You Can’t Top This!

That’s how the screaming red headline announced in a magazine I was flipping through the other day while my niece, visiting from Stockholm, was cooking dinner. It was an ad, of course. While I didn’t rush to buy anything, I found the claim quite interesting. Minutes later we had dinner, my niece served us fillet and chanterelle pasta with salad and a bottle of exquisite – not expensive – Cabernet Sauvignon. My taste buds truly enjoyed the meal (if you’d like, I’m happy to share the recipe she gave me) and I found myself thinking “you can’t top this”! Meaning all of the experience: the great food (that someone else than me had prepared, for a change), the smooth wine, the wonderful company of my family, the beautiful evening – all of it.

I have noticed I make this claim more often now than I used to, find myself appreciating the little good things in life that sometimes just come together in the right way. That’s not to say there haven’t been any really special moments when this declaration would have required bold red letters, like in the ad. In fact, there have been a fair number of those occasions – balanced by others, like hills and valleys. One of them has remained a bit mysterious to me until to date, nothing over-the-top, just different from the rest. It was in July exactly ten years ago.

My family had already left for vacation in Europe, to see everybody “back home”. I had bought apex tickets on BA for all of us a while back, but we were on different schedules. I had to remain working for one more week before I could join them. I was busy at work, in the “can’t leave, things will collapse” way, which you might be familiar with. I felt completely exhausted when I finally left my downtown office late in the evening my last full day of work.  I remember that the weather in the nation’s capital was hot and humid, very sticky. Took the metro, as usual, walked home across the park and literally collapsed at my kitchen table. Next day in the afternoon I would go to the airport straight from the office, so now I had to pack and prepare the house to be able to leave it on its own for two weeks.

Somehow I managed to get everything done (we usually do). I climbed upstairs to my bed sometime in the wee hours of the morning – ah, almost four hours to dedicate to rest. But sleep didn’t come. I was too tired to fall asleep! My mind was wired up and I started worrying about the trip.  Sitting in a middle seat in row 30-something over the Atlantic didn’t promise the much-needed rest even the following night. I would be a jet-lagged “basket case” when arriving the next day. But then I started to object to that scenario. After all the hard work, I deserved better! The problem was I hadn’t thought of it when I bought the tickets. My ticket was the cheapest available apex and I had no money or miles for a last minute upgrade. My BA card was a basic blue with no-privileges and no miles on it. But still! My mind started wandering and soon I “saw” myself sitting in the newly upgraded Club World flat-bed seat, sipping a glass of bubbly. That was the way to start my vacation and I deserved it! I could feel the soft seat leaning back and the fruity taste of my champagne. I would be able to relax after  dinner and get some sleep! That felt extremely good…and I finally slept.

I forgot all about this until I arrived at the airport late afternoon the next day. At check-in, I got my boarding pass – seat 30-something E. That’s when I remembered my “positive thinking” from the night before. Strange enough, holding the document with my middle seat in the back of the plane,  I still felt I’d be sitting in Business. This feeling didn’t leave me until I was lining up for boarding with all my fellow economy passengers. Oh well, the line moved swiftly and I was only three people away from the gate agent when I suddenly heard my name being called. Was it my name? The pronunciation was a bit off (difficult name, was used to it), but since no one else moved it had to be my name. I left the line and went to the podium as requested. The agent asked for my boarding pass, her hand already reaching for it when I came upfront. I handed it to her, she looked at something in her terminal and then handed it back, no explanation. Walking back to the line, I took a better look at the boarding pass. It was for an aisle seat in Club World, row 10 – a flat-bed seat! Needless to say I was amazed, but gratefully adjusted to the comfort of my new seat. You can’t top this, I thought. But I was wrong. The same thing repeated on the way back home. Not only was my apex ticket upgraded again, but also my then teen-age son’s who was traveling with me. No explanation – two happy passengers.

I still don’t know how this all happened. In any case, this experience gave me some additional food for thought on positive thinking. To me it’s no longer the same as wishful thinking, there is something more to it. Whatever it is, stay positive.

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