The episode is Season 4, Episode 12: The Airport, in which Jerry and Elaine are trying to get back to New York, and there is only one seat left in first class. Jerry famously opines about how he can't let Elaine have that seat because he has flown first class and therefore knows what he what he would be missing should he not take it. Elaine, having never flown first class, won't be pained because she won't know what she's missing out on. Or so the logic goes. Jerry ends up sitting in first class where he hits it off with a supermodel and together they drink champagne and eat ice cream and have a grand old time. Elaine meanwhile, is crammed back in coach, miserable and uncomfortable with the guy beside her falling asleep on her shoulder and many other unfortunate occurrences.
This is a much discussed and recounted episode in the Thomas family, given that my father-in-law was a pilot for many years, and my mother-in-law was a flight attendant. They've had countless experiences flying for both work and personal trips, and they know the differences between first class and coach. Because of all this airline work, they also have stand-by flying privileges, meaning they can use empty seats to fly for free when there are seats available. And sometimes, just every now and then, these extra seats are in first class
Well, Sean flew stand-by to London and I booked a ticket in coach. At the last minute, Sean got upgraded to Business-First, and then the moment of truth came: Who would get that highly desirable seat? Or more accurately, that tremendously comfortable bed?? We had just a few minutes to decide, and it was agonizing. Should we just sit together in coach as planned? Should Sean take the seat because he's flown International First Class before and would know how much he was missing? Should I get the seat so I could have that once in a lifetime experience???
Sean let me have it. He said someone should enjoy it, and it should be me. I gathered up my stuff and hurried to the front of the plane, half-elated, but half-guilty about leaving my sweet husband back in coach. (The only way I managed to barely assuage my conscience was that he had a whole row to himself to stretch out and watch movies that would never interest me.) It was far into the flight before I realized that Sean is the second Jerry. Let me explain. The Bible calls Christ the new, or second, Adam because he came to earth and did what Adam could not do. (Namely living a righteous life in complete submission to the Father's will.) Now I'm definitely not comparing Sean to Christ right now, but I don't mind comparing him to a better version of Jerry Seinfeld. Sean, the new Jerry, did what the old Jerry could not do: he gave up the seat that he wanted out kindness for someone else. I suppose you could say that Jerry wasn't able to make that choice because he had never shaped his character through selfless acts to make such a decision, while Sean repeatedly denies himself for me and those he loves, and therefore able to do the generous deed. Anyway, I'm completely overdoing it with this analogy but I love Seinfeld and I love Sean, so just humor me.
Getting back to the flight, I settled into my seat, in a row with three business men, all more than double my age. I felt more than a bit out of place. But Sean had commissioned me to enjoy the full weight of the experience, to eat everything they brought me, and try not to sleep too much and miss out on the glory of it all. (Though perhaps being able to sleep in a completely flat bed IS the glory of it!)
Feeling the need to enjoy it completely for the both of us, I spent the next ten hours lounging in a chair/bed, watching free movies, refreshing my face with warm washcloths, drinking red wine, eating course after course of the most delicious food (there were lots of olives!), and feeling like the Queen of England.
Mixed nuts served in a warm bowl
Melon and kalamata olives
Salad with fresh tomatoes, more olives!, croutons, and delicate shavings of asiago cheese
Beef tenderloin with asiago broth
And red wine that I never once had to ask to be refilled. Practically the minute I took a sip they were there adding more to my glass.
Cheese & crackers
A delightful little glass of port
Ice cream sundae
I explained the situation to my flight attendant, and she asked if I'd like to take an ice cream sundae and a glass of Scotch back to Sean. I don't know if I've ever felt happier, navigating the narrow dark aisle, bearing treats for Sean, and knowing how happy it would make him. We visited a little bit, and then it was back to living the high life for me.
I laid my chair out flat, plopped my fat white pillow behind my head, and snuggled down under my fleece blanket to watch movies, and read, and sleep while our plane arched across the sky toward London and sunlight.
When we landed they said, "Welcome to London! We have a new royal baby--a little princess!" People on the plane started clapping and cheering, and I thought to myself, "This must be a dream!"
My mom told me that she was praying I'd be blown away by this trip. I would say that so far her prayers have been answered abundantly.
Timmy, the only bear in first class!