If you missed it, Paul’s been experimenting to see how his life will change when he gives it a new scent. It hasn’t had much effect on the ladies, and he’s not exactly head-over-heals for his scent himself.
I was pretty excited about the airport test. I travel a fair bit and am always keen on a new upgrade angle. My plan was to fly one way scented like a walk through the Irish countryside, then fly the return trip scent-free. This is, after all, science. One must control variables!
In my experience, airline miles are the best, most-consistent way to get travel upgrades that I’ve seen. But could cologne do the same job? I couldn’t wait to find out.
Getting an upgrade: Cologne, or wear a nice suit?
Keeping the variable thing in mind, I decided I’d dress basically the same each way as well — I wouldn’t suit-up. While some swear by the dress nice for travel upgrades hypothesis, I’ve never observed any consistency that supports it. Regardless, I didn’t want my outfit to influence anything, so I kept it casual and middle-of-the-road – boat shoes, jeans, pull-over, fleece jacket.
Even though I don’t agree with the dress-nice hypothesis, I do understand where it came from. Business travelers are the most lucrative customers airlines can court. Back in the pre-airline-reward-miles olden days, those travelers stood out thanks to their clothing choices – their custom suits – and you could con your way into the club by dressing the part. Nowadays, every consistent business traveler is a Silver, Gold, Platinum, or Emerald member of some airline reward club. They don’t need to dress well to assert their travel dominance – they have their status printed on their tickets. And that’s something you can’t fake.
Also, I worry that dressing too nice is a bit of a nose-thumb at the travel gods. You’re going to be seated underneath a bouncing cocktail table – in the sky – next to one or two stomachs of dubious steeliness, four hands of unknowns steadiness. If you’re traveling with a suit because of some event (like a wedding or a business meeting) that’s not happening that day, keep your pants out of harm and stain’s way and pack them. Yes, consider wearing the jacket, don’t bust out the track suit, and remember you’ll be taking off your shoes (wear slip-ons), but there’s no reason to risk an in-transit stain if the suit’s meant for another day. On this trip alone, I avoided two nearby coffee spills (two different older women juggling too many things) and a near-disaster with tomato soup while waiting at the gate (my neighbor splattered it on the floor, the spray just missed me). Pack the suit pants.
The Experiment: I wear cologne for my flight.
I arrived at the airport very, very early due to ride-scheduling difficulties. I was early enough to get on an earlier flight, but I planned to just hang tight in the lounge and do some work using the airport’s WiFi. However, that didn’t last long.
After being called to the airline’s customer service desk, I skipped past the velvet ropes, ambergris carrying the scent of Irish dew drops into the nostrils of the woman working the desk. She smiled at me. I smiled and mentally directed some more aroma her way. Lemon verbena: do it.
“Are you booked on the afternoon flight to Philadelphia?” she asked.
I told her I was. Green Irish Tweed began its magic.
“Would you like to get on the earlier flight?” she asked.
“Sure,” I said. If you’ve never been to Philadelphia, the airport’s basically a big mall that planes fly out of. It’s not a bad place to lay-over and the lunch options are a serious improvement over the options in my tiny, local airport.
“Go on through security and I’ll get your paper-work squared away.”
I went through security. No pat-down. No cupping. No arbitrary confiscation of any grooming products. Smooth.
Boarding had already begun. I was the last to board. “I don’t have a ticket yet,” I said to the agent at the gate.
“I see you in the system,” he said and printed my boarding pass. I could see outside that they were having everyone gate-check their larger carry-on bags. I looked down at my duffel – my only bag – and pulled out the gear I’d want on board. The agent handed me my boarding pass.
I walked towards the plane, Creed Green Irish Tweed a-blazing, held my bag out to the grounds-person, and she waved me by.
“There will be plenty of space on board for your bag,” she told me, nostrils flaring. No gate check needed.
I boarded the plane and found my seat. A window seat. A window seat in the exit row … next to an empty seat. Fuck yeah.[Note: The plane was so small there were no first class seating options.]
Then, as if to obliterate the dress-well theory, the flight attendant asked the gentleman in the aisle seat behind my row if he’d like to move up to the other end of MY exit row, the other window seat. He was wearing Teva sandals (sans-socks even though there was snow on the ground), a flannel shirt (unbuttoned), and, I can only assume, Creed Aventus. I tried to sniff him but was unable to confirm this. May have been patchouli.
In Philadelphia, I attempted to push my luck. I hustled to the gate in hopes of getting a second early-flight upgrade. I made it in time, asked for a seat, was told they were available … “but it would be $75 for the upgrade.”
“No hookup?” I asked, dumbfounded. My effort to catch the flight must have been interfering with GIT’s ability to better it.
The woman smiled. I Jedi-mind-tricked some Creed her way. “No hookup,” she said.
Dammit, I thought. I should have re-applied.
I retreated to Vino Volo and tallied up my wins over a glass of wine and a snack: a switch to the earlier first flight ($75 value) + an exit-row upgrade ($25 value) + a get-out-of-gate-check free pass + the option to lunch at Vino Volo in Philadelphia. That made $100, plus significant convenience and deliciousness thanks to my $12 cologne purchase. Not a bad travel day.
On the way home, unscented, I didn’t get a single upgrade and had to gate-check my bag for each flight. Bust. At least the ginger ale was nice.
But this is science – let’s log some repeatability. Who’s traveling in the next couple weeks? We need to repeat this experiment: scent up before heading to the airport and let us all know how it goes in the comments.
- New scents enter the mix … will wifey warm up to them?
- What have my friends said about my new aroma?
- And: has cologne changed my life?
What do you think — is this travel-cologne theory bogus? Has it worked for you? Leave a comment below.