Sunday, July 5, 2009

Not Exactly How You’d Expect to Start a Project on Poverty

It was 7:30pm on the day after my flight was SUPPOSED to leave JFK in New York, and I was checking in for my flight. Delays in D.C. had caused me to be the only passenger to miss the flight – at this point I had been in terminal four for over 20 hours. I splurged for one-day internet access – I say splurged because my only other expenditure all day was meatless ziti from Sbarro – beverages are unnecessary when you have a water bottle and convenient water fountain (at least as long as you’re inside the US border). Amidst my teeth brushing and face washing in the bathroom I felt a bit like Tom Hanks in The Terminal. I even made friends with a Belgium guy who had been screwed by his British Air – apparently they lost the luggage for the entire plane. Ouch.

Anyways, frustrated from a mistake that wasn’t my fault and tired from only getting a couple hours of sleep on a cold tiled floor, I wasn’t the happiest of campers as I approached the check-in counter (Though through all of this, I kept in mind that if I couldn’t handle this then I didn’t stand a chance in rural Africa or what not). The check in lady said, “Did they tell you about the change fee?”…"What change fee?....". Then she said I had to check my large backpack…I begged her to cut me any sort of break. And a break I was cut.

As it turns out I was allowed to carry on my bag – I had been upgraded to first class. She handed me my pass to “The Lounge” where I enjoyed cocktails and appetizers. This was after first asking the server, however amateur it was, how much the drinks cost (As if it wasn’t already apparent that I was out of place – I was the only person both under 25 and wearing anything but a collared shirt and dress pants). They then announced that it was time for us to board the plane. Security was no problem, as we were granted some sort of Disney-like FastTrack pass that allowed us to skip all of the “normies”. Etihad was voted the top business class in the Middle East or something like that, and it was pretty apparent why once I got on the plane, where I was served a three course meal, wine and beer, all while watching Yes Man in a reclined massaging chair.

I actually didn’t know if I had first class from Abu Dhabi to Dhaka as well, so I stuffed myself silly on the JFK-Abu Dhabi flight. It turned out I did, so the ridiculous treatment continued for another six hours until I landed in Dhaka with Wyclef Jean’s “Dolla Bill” blasting in my headphones. An unusual, but fitting way to start a year-long project studying poverty.


  1. this is great rob! i'll be following this closely over the next few months

  2. What an adventure! Can't wait to hear more. David and I slept in the Motorhome in the parking lot of the HS football stadium in Garretson, South Dakota last night, walked to Main Street to the Dizzy Duck Saloon, had a beer, threw some darts and listened to Merle Haggard on the jukebox! Now that's FIRST CLASS adventure. Love you, Rob.