I never really much cared for money or status. Mostly because I’ve never had either or precious little of both. When I was a journalist I was afforded certain kinds of special treatment, mostly because people didn’t want to end up on the wrong end of my pen.
I’ll never forget when I did a story on the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs and one of the richest men in town – Thayer Tutt – showed me around the hotel his father had helped established and by association the entire town around it and at the end of the tour as we looked out on the spectacular golf course which cost some ridiculous amount of money to play on – like $65.000 – he looked at me with puppy dog eyes and said, “Now you’re going to be nice to us right.” I almost laughed at him. I mean really, here is a multimillionaire treating me, a lowly reporter, like I could ruin his career or something. But TT was no fool. Rich as he was there’s no substitute for public opinion so I went home feeling a little big for my britches that day.
But most of my life has been spent chronicling the trials and tribulations of what the world would call the lower class – the poor, the minority, the maligned, the uneducated, the struggling and the down and out. In my work and in my social life I spent more time with homeless, drug addicts and recovering meth heads, murders, and thieves than I did with the socialite crowd. I’ve always been fascinated with the have nots because the haves seem to incredibly predictable and boring.
But hey, I’m no Mother Teresa. I like my status as much as the next average Jane. Whenever I visit my cousin Terry in D.C. he always gives me the “special treatment, “, box seats at a Wizards game, back stage passes to this, mimosas at some exclusive restaurant. I like nicer things and when I can afford them (sometimes when I can’t) I buy them. I have a weakness for COACH. But mostly, I’m content to wallow in my decidedly unprivileged state waiting in line with the rest of the Joe blows and taking my turn on the Ferris Wheel like everyone else. Then I got the e-mail.
It was one of those innocuous corporate e-mails American Airlines always sends me announcing low fares to Bora Bora or whatever. But this time it said, “Congratulations you have reached Platinum status.”
I have no delusions of being above my pay grade but somehow this message puffed my chest out a bit. When I reached gold status I barely blinked but Platinum, well that just sounds cool doesn’t it?
I had no idea what Platinum status really meant until I arrived a few hours ago at the Narita airport in Japan. The airline ticket counter was closed and another guy on my plane was exasperated because he wanted to get his new AA boarding pass but couldn’t. Then he lamented that his flight didn’t leave for another six hours and what the heck was he going to do in the meantime. I was getting ready for an eight hour lay over so I was focused on trying to find a bathroom big enough for me to try to get myself together and change clothes. I decided to go to the American Airlines Admirals club and see if I could fork over the $65 bucks to hang out there for a day. When I got to the counter I promptly asked to buy a day pass and the woman asked for my boarding pass. Then she smiled and said, “You don’t need to BUY a day pass you’re a Platinum member.” What? So an hour later after I had showered in their lovely personal shower rooms, ate a little brie and drank perfectly made orange juice I sat down to write this blog using the free Internet service. Yes membership has its privileges. Yet even as I sit here rested and chillaxing, I can’t help but think of that Japanese student wondering aimlessly around the halls of the Narita airport looking for his slice of chill pie. Why did he not get to enter into the hallowed gates of airport lounges? I mean I gained Platinum status but not on my own dime – my job pretty much allowed me to reach that stage. So it’s not like I paid for it right?
I guess this whole situation is analogous to our capitalist system. Money talks and everything else complains. I haven’t had much money but I’ve been afforded a skill set that allows for those who do have money to want to employ me. So I guess merit still counts for something! Few people can buy their way into membership status but most of us can earn it. Still Jesus said it was tougher for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven so I guess on that point I’m right in line. I’m poor enough to not have to worry about heaven and I get my cake and can eat it too!