Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sixty percent of the time, it works all the time

Hey. It's me. I'm here. I guess it's kind of funny that when I was half dead in a hospital room I still posted here more often than I do now. But for a while things were so busy at work I barely had time to come up for air. And then there was the aftermath of that where all I wanted to do was lie face down on the living room rug and just be for a little while. And now it's officially summer so after work I grab my paddle board and my book and I head down to the neighborhood beach and why would I want to do anything besides that? Ever. In my life. But now it's raining so here I am so huzzah!

A few weeks ago I flew down to Baltimore for my five-year college reunion. Turns out if you take a bunch of friends in their late twenties, put them all together in the place that brought them together in the first place, add a bunch of cheap champagne and light beer, throw in your old favorite neighborhood establishments, add the alma mater and shake well and you will still behave exactly as you did five plus years before. Which, incidentally, makes you realize why you weighed an extra 10 pounds and slept until 11 a.m. on the regular because HOW DID WE LIVE LIKE THAT? AND SURVIVE? WITH OUR LIVERS, IQs, AND MOST OF OUR REPUTATIONS LARGELY INTACT?

So yeah. It was just about the best weekend ever. But, as I mentioned, it came in the midst of a very busy time for me at work. So when I booked my plane tickets, I made sure that I would be getting home at a reasonable time on Sunday afternoon. Time enough for me to relax, have a good meal, and get to bed at a reasonable hour before plunging in to what promised to be one shit show of a work week. Having learned from my past mistakes of booking planes home before 11 a.m. after weekends with friends, I chose a 1 p.m. flight. Thinking, in my current state of adult-like rationalization, that would give me plenty of time to get up, get myself together, grab some brunch with everyone and then head to the airport.

As I am wont to do when with the VGFs, what instead happened was that we stayed out until 6 a.m.the night before, my alarm shocked me awake five hours later, I ran around like a madwoman throwing all of my belongings into my suitcase, barely managed to say goodbye to whoever else was awake, returned my keys to our college dorm room, and hopped in a cab to the airport.

Me, during every minute between when I woke up and when I got into the cab:

Once I was safely nestled into the cab, I congratulated myself. Here I was: 27 years old and finally getting myself to the airport at a reasonable time after a weekend such as this. Okay, it was a little rushed in the beginning, but I would get there, check in without working myself into a nervous frenzy over missing my flight, grab a bite to eat, and wait patiently and calmly for my flight. I had done it. Sure I ended up missing brunch with all of my friends, but it would be worth it. I was an adult. I was mature and responsible and the universe would reward me for acting as such.

When I checked my luggage and printed my boarding pass, what instead came out was a note in the shape of a ticket telling me to check in to the terminal to pick up my actual boarding pass. Weird, I thought to myself. I guess that's how BWI does it though. So I moseyed through security and scoped out the terminal I would be spending the next hour and a half. Realizing how hungry I was, I decided my first stop would most definitely have to be for food. Because, in all honesty, when is my first stop anywhere for anything not for food?

I bought myself a nice, greasy sandwich, pulled out my book, and nestled in for the wait. About 30 minutes before boarding time, I remembered that I should probably go ask the airline representatives at the terminal desk about my ticket. So I headed over to the tall counter and handed them my slip of paper.

"Hi," I smiled calmly, pleasantly at the woman behind the counter. "I'm not sure what this is, but do I need to get an actual ticket?"

"Oh I'm sorry, honey, but there's no more seats on that flight."

"Wh-what?" No, they must mean for other people. Other people who hadn't bought their tickets yet. I already had a ticket. I bought it months ago.

"You see, we overbooked and since you were the last to get to the airport this afternoon, I'm afraid you got bumped."

Suddenly the room started spinning. I stared at the woman, with her bob haircut and her big toothy smile and shiny lip gloss and her denim-colored collared shirt. Why was she smiling? Did she think this would calm me? And what was it about collared shirts with company logos stitched above the heart that made them look so demeaning? But this woman held my destiny in her hands and she was squashing it. Mashing my dreams of stability and responsibility with her mortar and pestle of overbooking and airline policy. 

"B-b-but I got here early. I've been here for an hour. I had a sandwich. This can't be right. I booked this flight in April."

"I'm afraid it doesn't matter when you planned you're trip, ma'am. You should have come to the desk sooner."

"Well if I had known that this is why my boarding pass didn't print, I would have. No one warned me. I've never seen this before." I thrust my non-boarding pass over the counter.

"I'm very sorry. The airlines always overbook because usually a few passengers don't show up. This time they did. But don't worry, we've got you on the next available flight out of here. And we'll happily compensate you for your trouble."

Compensate. I like that word. I work for a non-profit. I'd walk through Downtown Crossing in my underwear and a clown wig throwing fish at passersby for the right amount of compensation. Besides, this woman works for an airline. She probably has upwards of 50 unreasonable people yelling at her each day. People who are rude and wear sweatpants in public and don't know how to travel well. I'm a seasoned flyer. I can take this. I will smile and try to make her day a little bit easier despite this inconvenience.

"Okay. I understand. That's fine as long as I'm on the next flight. What time does that go out? 2:30?"

"9:50 p.m., ma'am. All the other flights before that are also overbooked."

Suddenly the room started spinning. All at once, I felt very, very hungover. Sweat began to pour down the back of my neck. My hands started shaking.

"NINE FIFTY?! WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO UNTIL 9:50?!" All at once all of my careful, adult-like planning had unraveled. I would not get home to relax, eat a good meal, and get to bed early. If I leave Baltimore at 9:50 I won't even make it back to my house until midnight. Oh gaaaaaaah I was so tired. So very tired. And hungover. And hungry. Tired and hungover and hungry. And sad. Here I was at the airport all by myself while my friends were still all together. Probably eating delicious waffles and laughing about the night before. I bet they had bloody mary's too. Oh, I would kill for a bloody mary right now. I was so very tired and hungover and hungry and sad.

"I don't know what you're supposed to do until them, ma'am. We are very sorry for your trouble."

"Excuse me minute." I backed away from the desk and slunk over to the nearest wall. With my back against the wall and my bags at my feet I called B to tell him what rotten terribleness had just befallen me.

"WHAT? That's outrageous.How can they do that?"

"I know it's outrageous. DON'T YOU THINK I KNOW THAT'S OUTRAGEOUS? What can I do though? Force my way on to the plane. Pretty sure that comes with terrorist charges these days."

"You've got to get back there and fight that."

"I know what I need to do. I don't need you telling me what to do. Don't get snippy with me. I didn't call for you to get snippy with me. I called so you could tell me that you feel bad for me! Just tell me you feel bad for me! And that you want to buy me a present for my emotional distress."

"I feel bad for you."

"Thank you so much, I know it's horrible, isn't it? You're such a good listener."

"Now get back in there and fight it."

My phone binged with a text message. It was my friends. They were sitting on the campus quad eating bagels and laughing over the weekend. They included a photo. Suddenly, the shakes became much worse. I grabbed my bags and stormed back over to the counter.




The representative turned her back to me and picked up the phone behind the counter. "We're going to need Sondra here. Gate D."

She spun back to me, smile as big as ever. "Ma'am as I mentioned, we're very sorry and you will be compensated with a travel voucher the price of your ticket plus enough for another trip."


Another woman walked up to the counter that I had currently draped my noodle arms over, head in hands, butt thrust precariously close to the person in line behind me. "Hello, ma'am, we're terribly sorry for your trouble today." She bore a name tag with the title "Sondra M: Customer Service Manager" emblazoned on a pair of brass wings and a little heart on her chest. Wait a minute, I've seen this television show before. I am in total shock. You can put this on TV. Where they going to escort me into a little room for being a disgruntled passenger? Was I being filmed right now? Is this real life?

"As we mentioned, ma'am, you will be compensated with a travel voucher for four times the amount of your ticket for your troubles today."

Suddenly, my mind began to clear. I was an adult, damn it! I make adult decisions! I speak and act like an adult.

"I'd like a personal check."

"Excuse me, ma'am?"

"I'd like a personal check for five -- not four -- times the amount of my ticket. And I'd like a guarantee that I am on the top of the list for stand-by for every flight to Boston between now and the 9:50 flight." Holy shit did I just say that? Look at you, girl. Empowerment! Give her a sniffle for good measure! You are distressed!

Sondra and I stood, our shoulders squared. She didn't blink. Nor did she break her smile. I could feel the sweat dripping down my back. After what felt like minutes, her face broke out into a large smile as she took out a pen. "That's no problem, ma'am."

I watched in awe as she wrote out a personal check in my name. Holy shit, it worked. I stood there, silenced. She tore the check out of the company check book, handed it over with a smile. "Have a nice day, ma'am. Hopefully this helps."

How I tried to play it as she handed me the check:

What I was actually doing in my head:

"Y-yes. Yes, this helps." I mumbled as I tucked the check into my wallet. "First in line for stand-by, right?"

"That's right, ma'am."

And with my personal check for just the perfect amount to have covered my entire weekend of travel, eating, drinking, and general debauchery safely stored in my wallet, I went straight to the airport store to buy myself one of those fancy neck pillows and a new book to help me pass the time. I've never bought anything more than a pack of gum at an airline convenience store before. But I had money in my pocket and time to kill and wooooey did I feel like airport royalty.

And when I was about half way through my new copy of "50 Shades of Grey" my name was called for stand-by for the 7:10 flight. It certainly wasn't as I planned it, but for a free weekend, hell yeah I'll take it.

So in conclusion: When attempting to act like an adult, sometimes it pays to just throw a temper tantrum. Sixty percent of the time, it works all the time.

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin