Maybe I'm just being ultra-sensitive these days but it seems that the people that we deal with in our lives are getting ruder and ruder. No longer do people greet you with a cheerful "hi, can I help you?" when you go somewhere but more often than not they have a look on their face that reads "oh great, now I gotta do my job because this #@*^ just walked in".
Case in point: Yesterday morning I took Jamie to the airport for her return flight to Kentucky. Her reservations had been made months ago by her stepmother and on Friday I called US Airways to ensure that everything was still a 'go'. The guy that I spoke with on their 800-line assured me that her reservations were all set and that upon check-in at the airport I would need to pay the unaccompanied minor fee of $40 for each leg of the flight. I'm pretty sure I understood him correctly despite the difficulties with his dialect and the bad phone connection that we had.
Jamie and I arrived at Bradley at approximately 5:15 to get her checked in for her 6:50 flight and, after standing in line with an awful lot of other people, we finally got to the check-in counter where the attendant proceeded to read me the riot act as no longer does US Airways offer connecting flight service for unaccompanied minors, they can be booked on non-stop flights only. I attempted to explain to the man that I had doublechecked with someone the day before who had assured me that Jamie's reservations were all in order but he wanted nothing to do with it. Apparently all he could see was the line of people behind me waiting to be processed so he figured the best way to deal with me and my problem was to be dismissive.
Obviously not being able to get Jamie on her flight home was going to be a problem so I asked Mr. Helpful what he suggested we do to which he snapped, "I don't know, we don't allow unaccompanied minors on connecting flights" - like he hadn't told me this several times already. Okay, I get that but what about her ticket? What about the money that had already been paid for her flight? "Not his problem", he said. Looking very put-out and disgusted when he realized that I wasn't going to just step out of line and go away, he finally called for his supervisor to come over and was quite successful in making me feel about six inches tall by telling him that my kid was booked on a non-connecting flight and they didn't do that! Obviously he was fixated on a theme.
Thank goodness Mr. Collins, the supervisor, seemed to be of a compassionate nature as he explained to me that US Airways had changed their policy in October and he wasn't sure why the gentleman I had spoken to the day before hadn't let me know that. He then told Mr. Helpful behind the counter to find another flight for Jamie to go on. His response? "We don't have any non-connecting flights for unaccompanied minors" (really - this was getting old!). At that point, Mr. Collins told the fine, upstanding employee behind the counter to "check with another airline" and see if there was a flight that she could be booked on as obviously there wasn't one with their airline.
Looking even more put-out, the "courteous" counter attendant picked up the phone and was able to get Jamie booked on a flight with Delta Airlines that was scheduled to leave ten minutes earlier than her original flight. After some audible grousing to his co-worker next to him he finally printed out the ticket then, speaking in the tone of an elderly teacher with a naughty student, told us we needed to get to the Delta counter quickly as boarding started in twenty minutes. He basically threw the tickets at me and then proceeded to yell "next!" so that he could, I'm sure, practice his helpful tactics on the next unsuspecting passenger in line.
We rushed over to the Delta counter where the attendant was very nice and didn't treat me like I was a complete and utter moron for attempting to book my child on an airline that didn't take unaccompanied minors on connecting flights (even though I hadn't made the reservations to begin with!). With a wink and a smile, she even told Jamie that THEY treated their minor passengers much better than the other airline.
After finally getting her boarding pass in hand and checked-in luggage turned over to the TSA agents we then proceeded to the security check gate where, wonder of wonders, Jamie had been tagged as having to go through an extra security screening. Huh?? Let me get this right - she's 13 years old, I'm her mother, I'm putting her on a plane to fly to Kentucky alone, and someone thinks I might have packed explosives on her?? Can this day get any better?!?!
While the kindly TSA agent was going through Jamie's carry-on bag and purse and scanning it for any sort of explosive devices, I was trying to explain to Jamie that she was probably picked for the special treatment because of the change in airlines at the last minute. He concurred with me and said that he hoped we didn't mind the minor delay. Because he was very courteous and not treating us like suspected terrorists, I told him that it was okay and it was better to be safe than sorry with these things. This gentleman, who I am sure sees more than his fair share of rude passengers, was very nice to us and wished Jamie a safe flight as he sent her off with a smile. Big difference from Mr. Helpful whom we had started the day off with.
By the time we got to the gate (and of course it was the very last gate at the end of the terminal) Jamie's flight had already been boarding for some time so we only had the chance for a quick hug and kiss before saying good-bye. As she got on the plane, I took a seat to await take-off and called her Dad in Kentucky to let him know the change of flight plans.
Now all things considered, I could have been rude to him when I called. I could have called him an idiot for booking her on US Airways. I could have harangued him for booking her on a flight that was too darned early. I could have taken out my frustrations with the rude counter attendant on him but instead I decided to forego the rudeness and opt for civility. Obviously an error had been made but Jamie had been able to catch a flight out and I didn't have to return her all the way to Norwich to try to figure out what to do next. Stuff happens.
Still, the whole experience left a sour taste in my mouth as going to the airport to send Jamie away for months at a time is not #1 on my list of "Fun Things to Do" and to couple it with some disgruntled former-DMV-postal-worker-type guy did not help things at all. I wish I had gotten his name as I would be writing a scathing letter of complaint to US Airways but he wasn't wearing a name tag and I just didn't feel like pursuing it anymore at that juncture.
After watching Jamie's plane back out of its gate and down the runway, I wiped the tears from my eyes and trudged out of the airport to head back to Norwich and a 15-hour day in dispatch. On the way home I thought about my experience with the guy behind the counter and vowed that I would do my best not to make other people feel like idiots in the future. Is it that much harder to wish someone a nice day, to smile at them, to treat them with respect? I think not and I'm going to make more of an effort to adhere to that because I don't want to make anyone else feel like that guy made me feel.
As the song goes, maybe we should all "try a little tenderness". I don't know when manners and civility went out the window but I'm sure starting to miss them.