A few days ago, I was sitting in the departures lounge in the Simon Bolivar airport at Caracas, awaiting my flight connection to Trinidad, with my laptop open on my lap, writing material for a new seminar presentation. I was in the groove, totally focused, unaware of the activity around me.
I glanced up from my screen. The waiting area was empty. Where was everybody else that was here also awaiting the flight? I looked back at my screen and checked the clock. 6:45. Ok. Time enough to catch my 7:30 flight; but maybe I had missed some announcement. Maybe I should get to the gate. As I was shutting down Windows, it occurred to me. Time zones. It was actually 7:45 DUH!!
No wonder everyone was gone. Had I missed my flight? I rushed to the gate. There was my crowd and it was busy creating pandemonium. I waded in. What fun. Absolute chaos. I stood there tuning in to the Spanish. Ah-ha. The flight is delayed. No exact time for departure is able to be set. It seems we are to fly on a brand new plane and the certification has not been stamped by the relevant authority.
Of course people are upset. They are concerned about missing connections. I make my way over to one of the reps and ask, “So, does this mean I have time for a sandwich and a beer?”
“Oh yes, plenty of time. It looks like about a 3 hour delay.”
“Cool,” I reply, “Thanks. That is great news.” My earlier distraction had not caused me to miss my flight and for that, I am grateful.
“Hang on a minute,” she says and gives me a coupon for $10 to pay for my beer and another one for $50 for a discount on my next flight.
“Hey, that’s nice of you,” I answer. “Thanks so much.”
“No”, she says, “thank you; almost everyone else is so upset and they get nasty to me as if it is my fault their flight is delayed.”
A lady pushes in beside me, “If I miss my connection and my appointment tomorrow morning, I am going to sue the airline. I don’t believe all this crap about new planes and such.”
“Yes, ma’am, here is the complaint form. If you fill it out, I will personally see it gets to the right person.” answers the rep, “and here is a $50 discount coupon for your next flight.”
No beer coupon for her.
The flight leaves at 10 pm. 2.5 hours late. The plane is so new, you can still smell the glue they used to stick down the carpet. No one else has ever sat in this seat I occupy. How cool is that. The flight attendant offers me a free beer. I doze off and wake when the plane is landing an hour later.
Shortly after midnight, I am sitting in the lobby of my hotel in Trinidad, sipping a cold beer, chatting with the night duty clerk, when this same angry lady shows up.
“Good evening ma’am,” greats the clerk.
“I need a cheap room and a wake up call,” she answers. The clerk gets her registered and gives her a room key, organizes the wake up call. Never once does she say thank you.
“Hi,” I interject, “we were on the same flight. I see you missed your connection. I hope it all works out for you.”
“No, my connection is in the morning to Dominica.” she answers, “damn airlines. I hope that one is on time at least.”
“Oh,” I say, “we are on the same flight again in the morning. Do you want to share a taxi?”
“No,” she answers, “I’ll make my own way. I’ve already booked a taxi.”
“Ok, buy you a beer then, a night cap?” I ask her. Maybe I can cheer her up some, change her attitude?
“No!” she turns away and goes to her room, without saying another word to me or the hotel clerk.
Next morning, the night clerk drops me off at the airport. I check in with the airline and get myself a coffee. I am sitting there enjoying it when she goes by. “Good morning,” I say, “How are you today?”
“Damn taxi was late,” she answers without slowing down. Of course, there is a line up at the LIAT counter by then. Oh well. Life’s a bitch, ain’t it.