And the first shall be last ‘¦

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And the first shall be last ¢â‚¬¦

Ever since I moved to an island in the middle of Puget Sound two years ago and no longer travel frequently, the friendly skies have grown less friendly. Alas, I slid from Premier Executive status to Premier. Yesterday, I learned I am no longer even Premier.

How low can you go, I wondered? I was about to find out.

I arrived at the airport in Seattle for a flight to Washington, D.C., and took my place in a long line of fellow travelers. Just next to
me, the Premier check-in line was empty, reminding me that the airline no longer thinks I am special.

After paying $25 to check in a bag (there’s no baggage charge for Premiers), I was told that my normal aisle seat in economy-plus (with
five extra inches of legroom to accommodate my 6-foot-3-inch frame) was no longer available. Nor could I be upgraded to first class.

Aeronautical engineers, believing an ideal world is one in which legs can be conveniently stowed in the overhead compartment, have created just such a space. They call it “coach.” I have been banished to a place for people with no legs.

To add insult to injury, I was informed I would make the nearly six-hour flight across the country in a middle seat. I haven’t sat in a
middle seat since Jimmy Carter sat in the Oval Office.

“Sitting” is not actually a word one can accurately use when describing the squirming, leg-crossing, arm-folding perpetual restless
movement one engages in when trapped between two prospective NFL linemen — one of them a woman — as all three of us jockey for use of the one-inch-wide arm rest.

As boarding begins with a red carpet rolled out for first class and my old Premier club members, I check my ticket for my boarding zone and see a dreaded “3.” It will be a long while before I’m able to trudge toward my rendezvous with the legless middle seat.

There will be no overhead baggage space; my old Premier pals will have already hogged the space with their Volkswagen-sized roll-ons. I’d like to meet the profit-mad suit who decided that charging for bags was a good idea. I could have told him that the inevitable (and predictable) result would be tightwad passengers carrying the suitcases onboard rather than checking them.

My mind races back to an ad I saw once for an airline offering more spacious coach seating. It featured a passenger walking through the
luxurious first class cabin only to find a gulag-like coach section filled with barnyard animals.

I am living the ad.

Now that most airlines don’t serve meals on flights anymore, passengers are carrying all manner of exotic and odious foods onboard.
The friendly skies smell like I imagine Animal House did on a Saturday morning after a very wild Friday night.

In the midst of my travel travails, I phoned my wife. She was delighted by my misery, feeling I had lived too long as a pampered
Premier, out-of-touch with the lives of the hoi polloi. She roared with laughter as I regaled her with the indignities of my day.

Where, I ask you, is the love?

Now here’s the truth. I’m already adapting to no longer being Premier. After my layover in Chicago, I started to take pity on
Premiers, knowing the only way they achieve their status is by constantly leaving their family for the road, sleeping in sterile hotels
and enduring the rigors of flight, endless security lines and the hassle of ground transportation on the other end.

When you commit to the simpler life (or, in my case, have it forced upon you), you can choose the attendant joy and contentment of your new life — or become consumed with the frustration and regret about the life you’ve lost.

On the few times I head to the mainland, I can endure the indignities of no longer being Premier — if the reward is the peace and
quiet of a small island where I live with family, see my friends each day, and no longer spend my days in the air, and in airports, that hold
planes but few good memories.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

PS 2. Order one of Dick’s books from amazon: Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters
The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite

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