I just got back to LA from London, and was lucky enough to fly Virgin Upper Class, which is a pretty fantastic. You get your own little bed, in your own teeny seat/cabin (jaded flyers call it “Coffin Class”) and all the food and wine and booze they can convince you to consume. The flight attendants are lovely, and the departure lounge at Heathrow is a little slice of super-model and minor celebrity heaven. This is not my usual mode of transportation, so I was determined to milk it for all I could.
My seat was 9A, and in 8A (next to me, since the seats run down the length of the plane, rather than across) was one of the craziest people I’ve ever had the misfortune to sit next to. She was probably mid-50s, with long blonde curls, cargo pants, a crop top and the waning beauty of a car-crash California beauty queen. She was traveling with her brother, Georgie, who was one of those people who make no lasting impression, though I remember he was wearing black jeans with a waxy finish.
They were like characters out of a Jim Thompson novel. One in which a pair of middle-aged siblings who inherited a lot of money but no love from their father spend their lives acting out in an unconscious attempt to get Daddies’ attention long after he’s in the grave. Both more comfortable and experienced in spending than earning. Brother attends to Sister’s manic and willful helplessness, in a way that sometimes feels disturbing to on-lookers.
Before we were even off the ground she had every flight attendant jumping. What time the flight was arriving, would it be late, what was the weather life in LA, why didn’t the plane have wi-fi, were there any pajamas even though it’s a day flight, is the food organic, why is the movie quality so low-res, she needs some Kleenex now. And yes, she was the one still texting on her Blackberry as we took of.
But underneath that was some pretty genuine and very sad crazy, that kind of narcissistic self-delusion where being the center of attention is the only kind of satisfaction the world has ever offered. Some kind of manic, loud emptiness that could only be staved off by being catered to, having people alter their paths to attend to you. Being noticed and being loud because otherwise there is nothing.
It seemed appropriate that they were flying to LA.
About three minutes after the plane took off I found the purser and begged to be moved, and she got me a quiet little seat next to a nice man who said nothing and just watched movies the whole flight.
And that is the Story of the Crazy Person Sitting Next to Me in Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class.