Priority Access

Last New Year’s Eve Day I flew from Dallas to Houston and back again in one day so I could get gold status with American Airlines. Priority Access. Doesn’t that have a nice ring? It was odd making a trip that had no other purpose than to rack up points. It gives a whole new meaning to the American Airlines motto “We Know Why You Fly.” Now when I fly for a legitimate purpose, like flying from Dallas to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to see my mother, or flying from Dallas to Kansas City to lead a preachers’ seminar in Topeka, I look at other passengers and wonder- are you flying for a noble purpose like I am, or just to rack up points? I find these thoughts help pass the time – traveling can be so tedious.

I like having priority access. I like being able to get on the plane ahead of other people and have that extra five minutes to muscle my overstuffed rollerboard into the overhead bin. I like sitting in the exit row. But I didn’t realize how much I would appreciate having priority access until last night when I stood In line at the American ticket counter at Kansas City International Airport trying to get back to Dallas ahead of the blizzard that hit early this morning. I had a ticket on the 7:19 pm flight, but was trying to fly standby on the 5:10 flight. At check in, the clerk noted my gold status and told me my chances were “pretty good,” despite the fact that a number of passengers coming from Chicago would be trying to get on the 5:10 flight. I went through security, headed toward gate 77 and hovered near the counter like a sick person waiting at the pharmacy for a crucial prescription, or a moth at a flame, whichever metaphor you prefer. I tried, with dubious success, to do that thing pastoral counseling professionals tell clergy to do- be a “nonanxious presence.” During that time I exercised great self control and only made one inquiry about my chances of getting on the flight with the patient airline employee. Ten minutes before boarding, the good news came up on the screen. Under “Confirmed” passengers MCK/A appeared.

Only when we were all sitting on the runway waiting for the plane to be de-iced did we hear that the
7:19 flight had been cancelled. If I had known that, I would have been a much more anxious presence waiting at the counter for the 5:10 flight. If I hadn’t gotten on it, I’d still be in Kansas City. This is nothing against Kansas City. I just have a lot to do back home in Dallas.

Priority access gets you greater convenience on the journey and it sometimes gets you home earlier. If Jesus were still alive today, preaching and teaching in parables, I think he’d have one about passengers waiting in line at an airline counter. If Paul were still alive today, interpreting Jesus’ teachings for the world, he might point out the difference between priority access and “access to this grace in which we stand” (Romans 5:2). Priority access Is based on the premise that some people have it, because they’ve earned it, and other people don’t. There is really nothing I can think of about priority access that is like Grace. But that doesn’t stop me from being glad I’m not snowed in in Kansas City.

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