On 1K Status

I am officially living the dream. I am (#humblebrag coming) 1K on United, Earth’s least terrible airline (until they really screw something up again).

For those readers lucky enough to not travel voraciously for work and/or family illness, 1K is the status conferred by United upon those who travel at least 100,000 flight miles in a given calendar year.

This bestows the great privilege of early boarding, neverending upgrades, and faster pathways to repeat elite status. I suddenly feel sorry for all the unwashed phonies with Premier Platinum “status.” How’s life in boarding group 2, suckers? What? Sorry, I can’t hear you; my ears are filled with warm first-class cookies.

My hair will be omnipresent. You will dream in Smisek, forever wondering how a douche like me became CEO of United. I'm right behind you.
My hair will be omnipresent. You will dream in Smisek, forever wondering how a douche like me became CEO of United. I’m right behind you.

I used to hate air travel, like most humans. Now that I have an embarrassment of coddling built into the purchase and boarding processes, I categorically enjoy traveling. Seriously, I went from wanting to stick flaming toothpicks in my eyes the night before flying to delightedly arranging my luggage five minutes before I fly, because it doesn’t matter what I bring or how I pack it; I can do anything I want.

Do I sound entitled? Perhaps. I maintain the outward patina of the Everyman, ever more vigilantly minding my P’s and Q’s such as not to arouse the disdain of my fellow plebeians–er, passengers. I take it upon myself to surprise flight attendants and staff at every turn, overselling the point that a spoiled frequent traveler can actually emerge, cheese-stuffed, from the first-class lounge and be a decent, polite individual.

I know my place. According to my documentation, handwritten in the blood of ubiquitous United CEO Jeff Smisek, I am to immediately drop to my knees and spit-polish the belt buckle of any Global Services member I encounter. I’m not the king, merely one of the chosen myrmidons, the lucky tall guy in a suit with a little extra room and convenience. I take nothing for granted.

It makes no difference, after all. We apes speak frantically, incessantly with our thumbs, bleating the real-time death of longhand and civilization at all times. Wes Anderson explains my existence on every cross-country flight, one of his mesmerizing romps carefully selected from my personal entertainment library and piped through premium noise-canceling headphones. I then shamelessly insert his name into some aphasic verse, a dirty keyword for a dirty business, this life.

A poem, written on an airplane, littered with flimsy pop-culture references? Yes, a poem, goodness yes, we all need our damn poetry, especially we weary travelers with no one to speak with other than our incredibly responsive, private white-glove concierge secret-phone-number 1K butlers.

At any moment, good things like a promotion or healthier parents could rob me of my unyielding travel schedule, remanding me to…gasp…Premier Platinum, or worse. The day I return to boarding group 3, with its looming threat of gate-checked carry-ons, is the day I send myself to pasture.

I read The Catcher in the Rye in college, embarrassed that it was still banned in my high school. I read it quickly, as if visiting yet another quaint Northern California town, breezing through a literary Petaluma, happy to be able to say I’d been there and gone to the little place with the fried Twinkies.

Those Twinkies and J.D. Salinger are gone to us forever, as everything will be, in due time.

Cling tight to your status, dear travelers, for it is all we have.

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