You want to know my least favorite word in the world? “UPGRADE” Everywhere I go, I’m asked if I want to “upgrade”. I go to buy a computer and they ask if I want to upgrade every single component. Suddenly my $780 computer becomes $1700. I go to a hotel, they ask me if I want to upgrade. Perhaps to a room with laundered sheets. Maybe the bottom line is that I’m cheap, but I don’t remember this happening five years ago. Upgrading is a company’s way of saying, “If you give us more money we’ll give you the service you should be getting in the first place.” If you choose not to “upgrade” you can usually expect substandard service. It’s ridiculous.
Recently, I flew home from Cincinnati. I had to make a stop in Denver, then in Portland, and finally to Medford. First of all, I was put on a plane which is the aviation equivalent to a Chevy Nova. Secondly, I was placed close to the back where the engine meets the bathroom, which creates quite a melange of olfactory and auditory experiences. After everyone is loaded, we noticed the plane was literally half-full, but we’re all crammed into one area of the plane. People start to move around, get comfortable, change seats. Then the chick who passes out pretzel crumbs and warm drinking water shoos everyone back to their original seats explaining that changing seats is considered an upgrade and that we’ll have to pay more money for the seats if we want to change. WHAT? Seriously, I thought she was kidding. I have to add $100 to my ticket if I want to move 2 seats away from the bathroom?
On my next flight from Denver to Portland, I was on a similar plane, even closer to the bathroom, but this time, I was in a row of three seats and after the plane loaded, I was the only one in my row. Sweet! I was finally going to get my nap in. I shifted over to the middle seat and waited for the flight attendant to chastise me and demand a credit card. She didn’t. I put my headphones on and reclined back, enjoying my private expansive domain. Suddenly, two scrawny, weathered hacking women showed up and stood at the end of my row, coughing and reeking of beer and cigarettes. Obviously these two couldn’t board on time because they were too busy crawling from the smoking area and through the bar. My bliss was short-lived as the next 2 1/2 hours were spent breathing in stale smoke, listening to gnarled voices and waiting for the inevitable hocker to be spewed in my direction.
Finally, on my third leg of my arduous trip home, I was put on an even smaller plane, wedged between two people whose teenage daughter was in a seat by herself 3 rows back. I offered to change seats so they could all sit together and they were very grateful. I got the seat to myself, but then thought If the plane crashes, they’ll never identify my body because someone else is in my assigned seat. I was just going to have to take a chance that my next-of-kin would realize that I did not turn into a 6 foot, 240lb guy with a crewcut and a “Semper Fi” tattoo on my forearm.
I’m seriously considering that my next trip home will be a nice long walk.