Class consciousness

I’ve only been in my current job for nearly a year, and they’ve finally decided to send me on a business trip. But it couldn’t be much better – it’s to New York! (OK, with a slight detour to Ohio mid-week but I can live with that.) I know it’s not anywhere as exotic as Dubai or São Paulo and every fucker’s been there these days (see exhibits A, B and – particularly – C) but I always felt I never saw the city properly; July, in a hostel with no air con and on a tight budget didn’t do me any favours. I’m there officially for the full week so I’m flying out Saturday morning and catching the red-eye back the next Saturday night for a few days proper sightseeing. I’ve booked myself into what looks like a nice, funky, little hotel (it won’t be the last time I say this: god bless the exchange rate) called The Pod Hotel for the night I’m paying for myself; ironic, perhaps, since I don’t have an iPod, but I plan to play the eccentric Luddite Brit. By the end of the week I daresay I’ll be talking like Mary Poppins anyway and using words like ‘daresay’, so why not start as one means to go on…

It’s slightly annoying because I’m rather broke (damn variable
mortgage/credit cards/£2k bespoke fitted wardrobes) and could do
without having to play tourist right now; but since I’m saving up for
Japan next spring this could be the most exciting trip I get to do
until then – bar the odd hop to Spain to see the parents or maybe a few
days in, I dunno, Riga – and I’ll be damned if I’m spending a week in a
hotel like a hermit. But… bugrit, I had to buy a suitcase (I threw my
only lockable rucksack out after I moved, I swore the trip from Kate and Nick’s
to mine would be its last. Read the latter entries of the America Diaries
and wonder only why it took five years to dump it) and then the only
bag I had that zips broke and I had to buy a new one. (Note:
I refuse to use the word ‘handbag’. Referring to my ‘bag’ as a
‘handbag’ will unleash my inner Lady Bracknell.)

What’s really freaking me out is that it’s a business trip, so I’m going business class. All the fucking way. Not just flying but staying in decent hotels. Now, given that I can lower the tone in any given location, what the hell am I going to do in such a situation? How obvious is it going to be that I do not belong there? I was reading the services for the flight and convincing myself that I’ll never bring myself to ask for things like a ‘turn-down service’ when the seat turns into a bed; but then I made the actual booking and realised that the return flight alone costs my monthly net salary and it rapidly sunk in that all this has been laid on because it’s been oh-so-paid for and so I’m very much entitled to it. Hmm. Maybe the free food and drink and car and other bobbins, but I still don’t think I can ask someone to make my bed for me. You can take the girl out of the working class, but you evidently can’t take the working class out of the girl.

Questions: I’m flying on Saturdays – if I wear my jeans will I be looked down upon? It’s not like I’m trying to blag an upgrade and I refuse to do a transatlantic flight and not be comfy. The hotels I’m staying in for work are likely to have, you know, staff to do things that I’m not used to (being used to cheap pensions in central Europe). Do you really have to have someone else carry your bags? And then be expected to tip them? (Again with the working class inferiority.) Any definite faux-pas to avoid when in business class? How can I get out of colleagues taking me to dinner every night when I’ll already have spent the day with them – being ‘entertained’ by people I’ve met in person just eight hours previously is not my idea of fun. And can anyone recommend anywhere to go see some bands?


9 responses to “Class consciousness

  1. Will January 28, 2007 at 3:16 am

    See the whole thing with Virgin Upper Class (and it’s not just business class – it’s their FIRST class, so you have to appreciate that) is that if you can afford to fly it, you can do what you want. Most of the other people on there will be paid for by their companies too, but they don’t know that you are as well do they??
    So first and foremost, act casual. Like this is no big deal. Secondly, wear whatever you’re comfortable flying in. This is not tea at the Ritz, it’s a flight. I normally wear jeans, or maybe if I’m going somewhere hot (Dubai) some linen trousers. Besides, if it’s overnight they’ll give you a swanky flight suit (PJs) which you HAVE to take home with you because they’re awesome. My boss flies more than I do so I got his medium size to give to Alison – mucho brownie points.
    You get to board first so accept all the Champagne they’re offering and nibbles too while you leaf through the films for the flight. It’s at this point when you can decide if you’re going to catch up on movies or (if there’s nothing good on) spend the flight at THE BAR! Yes, even if you’re not up for drinking you have to have at least one drink at the lovely bar – it’s like no pub on earth (because it’s not, hehe) so the opportunity shouldn’t be wasted.
    Seriously though, just don’t stress. You’re there because you earned it, whether you think so or not.
    Oh, and you WILL ask them to make your bed for you, because unless you’ve been on this flight before you won’t be able to figure out the bed. I’m quite technically minded but I still needed help to transform the comfy chair to a flat bed. Don’t feel silly about it, everyone asks for help.
    The hotel’s trickier though. I always try to carry my own baggage if I can. But I think it’s difficult in the US and since you’ll be going straight from the airport via limo to the hotel it’ll serve you well to have a few dollars in your pocket to tip the porter. Otherwise they’ll poo in your bed. Maybe.
    And tell reception you don’t want a paper every morning otherwise you’ll get one, and get charged $20 for the privilege, whether you’re paying or not.
    I’ve always found Virgin totally rule, but then I’ve only ever flown them Upper Class. Me, privileged? No. Just lucky, that’s all.

  2. Will January 28, 2007 at 3:16 am

    Oh oh, MAMMOTH post….

  3. Rachel January 28, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    A NECESSARY mammoth post 🙂 (And I thought you were ill, what’s with the wee small hours commenting?) I didn’t know about the PJs, I was planning to buy some comfy not-quite tracksuit bottoms and I won’t bother now. So, what, do you get changed in the toilets?
    Incidentally, I think it’s going to be quite obvious I’m on the flight cos work paid for it… I got a lot of odd looks from estate agents when I was wandering in saying “yeah, show me properties for this massive amount of money that I’m paying for myself” cos nobody expects such a wee girlie to have that kind of cash.
    Virgin even rule in economy too. I’m totally flying with them when I go to Tokyo.

  4. Nick January 28, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    I remember being incredibly happy when I discovered that the Vigin flight I was on to the US had SNES games which you could play from the comfort of your seat (this was way back now).
    Maybe they will have something even better now!

  5. kate January 29, 2007 at 9:23 pm

    tip the porter. wear jeans. invent an aged relative who your mother has insisted you must visit in the evenings. job done.

  6. Ant January 29, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    Yes! Virgin’s in chair entertainment with F-Zero was very good. In cattle class too.
    It saw me through the flight which finally convinced me that I’m not fated to *ever* sleep on an aeroplane. After 2 hours of concerted effort to sleep, I nodded off with my elbow pressing the ‘Call stewardess’ button. Which obviously, called a stewardess, who woke me up to see what I wanted (sleep, as it happens).

  7. Nick January 29, 2007 at 10:40 pm

    Aye F-Zero that was it. Brilliant fun.

  8. Rachel January 30, 2007 at 9:46 am

    Really, Ant? Never sleep on a plane? I’ve slept through landing before now. Mind you, I had ‘slept’ in the airport the night before (drifted off for 30 minutes across plastic seats, rucksack strap tied round wrist to deter thieves). Usually helps to not have had any sleep for 36 hours beforehand, then you can sleep anywhere.

  9. Rachel January 30, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Holy beJEZUS it’s cold out there…

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