A Challenging Travel Day

A Challenging Travel Day

I had a challenging travel day. I know, that’s a redundant statement. Travel is challenging almost every day. But, I travel a lot, as I shared with you in another chat. I’m an expert at navigating the ins and outs of airports and all the frustrations, lines, waiting and inconveniences. So, there is little that overwhelms me.

But, this particular day was a bear. I was flying to Albany for a Celebrant training. My layover was in Baltimore with only a 30-minute layover. So, I hopped off the plane and “ran” to the next gate. I arrived breathless to find out that the plane was delayed. By 2 hours. That is never good news. And then a huge thunderstorm hit the airport. Again, not good news. So, hope springs eternal, but I was realistic enough to know that things were not going to improve.

We waited at the gate as the time went by. Another hour. Yes, the plane is coming, we promise. Well, maybe not. My father, Doug, calls it “lying to you in 15 minute increments”. Finally, my 3:45 flight was cancelled at 8:00. Hundreds of people standing around trying to figure out what to do next. At least three different flights that were scheduled to go out of these gates were not going to fly.

And, in fairly uncharacteristic fashion for Southwest Airlines, they failed. I usually like to fly this airline because they tend to take care of things with a certain efficiency and no nonsense. No airline is amazing in this area, but I’ve had better luck with Southwest than the others. But, in the midst of this chaos with all flights cancelled, there was only a single gate agent trying to take care of rebooking and rerouting a long line of people who were angry, confused and worried about getting to their destinations.

We all dutifully got in line to wait our turn to figure out how to get to there from here. There is always a sense of comradery among victims. I visited with an elderly couple who obviously were not frequent fliers and were completely lost as to what to do next. A man in front of me had a cat in a carrier and I held his place in line so he could go find a bowl for water for the patient and scared feline. I was actually on the phone to my travel agent and, within ten minutes, she had me rebooked for the next day and made a hotel reservation for the night. But, my agent said I probably needed to stay in line to let them know that I was rebooked and to be sure that my luggage would get transferred. So, even though I didn’t need the assistance of the gate agent (can I tell you how much I love my travel agent? She is always there to take care of me when things get dicey. You don’t get that kind of service from those on-line .com travel sites, I promise.) I stayed. A family in front of me was working on renting a car and just driving the 6 hours to Albany, but they didn’t know if they needed to talk to the agent about their luggage. There was general confusion and misinformation. So, we stood. And stood. And stood. For two and half hours.

I was so disgusted that the airlines did not muster more people to assist all of these customers. Get another agent to walk up and down the line and answer the basic questions about luggage, options, choices. Find out if all the people in line needed to be in line. I grew angrier by the minute because there was an easy way to fix this.

And then, of course, there were people who thought they were more important than anyone else who would just walk up to the desk in front of the line and demand that the agent help them. Or the ones who were not satisfied with the answers they were getting and monopolized the poor agent for 20 minutes trying to find a better solution. Folks, your solution is, get a seat on the first flight out in the morning. No, you are not going to get your luggage back tonight. No, they are not going to pay for a hotel room for you. No, a plane is not going to magically appear just because you need to be in Chicago for your granddaughter’s graduation. Move on!

The rumblings began and people were getting more restless. A man standing next to me said, “Go up there and tell those people to quit cutting in line.” Not sure why he thought I should be the designated spokesperson for the mob, but he was sure that I could handle things. I just carry an aura of don’t mess with me, I guess. I started to go up there to demand that they find a way to help all these people in a more efficient way. I had my best Expert Traveler Attitude on. I’ve got this. I am a Frequent Flier. Stand back. I’m getting ready to let it blow.

But, then, I looked at my shirt. I had worn my new t-shirt that has LOVE in big rainbow colors on the front. I was going to be out of town for the city PRIDE parade, so I just wore my shirt to show support. And I thought, “I can’t go up there with my bitch face on with LOVE blazing across my chest.” If I’m going to wear the word, perhaps I should live up to it.

I waited until another agent wandered by. I walked up to him with my best smile and said “There are a lot of people who just need basic information as to what to do. If they are already rebooked or are going to leave and drive, what should they do?” He gave me specific and helpful information and I thanked him.

I went back to my line friends and told everyone what their options were. They were grateful and each person made the decision that made sense for them. And I thought, “Wow, my actions were controlled and informed by a t-shirt. Isn’t that interesting?”

I left my group of fellow travelers and went to the hotel. It was late, I was tired, I had no luggage, so I did the best I could with what few things I had in my bag.

Now, you must understand that I’m a cold sleeper. I have a fan in our bedroom that runs 365 days a year, no matter the weather. My sweet, patient husband has learned to adapt to living in an igloo. In hotel rooms, I jack the thermostat as low as possible and I travel with a mini-fan to supplement. It’s kind of an obsession.

But this night, I didn’t have my mini-fan—it was in my luggage wandering around the Baltimore airport. The hotel room air conditioning was not working. No matter what I did, it blew warm air and showed a room temp of 78 degrees. It was brutal. I couldn’t sleep so I tried watching TV but the picture went out and I could only get sound. It was a tough night. Needless to say, I was beyond furious.

The next morning, I got up at 4:30 to catch the shuttle to get back to the airport. I was tired, grumpy and just generally pissed off. I was going to let the front desk know. And then I pulled on my LOVE t-shirt, because it was the only thing I had to wear. And, once again, I thought “I can’t go rip someone a new one while proclaiming LOVE.” I went to the desk to check out and said, “Can I tell you what problems I had in the room?” and explained calmly that the air conditioning and the TV did not work. I smiled and thanked the young man, and went outside to wait for the shuttle. The desk clerk followed me outside and said “I took $50 off your room. We are very sorry.” Wow, being nice and living up to my shirt paid off.

As I went back to the airport, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I had considered my reaction and responses to the world based upon what I claimed to be embracing. If I’m going to tell people that I believe in LOVE for everyone, then shouldn’t I show it?

Have I stumbled upon an answer for finding a new way for us to interact with each other? In these days of such division and animosity, perhaps we should consider wearing shirts that demand that we live up to higher standards? Or that we wear shirts that explain where our hearts are at the moment?

What if you could wear a shirt that said “Hurting” or “Struggling” or “Hopeful” or “Accepting”. Maybe we would approach each other in a different manner if we had a visual clue as to what is happening underneath the clothes. Maybe if we all wore shirts that said LOVE, we would raise our expectations of how we needed to treat each other.

Perhaps this is a new avenue of inventory that we should carry at InSight Books. You buy one of our grief resources and it comes with a t-shirt that says “Grieving”. Or a shirt that identifies you as a “Caregiver” if you need one of our books on aging and elder care.

World peace through $12.00 t-shirts. Maybe not, but it can’t hurt, right? I wonder what your shirt would say?