Once upon a time I held frequent flyer status on several airlines. My job seemed to keep me in the air more often than I was on the ground. I enjoyed flying, and good memories still outweigh the bad ones.
My mantra when traveling by air was, “Patience, little jackass,” and I’d whisper it to myself over and over when luggage was lost or flights were delayed or I found myself in the middle seat between Dumb and Dumber. “Patience, little jackass,” is the punchline for a joke I can never remember, and it served me well. Most of the time.
After one particularly trying week, I was stuck in Chicago’s O’Hare airport awaiting my flight home to Studly Doright in Florida when the gate attendant for Northwest airlines announced the 5:15 flight was overbooked and they needed ten passengers to voluntarily give up their seats in return for travel vouchers and a seat on the first flight to Orlando the next day. No one volunteered.
Every five minutes the gate attendant would repeat the request. Finally she sweetened the pot with an increase in the amount of the voucher, lodging, and shuttle service to and from a nearby hotel. I looked around, dialed Studly, and asked if a delay in my arrival would cause any great distress in his plans. He assured me he’d be ok, so I took the deal.
Nothing about the deal went well. There were no hotels with vacancies anywhere near the airport, so it was 9 p.m. before the plucky band of ten volunteers made it to the reception desk of a hotel thirty minutes away from O’Hare. My mantra was still serving me well, “patience, little jackass,” swirled around in my brain through the checking-in process. I politely bided my time behind the family of five and an elderly couple from my flght.
When my turn came I graciously asked about our promised shuttle back to the airport in the morning. For our 6:15 flight, we’d need to depart the hotel at 4:30 a.m.
“Our shuttles don’t begin until 6 a.m,” came the response.
“The airline assured us we’d have shuttle service back to O’Hare,” I replied.
“The airline had no right to say that,” came the tight answer.
By now all the volunteer passengers had gathered behind me, adding their voices to mine.
“You need to contact your manager immediately,” I countered, “We will have a shuttle in the morning at 4:30.”
This continued for a few heated moments before the receptionist contacted her manager. I didn’t give an inch. Bottom line, we got our 4:30 a.m. shuttle.
On our way to our respective rooms one man, a New Yorker from his accent, stopped me and shook my hand.
“You went from sweet little Southern Belle to calculating bitch in the blink of an eye, without ever raising your voice. Well done.”
But I didn’t sleep even a wink that night. I had no nightclothes or clean underwear, and only the hotel room toiletries were at my disposal. Worst of all I’d let my patience slip. Argh!
And, to add insult to injury I never got to use that voucher, so narrow were the restrictions attached to it by Northwest. I refuse to fly with them ever again. It’s a personal boycott, and I hope they feel the pinch.
I found this meme on Facebook one morning this week, and it prompted this post. I think it says it all:
Peace, ironically, people.