By Rob Driscoll
As a father of 7 in the media industry (but, sigh, not Google, Meta, or Amazon), I do not fly on airplanes often. And when I do, it is generally the randomly chosen middle seat — perfect for my long legs.
— in row 32. However, last week, through a stroke of luck and a very generous person, I was given the opportunity to fly business class. What a treat!
My opulent experience started well before liftoff. With my sponsored flight came access to a magical land known as the Air Canada Lounge. I seriously doubt that even bursting through St. Peter’s Gate would reveal a place so incredible.
Perpetual prosecco, bottomless beer, refillable rum — I showed up early so that I had time to consume substantial volumes but still be able to walk a straight line to the boarding area.
Then it was on to the food — unlimited lettuce with more fixings than the sport of boxing in the 1980s, fill-your-boots butter chicken, a burger-bar binge … I ate more in one day than I usually do in a week — all without a single trip to the vomitorium. I felt like a Roman emperor without the toga.
I bet the friendly gentleman in Air Canada garb would have fed me grapes while I reclined had I asked, but I did not want to be greedy. As I neared the point of requiring a wheelbarrow to get me to the gate, I made an essential visit to the lavatory. I knew there would be a gourmet meal on the flight, and … I will leave it there as I still try to heed my mother’s command to avoid potty talk, especially in a public forum.
As soon as I got to the gate and before I had a chance to see if I could still fit between two armrests, a sweet female voice on the intercom invited Zone 1 passengers (aka business class) to board. Stand aside women, children, and all other schmucks flying economy, this was MY turn to shine.
I did not point and laugh from my large seat as the commoners filed past, but I am sure they noticed the telling smile of an extremely wealthy and important business person. Nobody would be able to tell that it is actually quite difficult to amass a fortune when you run a news company that in order to preserve editorial objectivity does not accept advertising, sponsorship, or government funding.
Before blastoff, a flight attendant handed me a hot towel. I promptly washed my face and armpits (the meat sweats were real, and it was a workout getting to the gate on time), and handed the towel back to the gentleman, who, as an added touch of class, donned special blue gloves to receive my towel.
I waited patiently until three seconds after the delightful ring that comes as the seatbelt light is turned off to order my next free drink. "Double Johnnie Walker, neat ... please and thanks!"
"I could get used to this," I thought to myself on repeat.
As the attendant approached, I rushed to pull out my table, magically located in the armrest.
My business partner Kelly chuckled as I fumbled to snap the table into place. "I've got this!" I said, using the brute force of a man who lifts weights at least three times a year to lock the table into position.
Within 10 seconds and only a few grunts, we heard a loud "SNAP" as the table locked into place.
"Ha – I did it!" I said to Kelly with a level of pride reminiscent of her cat's most recent rodent retrieval.
"Ummm," replied Kelly. "I don't think it was designed to do that." Further inspection and a glance to our neighbours to the right told us that the left edge of the table was actually supposed to balance loosely on my left armrest.
Oh, and that "SNAP" was actually the sound of the metal support mechanism breaking. Ooopsie.
"You broke the plane!" Kelly said.
"Not the whole plane," I defended. "And the table still kind of works if I hold it in place with my right hand." "You broke the plane. Are you going to confess?"
"Confess to what?" I protested. "It still works. Kind of."
"Take your hand off it," she said.
I grabbed my quickly disappearing scotch in my left hand and released my right hand from the table ... which promptly fell to the floor, revealing a clean break of the support mechanism.
"Oopsie. Hmmm, you might be right," I said as I put the table back in its proper position. The good news was that a busted tray table fits very easily back into the armrest.
Midway through the 4.5-hour flight, I held the tray in place while I enjoyed another excellent meal. Using my left hand actually allows me to savour the tastes more thoroughly.
When the captain announced that it was time to prepare for landing, I asked Kelly for help with a moral dilemma that was causing me great anguish.
"Do I let a flight attendant know that I broke the plane?"
"They probably have about 300 trays at the airport, and I am sure it is an easy fix," Kelly contended.
"But what if they don't notice it, and a legit business traveller – not an imposter like me – has to hold the tray while he eats and drinks?" I countered.
"Good point," she said. "You should come clean."
"But it might cause a major disembarking backlog if we interrupt the 'bu-byes' with an arguably not-so-urgent mechanical problem. What a quandary!"
As the plane touched down, we decided that the best course of action was to leave the plane and then tell an Air Canada employee at the gate that I broke the plane, "perhaps in different words," Kelly recommended.
As soon as we exited the tunnel and reached the gate, I made my confession to a cheery gentleman in an Air Canada uniform.
It was way less stressful than my last trip to the confessional at St. James Church more than four decades ago.
Despite a full admission that the tray table was "like really broken," he absolved me of my sins and said that there would be no lifetime ban from Air Canada flights.
I promised to be more careful if I should ever again be granted a privileged flight experience.
Kelly could not help herself. "You truly take the class out of business class."