First Class


With Gizzy at my feet, I began devouring a plate of fresh fruit, perfectly manicured into small bite size morsels. After washing down the delicious fruit with coffee out of a warm ceramic mug, I slurped up some cool creamy yogurt with just a touch of vanilla. Seeing that I was done, my plates were cleared away by an incredibly friendly and accommodating woman named Christine. She quickly replaced my empty plates with one filled out with an omelet, potatoes, and two flavorful sausage patties. After inhaling this plate, Christine again cleared the tray in front of me, also refreshing my coffee as she offered a hot towel so that I might wash my hands of any unwanted sausage residue. With my belly full, I leaned back and smiled. As I did so, my fingers grazed a small switch on the armrest of my chair. My curiosity getting the best of me, as it tends to do, I began tinkering with the switch. Almost laughing aloud with delight, I discovered that the switch controlled the reclining mechanism of my chair, including an elevated footrest!

This description might seem trivial to you, but I should add that I am currently on a plane! Before today, my mental image of flying includes cramming between two people much larger than me, in the middle of a cabin of equally miserable travelers, surely including two to three babies that will inevitably lose their temper and/or bowels, an eight year old who after having one too many dips from his Fun Dip will thump up and down the aisle noisily only to be interrupted by someone deciding the sandwich they enjoyed in the terminal would fit better in the “Air Sickness” bag conveniently located in the seatback pocket.

Now, my flying experience is one of lavishness. The luxury of a real coffee mug, a cloth napkin, and real silverware. A meal that tastes like it was prepared at a fine restaurant, and yes I can keep the whole bottle of water! No stale peanuts or a shot glass of coke that’s filled to brim with ice… This is the life!

In some ways, I wish I had never sat down in 1A an hour ago. I recognize now, I don’t know if I can ever do coach again! I wish that I didn’t know that people flew this way… How am I ever supposed to enjoy another flight without the luxury of free Wifi, and enough leg room that would satisfy even LeBron James! Speaking of, I wonder if he’s in the seat across from me…

Anyway, all joking aside, I am very excited to be on this flight for a multitude of reasons beyond it’s amenities. First, this is my first flight with my new guide dog Gizzy, and in typical fashion, I didn’t mess around with a quick regional flight, we blew it out with a flight from NYC to LAX. I owe many thanks to ESPN for making this a comfort by upgrading me to first class, amongst all the amenities the most important being plenty of floor space for Gizzy, who is conveniently passed out with her chin resting on my foot. ESPN offered the upgrade as a consolation for my nomination for an ESPY award. The ESPYs are an annual award show honoring top athletic performances annually. After a few hours of relaxing at a hotel this afternoon, I will don my uniform, and head to the show with my lovely girlfriend. With the red clay of City Field still fresh on my shoes, we shall take to the red carpet of the ESPN award show…

As I type all of this out, I am thinking to myself, who the hell am I writing about…? Surely it’s not me! It never ceases to amaze me how life can so quickly vector in different directions. Two years ago, I was hiking all over Afghanistan, looking for Taliban fighters, and their wicked improvised explosive devices. Less than a year later, I was recovering from a life altering injury that left me blind. Another six months later, I was in London competing as a Paralympian with Team USA. Now I’m flying across the country in a first class seat, a new guide dog at my feet, and about to rub elbows with LeBron James (Second LeBron reference…Fist pump!)

I have to smile at how crazy life can be!