Photo: iStock

I recently went out to Los Angeles on a company-paid trip to host an event called Urban by Nature. From Washington, D.C., that trip is about five hours. For this reason, I typically scramble to get a window or aisle seat, praying to never get stuck on a five-hour middle-seat journey into uncomfortableness.

Well, since I’m TSA Precheck gang, whenever I buy tickets, I have to provide my Known Traveler Number to the airlines. Then, when I get my boarding pass, it says “TSA Precheck” so that I can bypass you peasants waiting in the world’s longest security lines who see me walk through without taking out my laptop or taking off my shoes. Victory is so sweet.

Anyway, for this particular trip—which, again, was paid for by the company (this is very important)—when I went online to add my KTN, it gave me the opportunity to upgrade my return tickets (first leg was L.A. to Detroit, then Detroit to D.C.) to first class for $250 total. Hmmm.

I’m not a first-class fellow. I’m a coach dude through and through. I’m so coach I usually end up with a seat number like 42F (racism, probably) in a late-boarding group, watching everybody else board while I pray for overhead space for my bag.

The closest I ever get to first class is that damn bulkhead row with the mesh curtain that separates “first class” from us regular folks in such a disrespectful fashion. Especially when they close the curtain. I can still see everybody, mesh curtain! So rude. In fact, the last time I ever flew first class was when I was an unaccompanied minor and they brought the few kids to the front of the plane, well before I could appreciate first-class life.

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But L.A. is a long-ass flight. And I didn’t pay for the ticket to begin with; upgrading would be me paying the cost for a regular-priced plane ticket, and for long flights, I figured it might be worth it. So I ponied up the money.

And I saw life differently.

(Sidenote: I realize some of you are first class all the time. Some of you have really long pockets. If that’s you, that’s wonderful. The rest of us try not look at you looking at us looking at you.)

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Let’s start with getting that boarding pass. On the flight to Detroit, I moved up to seat 5D. It’s rare for me to see a seat number so low on a plane without a propeller.

Anyway, my boarding passes have super-low seat numbers (5D and 2A), and where it says “Zone,” there are words instead of numbers. It’s was like prealgebra all over again. I get to the gate and they call for the first priority group, and I marched to the front with my sunglasses on and my present-day chic apparel, just so I could believe that people were looking at me trying to figure out if I was famous (I’m not).

I have no idea if anybody did, but I sure as hell FELT important getting on that plane and turning left instead of right into a section of seats with waters already there and pillows and blankets and space. Oh, the space! I don’t know if I hit the illegal level or not, but I was definitely manspreading for a few minutes. “Autumn Leaves” played over the speakers ever so softly as stewardesses offered me liquor, drinks and snacks.

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I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” played in the main cabin (as if!). I couldn’t see, but I feel like folks devolved into fistfights for overhead space, since they asked for over 20 people to be willing to check their bags and offered upward of $800 for folks to take later flights.

The flight attendants supplied me with food and drink and constantly asked me if I was doing all right. My flight was so pleasant with the bigger movie screen and space. But see, here’s the issue with this first leg: Nobody could see me flying first class, stunting on everybody. You know what I’m talking about—when you get on a plane and see the folks sitting in the first few rows as you try to figure out what they do for a living or why they’re special. I wanted that look to happen to me.

Luckily, God has my back because on the second leg of my return flight, I was that person. I got on and off the plane before everybody, and folks got on looking at me wearing my sunglasses at 930 p.m. with my best rapper swag. I felt awesome. Still being supplied with food and drink and snacks, I wondered if I’d be able to go back to regular flying.

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Turns out, yes. Yes, I would. I went to Alabama to visit family this past weekend, and when I looked at the cost for first-class tickets, the price said, “You must hand over one of your children,” and I just couldn’t do it. So back to coach I went in row 27 of 33.

But you know, I feel different. They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, and while I don’t know who they are and typically think they are full of shit, I will always have my time in first class to remind me of what’s possible. We had precious moments where I could stretch my legs a little bit and set up both my laptop and my iPad comfortably while a very nice woman handed me a glass of bourbon and ginger ale without asking me for a credit card. I believe India.Arie called those the little things.

To first class, I knew you. And I may never know you again, but you were all right to me. We may forever look at each other with passing glances, awkwardly remembering that one time in Los Angeles (and Detroit), but maybe one day we’ll dance like no one’s watching again, together.