That is, until we started boarding.
We were about to exchange business cards — you know that moment when you meet someone new and you each sense that the other is possibly of the same or higher status than you —and worth not only meeting but keeping track of. But instead of asking for each other’s business card, our chummy conversation was rudely interrupted by a loud voice over the speaker announcing all Gold Members of some exclusive credit card could board now.
We paused at the interruption and smiled at each other before trying to resume our conversation –but that lasted only a few seconds. Then came another thunderous announcement. This time that Zone 1 could now board. My new friend chirped, “Oh, that’s me.” And added, “Are you in Zone 1?”
I looked at my boarding pass and couldn’t find my zone but had a sinking feeling I was assigned to a different — and lesser zone— and that our newly formed friendship was more fragile than I thought.
“Hmmm.” I mumbled. Acting like there must have been some sort of mistake with my boarding pass. I shook my head and shrugged. We shook hands and he left. No business cards were requested or exchanged. All I could do was stare at the ground while my former friend strode confidently up to the ticket counter to check in and board our flight.
I was too ashamed to tell him I was not only NOT in Zone 1 –but was, in truth, assigned to Zone 5. In fact, after the announcement for boarding Zone 4 was made (in a noticeably softer and almost apologetic tone), there was a long delay before they finally announcing, “All other Zones may board now.”
That was me — “my Zone.” There were only a handful of us. We sized each other up quickly. No one seemed to want anyone else’s business card. But then something strange happened. Even though I didn’t feel like asking for anyone’s business card (and no one wanted mine), I started to feel that these were “my people” –whatever Zone number we had been assigned to. And we needed to stick together. Especially against the assholes who think their Zone is better than ours.
I started to resent the guy I was talking to earlier who was boarded in Zone 1. Who the hell did he think he was anyway? He wasn’t better than me—or better than any of us in the “remaining Zones.” He was just an ordinary guy who maybe got a few more lucky breaks. That’s all.
In fact, he started to seem like he was mostly a poser — a fraud I didn’t trust—and I didn’t even want his business card anymore. Or to be in his boarding Zone.
I am OK just the way I am . Maybe it just took this flight boarding experience for me to realize it. And so was everyone else I was waiting with who was still hoping to board the plane and not get bumped.
We looked at each other again. We may me in the “remaining Zones” –but that was OK. We weren’t defined by our boarding Zone. As far as we were concerned, we actually felt sorry the poor bastards who “needed” to board in Zone 1 to feel OK about themselves. They must be really insecure.
Then the airline ticket counter person lifted the microphone and announced my name. She explained to me —but in a voice loud enough for my people to hear — that there had been a mistake with my ticket and that I was allowed to board now ahead of everyone else in the “remaining zones.”
I was all alone again.
And thought about asking for the business card of that Zone 1 guy again —if he saw me get on the plane ahead of everyone in “the remaining Zones.”