I’m torn. I’m not a big fan of nepotism, known in Israel as protectzia. I think that people should be treated fairly and given the same opportunities. However, I would be dishonest if I said that I don’t enjoy the perks of protektzia when they come my way. So, as always, I’ll be honest with you and say that I enjoy reaping the benefits of protectzia even though I’m against it on an ideological level. This inner conflict comes to the fore whenever I travel.
My husband has platinum status and receives Sky Priority airport services, which allow its members to have a more pleasant travel experience. Members of this elitist club get to skip the long lines and take advantage of priority check-in, priority security, priority baggage, priority transfers, and a priority lounge where they eat priority food, drink priority drinks, read priority newspapers, and relax while other passengers wait in long lines. With priority boarding, members can board the plane whenever they’d like and are often upgraded to more comfortable seats. The Sky Priority team pampers its members and does its utmost to make them feel that they are truly G-d’s gift to the universe, well-deserving of all this coddling. Members of this club are permitted to bring one guest they’d like to indulge, and my husband is almost always kind enough to pick me. How lucky I am. I am his priority.
My husband and I just traveled to New York to celebrate our son’s engagement. Several hours before we were scheduled to leave home, we received a message stating that our flight was canceled due to poor weather on the east coast. Bad. The flight they were trying to get us onto would likely have caused us to miss our connecting flight which would in turn have caused us to be penalized by our car rental company for late pickup. Bad. Used to the uncomfortable, yet sometimes necessary royal treatment we’ve received in the past, we called the airline’s customer service number for Sky Priority members to discuss other options. Mention of our platinum status and Sky Priority membership number magically got us rerouted through Paris. We would arrive in New York in time to pick up our car with no penalty. Good. The only downside was that we had to leave earlier than originally planned, so we scrambled to finish our last-minute packing and were on the way to the airport at 4 a.m. having not slept at all. (Well, my husband did manage to lie down for a few minutes but I was running on empty.)
When we got to New York, we were told that one of our suitcases didn’t make it onto the plane. It would arrive on the next flight. But we are Sky Priority passengers who benefit from priority baggage! How could this possibly have happened? We were given a choice of waiting for the suitcase, coming back to get it, and or having it delivered it sometime over the next few days. As we were not staying far from the airport, we chose to come back.
We received a message that the suitcase had arrived at JFK and headed back to the airport. When we got there, we were told that our suitcase did arrive but it could take a few hours until it was released. We once again played our Sky Priority card but got nowhere. So, we had to wait in the airport for two hours in an area that had no place to sit until they finally rolled out our suitcase at 11:30 p.m.
My daughter flew out to join us two days later. Unfortunately, she was unaware of the prohibition of bringing fruit from abroad into the United States. When she casually mentioned that she had an apple in her possession, she got into big trouble. She immediately offered to forego the apple, but she had already committed the terrible crime. She was taken off the line and had to wait to be questioned. She called me to tell me what happened but she was told to hang up immediately. Passengers who bring fruit into the US are not permitted to talk on the phone. I was very worried about my daughter who was not used to being treated like a criminal and also had a flight to catch. The clerks kept telling her she would probably miss her connecting flight. Bad. And it was erev Shabbos. Worse.
I was tempted to call my friends at Sky Priority and ask them to intervene. I wanted them to give my daughter priority legal defense but I was already aware that there are problems that even they can’t solve. All I could do at that point was daven.
Even though the worker told my daughter that she would probably miss her flight, she eventually let her go and my daughter ran as fast as she could to her gate, obviously the last one in the airport. A passing golf cart driver saw her distress, invited her into his cart, and zoomed her right up to her gate in the nick of time.
While protectzia may feel good at times, we cannot depend on others to always help us. The only One we can rely on is Hashem. Hashem will always get us to where we need to go. Keeping that idea in mind should be our priority.