I first flew to Paris on TWA flight 800, which some of you will remember had been thoughtfully renumbered sometime after it went into the sea off Long Island. I was traveling on Famous Designer‘s dime to Semaine du Cuir – the leather and suede exhibition where I was to meet vendors I’d known only via phone and fax (hi, I’m old), and hopefully pick up some new sources.
Before I left, I asked the designers for direction in choosing samples to bring back from the show. I will never forget their responses:
- “I’m thinking…sherbet.”
- “Bring me back beautiful things.”
- “I love horsey leathers.”
- “I want the Marc Jacobs jacket that’s at Barney’s.”
Fashion people aren’t like you and me.
But I digress.
It was my first really long flight, and I was flying First Class. I was shown to my seat, my things were whisked away, and as I settled in I found myself among the In Crowd – devastatingly glamorous men and women, titans of industry, and some serious old-school, old-money types. Champagne was served while we queued up on the tarmac. I ate well, slept like a baby, and awoke to the sound of a rooster crowing over the intercom and a freshly made omelet. It was all quite civilized.
On the return trip, though, we were informed that the flight was rerouted to Boston instead of JFK, and the In Crowd turned ugly. They berated the in-flight staff – as if they had any control over this apparently dire situation. Among their indignant comments:
“I’M A TWA STOCKHOLDER, AND THE BOARD WILL HEAR ABOUT THIS.”
I was thrilled, frankly. I’d just been to Paris for the first time, I was flying First Class, and the reroute meant I wouldn’t have to return to the office upon my arrival. And I was rewarded for my bliss: every so often a flight attendant would collapse into the empty seat next to me, we’d split some chocolates or a glass of champers, and we’d bitch in whispers about the other passengers.
It was on this flight of the damned that they served what was by far the most memorable meal I’ve ever had on a plane: an entire, enormous smoked salmon on a rolling tray, complete with garnish, and of course more Champagne. Yes please!
The fact that an entire, enormous smoked salmon had somehow found its way onto an airplane was not what made me remember the meal; it was the couple across the aisle from me. They were probably in their 70s, and French, and impeccably dressed, and had brought on board two decent-sized black poodles who rested quietly at their feet.
As the stewardess made her way down the aisle with the entire, enormous smoked salmon, she respectfully asked Fabulous French Lady if the dog currently sitting on her lap could be sent back down to the floor. “BUT OF COURSE NOT,” Fabulous French Lady screamed in her Fabulous French Accent:
“MY DOG DOES NOT EEEAT FROM SE PLATE!”
The stewardess said she was sure the dog had only the best manners, but she did not want to tempt it unduly with an entire, enormous smoked salmon drifting directly past at nose height.
“BUT MY DOG, HE DOES NOT LIKE SE FEEESH.”
That was it. The stewardess lost it. “Well, then,” she said loudly, “I guess no one on this side of the plane will be getting the salmon today!” And she marched that fish right back up one aisle and down the other.
The First Class Cabin erupted into chaos. Fabulous French Lady and her dog were berated by TWA Stockholders and the rest of the In Crowd. The flight attendants stood in the front, arms crossed, looking like they had Centre Court seats at Wimbledon. I couldn’t stop staring at that entire, enormous smoked salmon.
Finally, and with outward disgust for the unwashed masses in First Class, Fabulous French Lady ohlalalalalalalala’d her precious pooch back to the floor. A cease-fire was called, and a tense lunch service resumed.
When it came time to serve me, I asked the stewardess where they stored an entire, enormous smoked salmon. Without missing a beat she said, “On the wing” and winked at me. My laughter, a heretofore unheard sound in First Class, won me dirty looks from the surly In Crowd. I guess I just didn’t fit in.