On the Road

At about 5:30 AM I rolled my large, green suit­case from 6th Avenue and Granville to the top of the hill, at Broad­way. I huffed and puffed a lit­tle, but it was­n’t too bad. The ‘Quick­Shut­tle’ from Van­cou­ver to Seat­tle Air­port arrived a few min­utes late at 6:10, but the small group of us (most­ly stu­dents and a few tourists) got on quick­ly. After stops at 41st Street, YVR, and a Con­ve­nience Store and Gift Shop near the bor­der, we arrived at the Canadian/US bor­der at around 7:45. It took us about 45 min­utes to get processed, our bags X‑rayed and the usu­al ques­tions and cus­toms forms. We made it down to Seat­tle (down­town first near the Space Nee­dle, air­port sec­ond) in plen­ty of time for me to check my lug­gage, get on the snaking secu­ri­ty line, and grab a bite of lunch.

The first cul­tur­al shocks came: That hor­ri­ble wom­an’s voice on the pub­lic address sys­tem that’s now appar­ent­ly in air­ports coast to coast: Thenk you for mak­ing shore yore beg­gidge is not left unat­tind­ed. Unat­tind­ed beg­gidge will be removed by air­port stayaff. Then, I start­ed notic­ing all of the fat peo­ple. A large group wait­ing for the plane pulling in before mine were a great deal of over­weight folks bound for Hat­ties­burg, Mis­sis­sip­pi, all with iden­ti­cal brown T‑shirts that read ‘Builders for Christ’ (I found out lat­er that these were masons, elec­tri­cians, plumbers, etc. who build church­es and oth­er reli­gious build­ings for free).

After we board­ed, I learned that I had the seats right by the front entrance. This is a bless­ing and a curse. The bless­ing is that it’s the first seat on (for gen­er­al board­ing, not First Class, of course) and one of the first off. The curse is that every per­son com­ing in the plane goes by it, so for­get about sit­ting in it dur­ing the board­ing of the plane. I stood with the flight atten­dants as they said hel­lo to the pas­sen­gers. That front row was also where sev­er­al sol­diers (Marines and Navy, to be pre­cise) sat as they were head­ing home from being sta­tioned in Japan (after a tour or two of Iraq).

The flight got into Saint Louis, my con­nec­tion, a lit­tle late. For­tu­nate­ly, my con­nect­ing flight was in the next gate. I walked off the plane, and lit­er­al­ly walked over 20 feet to the gate of the oth­er flight as that was the moment they called for board­ing of all seats. Just before I walked out onto the tar­mac (it was a small plane), I said to the the woman at the gate: “I’m a lit­tle con­cerned, since my con­nect­ing flight is so late that my bag won’t make it”. “Your bag will make it”, she said con­fi­dent­ly.

The flight to Bal­ti­more from Saint Louis was short, which was for­tu­nate, because it was in a very small jet, with a ceil­ing so low that I could­n’t ful­ly stand up. When I arrived in Bal­ti­more, my par­ents were there wait­ing for me. After we went to bag­gage claim, we soon learned that what I had feared was true. My bag had indeed missed the con­nec­tion. The woman in Saint Louis had looked me in the face and lied (or just said some­thing that was ridicu­lous to patron­ize a pas­sen­ger). I real­ly would have appre­ci­at­ed some can­dor, but that’s not the way they do busi­ness at Amer­i­can Air­lines.

The bag just arrived. 12:24 AM, tech­ni­cal­ly, 2 days lat­er.

I don’t want to be a wor­ry-wart, but what real­ly con­cerns me now is that my con­nec­tion back to Seat­tle is even tighter, and if my bag does­n’t make it there, I would have to take the bus back to Van­cou­ver with­out it. Or per­haps, stay with my broth­er in Belle­vue and resched­ule the trip back until I can get the bag. Such is air trav­el in the good old US of A.

3 Replies to “On the Road”

  1. Ya got­ta love the assur­ance you were giv­en, re: your bag mak­ing it. Many times even with a “nor­mal” con­nec­tion time bags don’t make it these days. What were the chances of a close con­nec­tion work­ing out?

  2. Hi Bob — I was think­ing about the whole ‘can­dor’ ver­sus ‘say any­thing to keep them hap­py’ approach to cus­tomer rep/customer inter­ac­tions and I’ve come to the con­clu­sion that being hon­est with the cus­tomer depends on the cus­tomer rep believ­ing (or not) that the cus­tomer is mature enough to ‘han­dle the truth’.

    There are so many infan­tile Amer­i­can trav­el­ers who would wail and pre­vent the plane from tak­ing off (incon­ve­nienc­ing all of the oth­er pas­sen­gers), that any­thing apart from sooth­ing them is not allowed. It’s a two-way street. If cus­tomers are will­ing to for­give the occa­sion­al ser­vice glitch, then cus­tomer reps will be able to be hon­est with them. As long as Amer­i­cans are kept in their infan­tile, une­d­u­cat­ed and emo­tion­al­ly-dri­ven mode of going about their lives (and trav­el), the men and women at the gates to planes will say any­thing to keep these arro­gant babies from going into hys­ter­ics.

    Mak­taaq, I’ll be head­ing back on Wednes­day. Maybe. I’ve made plans to stay with my broth­er when/if said lug­gage does­n’t arrive.

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