by Tess Adair
For today’s blog post, I wanted to write a little introspective piece about my history of traveling home for the holidays. I wanted to write about the first time I got on a plane when I was 13 or 14, and how my intense claustrophobia reduced me to shaky tears by the time I got to the gate, but over the course of that 45-minute trip, all my fears slipped away, one by one. I wanted to write about how I was never supposed to be such a frequent traveler; a good majority of my family members have never been on a plane, and most of them don’t travel far enough to need a plane to get them there. Nobody ever expected me to move so far away from home, and they certainly didn’t expect me to stay away.
I wanted to tell you about the conversation I had with my mother before I went to the airport. She advised me to bring entertainment with me, and I replied with the 3 different kinds I’d already loaded up for myself and reminded her, “it ain’t my first rodeo.” She said, “You have no idea how weird that still is for me.” My mom is a traveler herself, but she didn’t get on a plane until she was 42.
That’s what I wanted to write about. Until I entered travel hell.
The short of it is that Chicago had shit weather this weekend, and I had to fly through it. On top of that, Southwest’s customer service was not only incredibly unhelpful with my fairly urgent desire to have my belongings returned to me, they kept insisting at every turn that they could not help me, forcing me to point out ways that they could, and more damning than that, did not seem to care whatsoever about my plight.
You know, it’s one thing to try and help your customer and fail. It’s another thing to throw up your hands without even lifting a finger to begin with.
When my flight was delayed three separate times, and minimal information was provided about those delays, I remained patient. When I missed my connection and the flight crew gave us no concrete information on how to deal with that, I remained patient. When I joined a line at the service desk that formed in front of one of the people working there and watched her walk off with no explanation and no replacement, I remained patient. When the remaining woman at the service desk ignored the line for a solid half hour before dealing us, I remained patient. When I finally got up to her and explained my situation, and all she did was tell me I had to go to the baggage claim office, I remained patient (despite the fact that my mother had already waited on the phone with customer service, who DEFINITELY could have told her to have me go straight to that bag claim office, but then, that would have been helpful, and we can’t have that, apparently.) When I went down to the baggage claim office and waited in ANOTHER line for at least 45 minutes, only to have them tell me that they would not find my bag for me, and I would have to call the bag claim office in St. Louis (again, something the customer service person on the phone easily could have told my mom) but at first refused to give me a time, then only gave me an estimated time when I pushed for it, I remained patient.
My patience persisted despite the fact that my medically necessary inhalers were both in this missing/un-looked-for bag.
But then I called the St. Louis bag claim office. I explained my situation...and the woman I spoke to just did not give a shit. I told her that I’d been given this number to call, and she said there was nothing she could do for me. Didn’t offer to look anything up, didn’t explain why she couldn’t. She said they’d give me a call...only she didn’t ask for my name or phone number, so I’m not sure how she intended to do that.
So we drove to the bag claim office to see if my bag was there. I’m pretty sure the woman at the desk was the same one I’d spoken to on the phone. She told me Southwest doesn’t track bags, so there was nothing she could do. This, of course, was not true. My mom asked her to find out what flight I’d been reassigned to, which this woman should have looked up to begin with, and finally we found out that most likely, the bag would come in then, at 10:30pm. Still no guarantees.
I understand that airlines cannot predict the weather, and much of this clusterfuck was not Southwest’s fault. That’s why I remained patient until I encountered this woman, who acted like she had no idea how to use a computer and could do literally nothing to help, nor had any interest in helping me--even after I told her that I was trying to track down a medical inhaler that I need daily. She didn’t even ask for my name. She didn’t ask for a flight number or anything. I might as well have been shouting into the wind--except that probably would have caused a coughing fit, which I’m currently not medically equipped to deal with.
So I’m not feeling particularly nostalgic about travel right now. But I do keep going back to that myth that libertarians love so much--the myth that the free market cures all woes. I’d say my experience this weekend, and many people’s experiences with airlines, would serve to contradict that a bit.
But hey, it’s not so bad. There are far worse things in life than wearing the same clothes for two days straight.
So it’s time to move on and focus on the holiday this week. You know, that one where you’re supposed to remember how good you have it.
I won’t be doing three blog posts this week. Instead, I’ll be spending Monday and Tuesday with my Daddy, Tuesday night catching up with my wonderful high school friends, Wednesday with my Mommy, Thursday with the rest of the fam, and Friday with my smart, sweet little bro. And I will try to remember as often as I can how lucky I am to have every one of these people in my life.
And in every spare moment I have, I’ll be hard at work on Novel #2. (I just introduced the best friend character, and she is weird as hell, and I love it.)
Happy Thanksgiving everybody.