Good Friday evening marks my third flight on Spirit Airlines, a super-low fare carrier. I am enjoying it more than any flight in recent memory other than last summer's flights on Porter Airways, likewise a low-fare airline. Since Spring 2007, I have flown an average of 2-3 round trips a year, with Phoenix being the most frequent destination because my parents are "snowbirds." During the pre-takeoff briefing, the flight attendant made light of the presumption that upscale consumers would not be flying Spirit. (An inaccurate presumption--as it happens, an affluent-looking businessman type was in the row immediately in front of me.)
I'd been reflecting on such consumer decisions while at the gate. I feel that as I gain travel confidence and experience, I enjoy inexpensive options more than anything. A large part of it is probably my personal purpose for travel. Milwaukee does not always offer as many opportunities for human interaction as I'd like, and when I travel, I try to make up for it. I enjoy the feeling of being turned on to face-to-face interaction for days at a time, simply wandering from my hotel (or my parents' condo, in this particular case) to coffeehouses, restaurants and bars. I enjoy hip, trendy, bohemian neighborhoods. Though I chose to rent a car this time so I could get to more urban neighborhoods of Phoenix efficiently, I almost always rely on walking and public transportation when I travel. I feel like I've had more than enough upper-middlebrow retail and restaurant service in my lifetime. Full-service airlines and hotels were probably reassuring to me when I carried great anxiety during travel, especially travel to unfamiliar places. As I mellow with age, I place increasing value on a sense of adventure.
As I write, I am enjoying one cup each of coffee and tea, both with a shot of Fireball. The Fireball coffee is the best alcoholic drink I've had on a plane and one of the best I've had anywhere in a long time. Somehow, it tastes almost exactly like Glühwein, the German hot mulled wine specialty served at Christmas markets. Incidentally, I have an exit row seat with just as much legroom as I could ask for. I find myself wondering what more I could ask for, even if money were no object. It's roughly a three-and-a-half hour flight. Isn't this enough comfort for something that's over so quickly?
I feel like contentment is more attainable than ultimate luxury. If one shops for luxury, the market will always devise greater luxury for a higher price. If one says, "this moment is good enough. In fact, it's just about perfect," there is no need for escalation. In making this statement, I feel a sense of inner peace that's hard to describe and that I cherish very highly. It's a sense of decisions that reflect transcendence. It's a sense of "this isn't going to impress anybody, especially not on Facebook. But I have obtained what I hoped for and more, at reasonable expense. I am present here and now, and though I'm tapping some thoughts into my laptop, I'm not absorbed by that process. I am enjoying leisure time." The casual chat with the stewardess that resulted from my ordering Bailey's--which they no longer carry--led to my trying something suprisingly good. I place more value on that experience, even from a consumer perspective, than on having my every wish fulfilled exactly as expressed.
I value a sense of serendipity--perhaps precisely because I believe I give my all in life. The way may be erratic and unpredicable, but I affirm its ultimate goodness. What follows A may not be B, but C or D will be wonderful. And yes, to me, this is a large part of religion. I feel that prayers and ceremonies can become an addiction. Like medications, they can have salutary effects--but what if there were no church or no pharmacy, or if they were not within reach? Though I consider myself an orthodox Christian, I believe there has to be a type of inner "firmware", as it were, that we carry even when we're not in church or reading Scripture. It allows us to be as Christian at work, while online in our free time, at a bar or while purchasing an embarassing item at a store as we are at the altar, where self-consciousness and formality likely consume us. Otherwise, I would argue, you'd really have to be the Pope in order to do the 24/7 Christian thing.
Back to the flight: it was so smooth and effortless that we arrived a half-hour early and the ground crew was not ready to accomodate us, so we're sitting on the ground waiting for a jetbridge. To top it all off, not long before the cabin lights turned back on about twenty minutes before landing, I happened to look out the window after powering down my laptop. The plane was flying over an unpopulated area and I saw the stars from above the clouds. The full moon illuminated the clouds like a blanket; it was like a dream sequence from a movie, except it was real. The sight was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes as I ached with the joy of being alive.