My ride is running late.
I normally would’ve waited before the last minute to text her and make sure she’s on her way, but after a stressful few days preparing for the trip, I wasn’t too worried about it. I’ve got plenty of time and this is a vacation.
This isn’t just any vacation, though. This is the spiritual culmination of my interesting summer of self-discovery, which is my fancy way of saying jobless for the first time since I was 14. I finally found a great place to work with people I like. This trip has kind of become an exclamation point on reclaiming a status quo. As much as the freedom of contract work was nice, I really like the consistency of adulting (and benefits) and was longing to reintroduce it. As much I felt guilty for leaving work for a week after only being there for three, it felt celebratory.
We get to the airport at about 4:45am. The last three times I’ve had to catch a flight this early, two things have happened:
- I wasn’t able to check in online for some reason.
- There are a million people in line to check in and four airline employees helping all of them
I’m very familiar and comfortable with air travel, and gotten pretty damn good at it over the last few years. I know how to be efficient, cut corners, and make everyone else’s job easy simply by being prepared. Sure, I have to wait in this line due to some sort of glitch in my check in, but I’ve got more than enough time, so it’s OK.
Twenty-five minutes pass and I finally reach the counter. I give my ID, information, and let Shane know the flight I’m on. He can’t find me in the system. Ok, no need to panic. I pull up the reservation and my rewards number on my phone to show him (I already had it pulled up on my phone just in case - see, efficient).
“Yes, I see that’s the reservation, but whomever you booked this reservation with did not actually issue the ticket or apply your mileage,” he informs me brusquely as he dials a phone and places it to his ear. He engages the agent next to him more than me, so most of the information I’m getting about my dilemma is scrapped together from a different conversation. They are intricately discussing the issues with my ticket, loudly, but nowhere in my direction. Its more than rude, it’s dismissive and makes me feel like a little kid. I pipe in with sincerity instead of the easier to access anger that is rising.
“Was it something I did?” I ask with as much honey as my voice can manage at this time in the morning. I expect a customer service-y response somewhere in the tone of reassurance, with a touch of we’re-working-on-it-for-you.
“I’m trying to figure that out,” he replies, shutting me down. This man has had a long morning just like me, HOWEVER, I’m not in a position to make people’s days worse - You are, dude. I don’t expect you to rotate the earth for me, just don’t condescend me. With my largest pet peeve of being talked down to checked off, I’m surprisingly still able to subdue my anger and just ask if I can go to the restroom. I had no idea if I had to stay there and stare at him on the phone.
I come back and he’s still on hold but now his back is to the counter. He’s probably tired of not knowing what to say to me, so is facing away. For the record, I have yet to be rude to this guy (full disclose - I'm at this time fashioning expletive-fueled texts to family and friends, directing my rage towards people who aren’t responsible for my travel).
He's unable to just book me another ticket because the initial ticket was booked using rewards mileage. He needed the rewards people in the sky to release the reservation so he can apply the points to another ticket. It’s convoluted, but makes a kind of sense. The wait time is so long because of a hurricane in Dallas ruining everyone’s morning. The more and more clear this is becoming, the less angry I’m getting and just starting to get sad. Frustratingly sad. Anger is proactive and/or reactive and has a purpose. When you become powerless in the situation, at that point it’s just about hoping for the least shitty end scenario.
Nearly 45 minutes since making it to the front counter, he finally gets someone on the phone. Because of my previous adventures with airline mishaps, I’m intimately aware of the fact that you have to check in 30 minutes before take off and arrive at the gate with 15 to spare. If i was going to make this flight, he’s got 10 minutes to check me in and I’ve got 10 minutes after that to get through security.
“I probably shouldn’t be doing this,” he says while taking my checked back and handwriting a tag for it’s final destination. After the instilled hope of the people on the other end of the phone answering, Shane has switched his mood to from borderline douchey and defensive to kind of hopeful and helpful. It was a shift with which I went.
All the information is entered, but he’s just not fast enough to get it checked in on time…enter Mary, the Pro. She pushes him out of the way of the keyboard and laser focuses in on it. Her fingers fly furiously and her eyes jet left to right. It’s pretty impressive to watch and adds to the tension. You’d think she was hacking a foreign government with the precision and authority that she was attacking my booking.
“Done!” she proclaims with a clap of her hands. Shane jumps into action, prints out my boarding passes, and hops over the counter.
“I’m going to try to walk you through security if the line isn’t too long,” he says in a heretofore unheard heroic tone. It's as if the annoyances of the day would be washed away if he could just nail this one customer interaction. I’ve worked intense customer service and can relate; sometimes you just need ONE win. I’ll gladly be that for him (because that means I’ll get on my flight).
I follow him across the check in area and towards security upstairs. He avoids the escalator and begins to hurdle the steps, two at a time. I hike up my messenger bag and follow suit; I gotta keep up with his admirable spirit. As soon as we get to the top of the stairs, all of that hope is gone. Just gone.
The security line is three rows deep and runs in a serpentine pattern through the entry way. Shane has his hands over his mouth. You can almost see the gears spinning in his head about what to do next. A few long seconds later, his shoulders shrug down and he allows defeat in. “We’re not going to make it,” he admits more to himself than to me.
He instructs me to go through security, go to the gate, and let them know what’s transpired. He was going to go back downstairs and find me the earliest direct flght he can and book it. It should be in the system by the time I get to the gate and they will then tell me where to go and when. He apologizes to me about the long wait and the uncertainty about everything. Despite hating this man an hour and a half ago, I thanked him. He was going above and beyond…and despite both of us losing, the effort was not lost on me.
I got through security a little quicker than usual and realized that I have a little under 10 minutes before take off. Maybe I can make it… I clear security and put everything back on and in my pockets in record time. I take a split second to assess where the gate is and just start running. Of course it has to be the furthest one.
I'm not just running - I'm sprinting. The kind you can’t just stop once you start. Tickets in teeth and bag in hand, I'm bobbing and weaving around people and pick up the pace when I see my gate in the distance. There is a man there talking with the airline employees behind the counter. That gives me hope that they haven’t shut it completely down. Maybe I’ll make this!
I get to the counter and I’m so winded that I can’t speak yet. I just stand there and wait my turn. My brain registers that the man I saw at the gate is actually yelling at the ladies behind the desk. He had a first class seat, but was late to the gate, so they filled the seat. They secured him another to compensate (which isn’t required since he was the one that was tardy, but whatever) but it isn’t first class, so he’s offended. He is livid and asking for them to write their names on the back of his boarding pass so he can take this dispute higher. He leaves in a tizzy and they attempt to brush him off, but you can tell that they are bothered by the interaction.
Still catching my breath, I give them my boarding passes and get out, “rebooked, flight maybe time.” Made little sense, but they seemed to get the idea. She speaks to the plane to see if I can get in, but no such luck. Even though my heart is still racing from the unplanned, pre-dawn cardio, I am finally able to string together a sentence and I can’t think of anything else to say other than, “I’ve had a hell of a morning, but there’s no excuse for that prick’s behavior. What an asshole.”
I don’t think they were expecting that, so it was difficult to hide the smirks in front of other customers. That entitled bastard put it into perspective little bit. Sure, sometimes they deserve your ire, but these poor people who deal with travelers of all shapes and sizes are not out to get you. They have the unfortunate task of getting you from point A to B while navigating countless other variables. As easy as it is to do… and I’ve done it… don’t default to shitbag when things go awry at the airport.
Make sure someone has wronged you before you crucify him or her.
And when you still can’t win… drink before your (re)scheduled flight.