it is.”
“But don’t you want to cuddle?”
“Not now I don’t.”
It was our first trip together, and it seemed destined to be our last. I love my wife to pieces, and think she feels the same, but at that particular moment, on that particular plane, it’s safe to say we loved each other a little less.
Aaron Spelling had a train car. Aretha Franklin has a custom bus. Even Marge Simpson suffered from it. I came by my pteromerhanophobia (fear of flying) honestly: my mother wrote a novel called Fear of Flying. But it started even before that. My DNA was equal parts deoxyribonucleic acid and panic. This didn’t mean that I didn’t fly. I grew up on Pan Am Flight 002, a Boeing 747 that went from JFK to Delhi with a stop at London Heathrow. We flew Clipper Class (which was Pan Am’s old-school name for business). The flight was always chaotic, stuffed to the gills, hot as the inside of an oven, hours late, and populated almost entirely with screaming babies. At least that’s how I remember it.
When I was told I was flying to an Indian literary festival via Kuwait Airways, I was ready to arrive in style. Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways—the region is known for its luxurious, pampered version of air travel. Perhaps Kuwait Airways would have a new Airbus A380 with an onboard lounge? High-thread-count bathrobes? Personal air butlers? In any case, I hoped the wine menu would have a nice dry Riesling to help me ease into a different climate, and, heck, some free spa products would be nice.