If you are familiar with the Internet, and the very fact that you are reading this means you have at least a passing knowledge, then it’s likely you have come across First World Problems a.k.a. White Whines. These ‘memes’ are still-images of distraught people whose emotions seem entirely out of proportion with the problem expressed in the accompanying caption. Please find an example I have constructed below.
I use this particular example because that’s exactly what has just happened to me; in two short years I’ve been downgraded from Elite Gold to Elite Silver to Bog Standard Bullshit Blue on Star World Alliance’s Kris Flyer scheme. And it hurts.
Cue Dream Sequence
I remember, back in November 2009 I was still giddy about my upgrade from Blue to Elite Silver a year before. I now had priority boarding, an extra 12kg of baggage and, most importantly of all, Elite Silver luggage tags that let everyone know I was a man of the world, an up-and-comer, one of the business elite. Then one glorious morning it landed, with a whoosh and a thud on the mat behind our front door; a black and gold embossed envelope thick with promise and addressed to me. I wondered aloud, in what I believe to be a uniquely British way, “What could it be? I’m not expecting anything…”
I didn’t rip it open; it seemed inappropriate for such a regal looking package, so I used a butter knife in lieu of a letter opener. Inside was another matte black envelope, I extracted it with breathless anticipation and lifted the flap to reveal gold writing. It was a wonderfully heart-felt welcome message from the CEO of Star World Alliance, Jaan Albrecht, who seemed genuinely pleased that I had made it to the ranks of Elite Gold (no doubt we’d be bumping into each other in the lounge soon). To ensure I felt like a valued member of the gang he’d included my brand new Elite Gold card and two, sparkly new Elite Gold luggage tags that I immediately fastened on to my mismatched bags tossing my old Silver ones aside like last year’s iPhone model – I could already feel myself changing.
For a year I enjoyed the high-life; lounge access for me and a friend, free bee hoon, beer and Wi-Fi plus a general sense of superiority over the cattle class plebs who were forced to herd on the terminal concourse until their gate was called. It was wonderful and I should’ve known it was too good to last. That July I handed in my resignation so my boss stopped sending me overseas as much, by October I had started my own company and all-expense-paid sales trips just weren’t an option anymore. I hoped Star World wouldn’t notice, I thought Jaan and I were elite pals but alas no.
The Winter of My Discontent
There is no winter in Singapore but it still felt cold that day last November when I received another letter from Star World Alliance. This time embossed in silver which, let’s be honest, would once have impressed me but not anymore. Enclosed was my ‘new’ card, ha! It didn’t feel new, it felt old, and grey and dull. A friend told me it could still get me into the lounge I just couldn’t bring a guest. I tried on my very next trip and was turned away like an underage kid trying to buy beer wearing his dad’s suit and his mum’s high-heels. It was humiliating.
2011 wasn’t much better, I used what remaining points I had for my honeymoon in January and have had to rely on my new wife’s points since. Honestly, what kind of man has to use his wife’s points to get around?! I can’t even look at my account balance anymore…just as she can barely look at me. I haven’t told her yet, about the arrival of the blue card; that cold, blue card, that worthless emblem of membership to the shuffling and mooing cattle class.
For All The Cows
Sometimes I find myself wandering towards the lounges at Changi Airport then, just before the escalators, I realise and I say to myself, that’s not for you Neal, that’s not your life anymore, then I turn away and allow myself to be herded toward the gate with all the other cows.