It was soon after I returned from my truly epic expedition to Australia last Spring that I found myself having lunch with two friends at a local Mexican restaurant. As we munched on our tacos and caught up with what had been going on in each other’s lives over the past couple months, the subject of my recent trip came up.
“It’s a pretty long flight, isn’t it?” asked one friend.
Me: “Oh, yes. Really long. It was pretty tough to get through 15 hours stuck in economy class, but it was worth it.”
That’s when friend number two chimed in with, “why didn’t you just fly first class?” as though it were the most natural thing in the world and it was utterly ridiculous that I hadn’t considered such a thing.
I should mention that, living in Southern California, some of my friends are absurdly wealthy. I, on the other hand, am not. Generally they are nice people and we get along just fine despite the differences in our bank accounts, but every now and then I am reminded of just how out of touch with the “common man” (or woman, in my case) they can sometimes be.
I surprised even myself with how angry this innocuous statement made me. Why didn’t I just fly first class?!? Are you kidding me? Why didn’t I have $15,000 MORE to spend on this trip? Why didn’t I spend more on the flight than the rest of the trip combined had cost? It took me two years of meticulous saving and foregoing luxuries to pay for that trip. I had worked hard for the opportunity to go to Australia, and I didn’t appreciate my hard earned accomplishments being cut down by a flippant remark from an out of touch friend who would never know what it is to worry about finances or to meticulously save for goals.
Was I being overly sensitive? Perhaps. But it was the result not only of that one comment, but from a continual frustration in dealing with this attitude. When your friends are always deciding on a whim that it might be fun if they all flew up to Seattle for the weekend and you couldn’t go because such escapades require pre-planning and skipping meals at restaurants for a month or two in order to save enough, it can get a little frustrating.
It’s not that these people have more money than I do that’s the problem, but instead the attitude they have about it and the utter lack of understanding for the fact that not everybody has the luxury to just spend money like crazy whenever they feel like it. From time to time, I find myself roped into a situation where I end up spending way more money than anticipated because my friends all think it would be a good idea to go somewhere absurdly expensive. Usually I politely decline such occasions, but it does catch me by surprise from time to time. Once, for a friend’s birthday, we were invited to go see a Los Angeles Kings hockey game in a fancy club-level box. At first it sounded exciting. I had never been to the club level before and thought it would be a good time. However, when I discovered that it was $25 for a glass of the crappiest wine imaginable, my tune changed. I was starving but all the food available was priced way beyond what I considered reasonable, so I grudgingly ordered the cheapest thing on the menu (which was still $30) and ate it with a scowl on my face. The moment that made me the angriest, however, was when one person in our group brought out a tray full of shots that nobody wanted and egged us on until we took one. Then, when the bill came, he had mysteriously disappeared and hadn’t paid for the shots, expecting us all to “split the cost”. That tray of shots made up $250 of the bill and I seethed with anger. One of our other friends offered to pay for them because he had more money than some of the rest of us, but he wasn’t happy about it either. How could that guy have thought it was OK to do that? I haven’t hung out with him since that day.
The point is, not everybody can afford everything. Luxuries are something that some people can easily afford, others have to budget and save for, and some people can’t afford at all. Not only that, but what some might consider everyday mundane things might be considered luxuries to others. We’re all in different boats and it’s important to recognize and sympathize when a friend may not be able to afford all the same things you’re able to. Perhaps instead of talking down to them because they didn’t fly first class on their recent trip, or because they can’t drop everything they are doing to fly to Seattle this weekend, consider that they would most likely love to be able to do those things but that doing so would be a considerable hardship for them. Perhaps next time you want to hang out with them, suggest something a little less expensive. A day at the beach or an afternoon on a local hiking trail can be just as fun. If you would like to travel with them, give them proper time to plan ahead and save for the trip.
Not everybody can “just fly first class”.