What WOULD Joni Do?

Random thoughts and other ramblings

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Some Lessons Learned

As the Second Post of 2006 will attest, I finally have a new job. Still with the same company I know and love, but with a different division, in a different building, using a different skill set. A whole new realm of possibilities. I start the 26th and I just can't wait. But more about that later.

Before I leave the old job, there are a few things I want to say. For those that do not know me or what I do, for the last eight years I have been a writer for the consumer affairs department at an airline. I responded to customer correspondence - compliments, complaints, requests for assistance. Some of it was pretty straightforward; my flight was late, my baggage was lost, the flight attendant was rude. Sometimes I could fix what was wrong, but sometimes it was just too late for anything but an apology.

I started the job with high hopes, and in many ways, I've enjoyed what I did. I worked with some people that meant the world to me. And I worked with some people that I came to despise. I did things that made me a better person. I did things that made me want to hang myself. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. blah blah blah.

I took my job very seriously because I love the company I work for and was proud to represent them. I wanted our customers to be glad they chose us and I wanted to do whatever I could, within our guidelines, to right any true wrongs that occurred. I think I did a pretty good job in that I received a ton of written compliments, thank you calls - even flowers a few times. I was even featured on company posters touting our customer service commitment. On the other hand, I've also been screamed at, cursed at, threatened and called some really awful names. Usually because I wouldn't break some rule or give way more than the situation deserved. But overall, most of the people I helped over the years have been nice, decent people who just had a bad experience.

If anything, I learned a lot from this job. And so, after 8 years of reading letters, I would like to share with you the following thoughts about some people:

Some people will complain about anything. I've seen complaints from people that didn't like the color of the paint on the walls at the airport. People wrote because they didn't like the onboard movie, or because they had seen it before. One guy wrote angry because we didn't have diet Fresca, and yet another would write every month like clockwork because we didn't serve non-alcoholic beer. There are people who are not happy with the snack choices, the magazine selection, or the flight attendant uniforms. One lady was severely put out because her flight from New York to Seattle didn't fly over the Grand Canyon, cause dammit she really wanted to see the Grand Canyon while she was out West, and she didn't care if it was 1,500 miles off the flight path.

Some people are selfish bastards. I thought I had seen it all when someone once complained about their flight making an unplanned emergency stop because someone onboard was having a heart attack (total flight delay to the final destination even with the stop was only 30 minutes.) But then, just a few weeks ago, some guy wrote to complain that his flight was delayed 15 minutes while they waited on organs being transported from a connecting flight for a transplant. Maybe he was just jealous cause someone else was getting a new heart, while he didn't have one at all.

Some people do not plan well. Let me just say, that if your sister is getting married and you are the maid of honor, you need to plan to be at the wedding more than 20 minutes before it starts. Think about getting there maybe at least a day ahead of time. That way, if your flight is say, 25 minutes late, you will not miss the whole ceremony. (And really - what kind of sister would go on with the wedding and not wait 25 damn minutes for her sister/maid of honor to make it over from the airport?) Oh, and if you live in the Northeast and you spend $5,000 on a Caribbean cruise vacation during the winter, go on and spend the extra $90 on a hotel room in Miami and get there a day early. Cause, if perchance, let's say, it, I don't know - maybe SNOWS in NEW YORK in JANUARY, and your flight is delayed 2 hours, you won't miss the boat completely. And if you really must take the flight that is scheduled to arrive at 1:00 p.m. when the ship leaves at 2:00 p.m., go on and do yourself a favor and buy the travel insurance the cruise line offers. I'm just saying.

Some people believe everything they see on fictional TV shows. You know how on Friends, Rachel decided to hop on a flight to London at the last minute to go tell Ross she loved him before he married Emily? In real life that ticket would cost her about $7,500. Cause last minute airline tickets are damn expensive. And you know how Ross and Emily were supposed to go on the honeymoon to Greece, but then he ended up asking Rachel to go in Emily's place and she just took Emily's ticket and got on the airplane? Yeah. That show was made up. You can't just use someone else's ticket. Airline tickets are nontransferable, and they check your ID when you travel. Even reality shows don't tell you the truth (imagine that.) That plane that pulled back to the gate for Joyce and Uchenna on Amazing Race 7? That ain't gonna happen in real real life. So don't be trying to tell the gate agent about how Podunk Island Airlines pulled back the plane for Joyce and Uchenna cause you should have been at the gate on time and not in the airport bar trying to pick up that flight attendant.

Some people think that airlines can control the weather. Really. People also think that they are smarter than all the meteorologist on staff with the airlines and the FAA. I love it when a flight from Dallas to Newark is held up by Air Traffic Control due to weather, and someone will write and say - I looked out the window and the weather was fine. Really? You could see all the way from Dallas to Newark out that window? Dang - you got some good eyesight. Cause I'm thinking, I've got 20/20 and if I look out the window at Dallas airport, I'm probably only gonna be seeing Dallas. Maybe Grand Prairie or Arlington if I stand on the roof.

Some people do not know how to pack.You remember the commercial with the ape beating up the luggage? Well, while maybe it isn't handled that roughly, it does get tossed around a bit. That's why they call what baggage handlers do "throwing bags." They have to move thousands of bags a day, very quickly, from conveyor belt to tram to ramp to the belly of the plane and back. So, they may get banged up a little. And under the plane, your bag is not sitting all alone, on a velvet cushion, untouched by all other bags. Those babies are stacked up high, with other people's heavy bags on top of them. So, if you think your late grandma's fine china that you just inherited will be OK if you say, wrap it up in your underwear and other dirty clothes, you are still not fully recovered from your loss of grandma. My suggestion is this - when you travel, take a small carry on and pack at least one change of clothes, any medication necessary for you to survive, any item you would be heartbroken if it was lost, stolen or broken, and your car and house keys. Do not put fragile items, cash, jewelry or a lap top with the only copy of your completed 500 page novel in your check bag. And put your name both on and in the checked bag. Most people's bags make it with no problem, but if yours doesn't, make sure there is nothing in it that you can't live without until your bag is found or a settlement is paid.

Some people have extreme separation anxiety. Otherwise seemingly rational people who apparently can be separated from their spouse at least 9 or 10 hours a day, 5 days a week while at work, can not bear to be separated by a few aisles on a two hour flight. They will write ten page letters detailing their devastation and trauma at being separated from their spouse or other family member because there were not two vacant seats together on their flights and they had to sit apart.

Some people use the word "traumatized" a little too loosely. The guy that didn't get the diet Fresca? Traumatized. A woman that had to live without her favorite jeans for two days while her bag was located? Traumatized. The lady that didn't get to fly over the Grand Canyon on the way to Seattle? You guessed it, TRAUMATIZED. Let me tell you something people, after watching the devastation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or a tsunami that killed over 200,000, unless someone dies, is maimed, or somehow disfigured - save traumatized. Oh, and you think you are really clever when you describe your travel experience as the "Trip from Hell?" "Trip from Hell" is the most overused phrase in the history of airline complaint letters. (Although comparing your experience trying to book free frequent flyer seats to Hawaii for travel during the high season with the David Spade Capital One commercial is a close second.)

OK - great to have that off my chest. Now, I just need to make it through the next few days, and my official career as a corporate writer will come to an end. Hopefully, since I won't have to professionally write 40+ hours a week for real, my private writing will improve. I might actually have the energy to do it more often, and to care about the details. In my new incarnation, I will be a number cruncher. So, I guess it will just be my personal number crunching that will suffer in the future. Man, I dread the next time I have to balance my checkbook. Its gonna be traumatic.

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