JetBlue recently introduced “Family Pools,” in which families can pool their frequent flier miles in the airline’s TrueBlue program. Sounds lovely. But reading between the lines of the Terms & Conditions, I found this horrifying story.
Additional Restrictions Apply
Al stood near the gate at JFK’s Terminal 5, his sweaty hands starting to stick to the magazines he’d started to read since his marriage ended. People, Us Weekly — anything with stories of messy divorces and especially divorces with outrageous infidelity.
There would be plenty to read on that cross-country flight, but Al hadn’t decided if he was going to board the plane at all. He ran hand violently back and forth through his hair, trying to decide what to do.
“Al Baker, please report to gate 17 for immediate departure to San Francisco,” the call came with increasing urgency. In his mind, he saw himself walking to the gate, getting on the plane, and stowing his Travelpro Executive PRO 18 inch roll-aboard, and keeping his appointment with his client the next day. But in reality, his body wasn’t moving. If I get on that plane, he thought, Phyllis will have enough TrueBlue miles for that flight to Bermuda with Lenny. And he really did not want to give that bitch the satisfaction.
This was not at all what he had in mind when he created the Family Pool with Phyllis. They had been sitting on the couch, oh so cozy, when Al got an email from his favorite airline announcing the option to create a family pool. The Bakers had been married for sixteen years and were by anyone’s definition a family — even JetBlue’s which defines a family as 2 adults, age 21 and older. (They also could have up to 5 children, each under the age of 21, in their family pool. But the Bakers had no children.)
“JetBlue wants us to designate a head of household,” Al said, looking up from his laptop
“Seriously? Is this the 1950s? Maybe I should get a pink ruffled apron and put some cornflakes in my meatloaf,” laughed Phyllis.
“As if you’d know what a “cornflake” is,” he said, fondly.
Phyllis laughed at mass-produced foods. She rendered duck fat to fry their hamburgers made with kobe beef which she ground herself, using a meat grinder and a frying pan that she purchased at a certain restaurant supply store. This snobbishness was a strange contradiction in her personality since she also watched rodeo obsessively on television — but this is why she liked to call herself a Renaissance woman. Al thought it was all rather cute and charming. She was kind of like an uppity cat, and he liked cats.
“Well I might as well be the head of household,” said Phyllis, “As I am the one who speaks two languages, even though one of them is an obscure Baltic language.
“Besides, you’re a bit scatterbrained,” she said, ruffling Al’s hair like he was a dog. “And I mostly plan our vacations,” she continued in her most sensible tone.
Al had already started thinking about the report he had to write for his client, so he agreed, and that was how Phyllis became the head of household for the purposes of the JetBlue Family Pool.
But then there was the slow noticing of things going wrong. For example, Phyllis very nicely volunteered to get them both ice cream after dinner a few nights a week. She only had to go just around the corner to the Carvel, which should only take a maximum of fifteen minutes, even allowing a few minutes for the elevator and chatting with the young woman from Africa that worked at the ice cream store and liked to talk about her problems getting a green card. Even though Al was usually busy watching the Knicks game, he started to notice that this errand was taking longer and longer — twenty, thirty minutes. When she was gone for a full 45 minutes, he finally what was taking so long.
“I’ve been talking to Lenny on the phone,” she said. Al had met Lenny. He had a reddish face and thinning hair and was known to be a lech. Phyllis liked Lenny for some reason, but she giggled when Al called him “Lenny the Liver” — because he drank so much that his liver stretched from his nose to his knees. It was universally agreed that Al was the wit in the family, whereas when Phyllis told a story it meandered on and on without any clear point.
“He’s upset because he thinks he’s going to get fired, I’m just talking him through that. It’s strictly business” she said, innocently, scooping the ice cream into bowls. Phyllis always thinks the best of people, Al thought. She’s so naïve.
Al put his arms around her, gently. “Honey, I think you have a problem with Lenny. No man is going to call you like this, knowing that you’re a married woman, if his interests in you were only professional.”
When Al would remember this moment later, he’d have to give Phyllis credit. She didn’t stiffen or flinch. She just said, “Oh Sweetie, believe me. He doesn’t want anything but my advice.”
A few weeks later, after Phyllis had fallen asleep, Al checked his email one last time before turning in. There he discovered a message from Phyllis, which said :”I also believe in the importance of marriage. What a fucking contradiction.”
This made no sense, until he saw the message from Lenny beneath it, an exchange that had been going on all night. They were discussing the conditions under which Phyllis would leave him. She had, somehow, by accident-on purpose, sent Al email she’d meant to send to her lover.
He woke her up, and kept his voice low. “What the hell is this email to Lenny, Phyllis?” She sat straight up in bed, her eyes fixed straight ahead. “Let me think,” she said.
You Must Contribute at Least 10% of the TrueBlue Points that You Earn to the Family Pooling Account…YOU CAN ONLY CHANGE YOUR CONTRIBUTION PERCENTAGE 1 TIME PER YEAR.
In couples’ counseling, Phyllis said that Al never too responsiblity for anything, was not invested enough which was why Lenny had become so alluring to her, even though Lenny was very clearly not one of life’s great winners.
“I’ll tell you what,” said Al. “I’ll donate a greater percentage of my TrueBlue miles to the Family Pool, so we can go away together and do something you really like. Like maybe go see a rodeo.”
“But how much Al? How much?” Phyllis demanded. “Remember that the therapist said it was helpful to be specific.”
“I’ll increase to 80 percent, no 90 percent, no 100 percent,” said Al, wildly. Phyllis looked satisfied.
Al made the change and felt like he’d made a good faith effort to show exactly how committed he was to saving this marriage. And since it was his busy time as an innovation consultant — which meant he’d be traveling a lot — those TrueBlue miles were really going to accumulate. Every time Phyllis would complain about his travel schedule — more of a high pitched whine — he would remind her of how he was working for both of them, and so they could go see as many rodeos as she wanted.
THE HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD CONTROLS THE ACCOUNT AND CAN REDEEM TRUEBLUE POINTS FROM THE FAMILY POOLING ACCOUNT WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF FAMILY MEMBERS.
A few months later — and only after Al had endured an endless rodeo in Canada — Phyllis came home from work and announced that she wanted a divorce.
Al said: “You realize you are leaving with me without any frequent flier miles.”
Later he would realize how ridiculous that was to say, but you don’t know what you’re saying in that kind of a moment. He also, for instance, pointed out that they had just the weekend before bought a hibachi for the balcony, and that no one does that when they are planning to leave their husband. But Phyllis really didn’t worry about logic, reason, cause and effect. She only thought about herself.
THE HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD CAN REMOVE ANY PERSON FROM THE FAMILY POOLING ACCOUNT AT ANY TIME, AND ALL TRUEBLUE POINTS WILL REMAIN IN THE FAMILY POOLING ACCOUNT. IF YOU LEAVE A FAMILY POOLING ACCOUNT OR THE HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD REMOVES YOU FROM THE ACCOUNT, YOUR TRUEBLUE POINTS WILL REMAIN IN THE FAMILY POOLING ACCOUNT.
“What will you do with all the TrueBlue points miles, he said, during one of their last meetings in Washington Square Park.
“I’m using them to fly to Bermuda with Lenny,” she said. “Right after your next trip to San Francisco because that’s when there will be enough miles for both of us. I should benefit from the end of this marriage in some way,” she said.
Al thought about punching her in the teeth, but kept his fist in his lap.
Phyllis was filled with self-righteous indignation, because she thought all of their mutual friends would be on her side, but no one was. The word “slut” came up a lot. Also the word “loser” as applied to Lenny. No one they knew could understand why Phyllis would prefer such a crude man, who would chew gum loudly, was wont to discuss pussy farts, and had a habit of singing along to Bon Jovi.
Especially no one could really believe that Phyllis, she of the duck-fat fried kobe beef burgers, would want to live with Lenny in his vinyl sided ranch house in the Jersey suburbs — even though now she swore that was all she ever wanted. She averred that a good night out for her had always involved the never-ending bread sticks at Olive Garden.
“But that’s our family pool,” Al said. “I can’t change the amount of miles I give to the account for one (1) full calendar year. I also can’t join another family pool for a year. So you’re keeping me from accumulating my own TrueBlue points for twelve (12) months.”
Phyllis regarded him coldly.
“Well then I hope you’re ready to go without those blue chips you like so much on JetBlue, because that’s just too fucking bad.”
Alison J. Stein
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