SFO. Sometime in the last year, I passed a magic line and didn’t know it. Somewhere– maybe over Greenland, perhaps just north of Jutland– I crossed over from one existence into another. But now I know.

I now get to sit in the business class lounge.

The first time I ever got to do this was on my trip to Seoul, and I was completely blown away. At one level, I know that it’s a minor thing, that any small convenience you have while waiting for a plane is really pretty trivial, and that I shouldn’t take seriously. And I don’t. But still, after that trip (and especially after getting bumped up into first class in Narita, and for the return) my next international trip was a little bit of a letdown. No free coffee and soft drinks. No fruit. No one coming around and discreetly picking up your trash.

Fortunately, I’d never seen one of these places until I was about 39. As a kid, I got to travel all over the world– I lived for several years in Brazil, and had spent periods in Japan and Korea before I finished college– but that was all third-class carriage. In Brazil, travel was overnight buses from Rio to the interior, or prop plane flights to Manaus or Belo Horizante. Tobago was reached via a penitential red-eye from JFK, with three stops before my destination. Growing up traveling through places that are more likely to have livestock running around than a Prada store gives you a certain immunity from taking luxury travel too seriously, or missing it when it’s not available.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate it when it comes your way. As she was handing me my boarding pass, the ticket agent said, “And you know where the Red Carpet club is, right?” My heart didn’t quite skip a beat, but it did speed up a lot. Oh, man… free coffee…. Quiet…. Mmmmmm…

Of course, this being California, the freebies are healthier than they are elsewhere– heavy on the fruit and cheese, and an assortment of espresso-based beverages (Californians eat well in other respects so they can assault their bodies with caffeine and half-and-half). And I guess there’s some kind of sports thing going on on the TV. But that’s why I have headphones.

The REALLY outstanding news, though, is that this little trick should work in Heathrow, too. And given how penitential Heathrow’s gate waiting areas are, that’ll be a godsend. Of course, if it doesn’t, I’ll just wander around the duty-free area for a couple hours, like I always do, and find some ways to things for the kids to spend down my last remaining pounds.

I need another grape. Where’s that peeler?

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