‘First class service. With a really big smile’
Like most couples in these pandemic times, The Dude and I are spending a lot of time together. Way more time than we used to. Mostly, this is pretty swell.
But (not much, but some) friction arises when we get to talking. I make my living (or used to) with words. So I know a thing or two about their use. Dude Man, while extremely well-educated, has a propensity for the odd word misuse. He’ll use “faux pas,” say, in a sentence like, “I made a real faux pas in my backgammon match.” And then I can’t help myself. I’ll say, “What did you do, burp really loud?”
Then I have to explain that “faux pas” means a social mistake, not a mistake mistake. And he gets all indignant. “That’s the way I’ve always used it!”
The other day he used “euphemism” wrong. I can’t remember his exact mangled phrase, but our subsequent lively discussion required me to resort to Wikipedia for backup. If you have the time, it’s worth a click to see all the different kinds of “innocuous words or expressions used in place of those that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant” there are.
Some of the Wiki examples — “feminine protection,” “feminine hygiene,” and “sanitary protection” sent me whirling down memory lane. See, back in the day at Ogilvy I not only worked on accounts like American Express (See “Karl Malden’s Nose”) and Hershey and General Foods (See “General Foods, We Salute You” and others in the Ad World tab) but I also helped create ad campaigns for what we euphemistically called “fem care” — brands, particularly Kotex, under the Kimberly-Clark corporate umbrella.
Now, my adventures working on the Kotex brand could fill many a post. (There already is one called “Hoohah Time Is Story Time.”) But my story today is about a friend of mine who prevented first class fem care embarrassment in a first class way.
We met this friend, Pauline, and her BF George on a windsurfing trip to Aruba. They were an “older” couple — she was 45 and he was 50 — both gasp-worthy ages to his Dudeness and I at the time, which was (and now I really am gasping) more than 30 years ago. Though elderly, P and G were lots of fun and we bonded so well that we went on more windsurfing trips together.
Pauline, who was very beautiful (and still is, no doubt), had been a flight attendant before she met George — who ran a family business and was well off enough to own homes in Washington, D.C., Alta, Utah, and Maui.
But even better than being gorgeous, Pauline was funny. She told us a great story about one time when she was working the first class cabin. This was back in the days when not only did people fly — remember flying? — but when they dressed up to do so. (Note: the photo at the top of this story is from the last almost-empty flight I took back in March.)
Anyway, Pauline was busy serving champagne and such to the lucky first-classers when she noticed a nattily-dressed distinguished older Japanese gentleman fast asleep — with a maxipad covering his eyes.
The gentleman had obviously seen the maxipad in the first-class lavatory and assumed it was a mask. (These were also the days when the only masks worn on planes were sleep masks.) He’d stripped off the tape on the back and used the adhesive strip to adhere that pad firmly to his eyebrows.
Well. People were starting to titter. But Pauline didn’t skip a beat. She handed the man an actual sleep mask, and, referring to the offending pad, said, “Sir. You don’t want to use that. That is for coach.”
Amagansett, New York. February 2021