FLIGHT 838, NARITA TO SFO, 5:05 local time. I’m now on the plane, waiting to back away from the terminal.

Just got the menu. Let’s see. What to eat, what to eat? I think the crispy scallop poststickers and tasai with oyster sauce sounds good, but I’m torn between the filet mignon with roasted corn and sausage ragout, and the Malaysian herb-crusted rack of lamb with Sarawak pineapple salsa.

[dramatic pause]


The thing I REALLY could get used to about flying first class isn’t the nice lounge, or the food, or having someone basically turn on a beverage tap a few minutes after takeoff.

It’s not having to wait in lines.

I never actually paid any real attention to how first class travelers are treatedannouncements to “first-class passengers” being part of the background noise of airportsbut it turns out that when you fly first class, you Don’t Have To Wait. There’s this near-empty line that you get to stand in (you can’t see it when you’re standing in the economy line); you wait at most a couple seconds; someone takes your ticket; then you’re on your way. While boarding at Narita, we had to wait for a full two minutes with the business class travelers. It suddenly felt like I was packed in amber.

First class is for travelers what standards are to goods: both are social technologies that lowers transaction costs and speeds movement.