Have you ever experienced ‘one of those days’ when nothing seems to be going right and everyone you encounter just seems to be there to push your buttons!
I travel quite a bit for both business and pleasure. Air travel can be – well, challenging at times! Seems there is usually a delay of some type. I never know if what I hear from the airlines is the actual truth, or if it is the best reason-of-the-day excuse. Nevertheless, I am at the mercy of the ‘friendly skies’ and my plans are often disrupted. Since there is little I can do, as I do not have the ability to fly without the plane and pilots, I must make the best of the situation and I notice I have become very flexible in my travel plans!
So, here is a situation that I recently encountered.
I was delayed at my home-base, on my way to a business then pleasure trip. The airlines kept delaying the first flight – 20 minutes, then another 60 minutes; then a cancelled flight. So, down to the recheck line I go. Now, this was a very full flight and by the time I gathered my belongings and made my way to re-ticket, the line snaked around the check-in area and looked like I was in for about a 90 minute wait. I must say, I was already fatigued from arriving early and waiting for my day-long trip. To stand in line for over an hour and then likely be sent home to do this all over tomorrow was a less than enticing thought!
As we normally do, when waiting in line, conversations emerge about changed plans, frustrations over high-prices and no guarantees; missed meetings; cranky children (and adults!)…
Here is what I noticed: yes, we are all a bit irritable about the cancelled flight; yes, we like to make certain everyone knows how put-out we are and how crucial it is that our plans are not disrupted; yes, we want to be sure everyone knows how we’ll never fly this airline again; yes, how no matter what my story is – your story is better, bigger or more important! Interesting how even though we are all in the same line, for the same reason, we still feel the need to sure make our displacement in the world order is felt by everyone else in the same line!
I know that, for myself, should I become caught-up in the downbeat conversation, I too will become ornery and keep this squeaky wheel turning. And, I also know that trying to help my fellow travelers dismiss or put out of their mind the predicament we are all in would possibly lead to ejection of me from my place in line! My alternative was to empathize, listen, inquire and do a lot of smiling! I am not certain my responses were much appreciated – but I did notice that if folks wanted to pull me in and could not, there were many others in line who would gladly commiserate with them! I was able to strike-up a reasonably positive chat with the fellow behind me and that certainly moved the line more quickly for me.
Finally, it’s my turn at the ticket counter! I placed my identification and now cancelled ticket on the counter for her. Without really looking up at me, she took my information and began searching her computer for re-booking options.
As lightly as I possibly could, I greeted the attendant by name: Hi Lindsay! I’ll bet this wasn’t exactly your plan for the day today! I’m so glad you decided to come to work. If you like, just pretend you are looking at re-booking me – take a couple of long deep breaths – think about how great a soak in the tub tonight and maybe a glass of wine will be – it’s okay – take another breath – I’m good to wait a couple of minutes for you!
I have to tell you – when the ticket attendant looked up at me, she was really smiling! She actually looked more relaxed. She looked me straight in the eyes and said: Thank you! I really needed that! She took another breath and then was so apologetic about the cancelled flight and the delay. She was ready to search out alternative flight schedules for me – and it didn’t seem to be any bother at all! Once we had the re-booking all worked out, I thanked her and encouraged her to take one more moment for herself. Take another breath, I said. You are doing great and you’ll be a great help to the rest of the folks in line. It’s good you came to work today!
I gathered my new tickets (for the next day’s flight) and my identification and my bags. As I stepped away from the counter, I heard Lindsay say to the next guest: I’m so sorry for your delay – let’s see what I can do to help you get on your way!
Yes, I think a few kind words made a difference – at least they did for me and Lindsay!