Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The One About the Dead Twin: Airline Stories

First time on the blog, but sitting in archive a while. Enjoy!
Don’t Over-react.
Of course sh*t happens.  It happens to all of us.  A tire goes flat, someone rear ends us, we over sleep.  It’s human nature to screw something up or be the victim of unfortunate circumstances.  In real life, people deal with it and move on because they have no choice. At the airport, people act so irrationally it’s almost funny.  Almost.  Until after work at the bar.  Then it becomes funny when we retell it complete with tantrum reenactment.  It’s just basically a pain in the ass while it’s going on though.
I have seen some of the worst adult tantrums firsthand. I’ve been spat at, swung at, and watched bags get flung across the floor by angry, stranded passengers. I’ve seen holes punched in walls, grown men bawling like babies and sweet, demure women jumping across counters at agents.  Of course, all we do is call 411 and the airport police deal with it. 
There was one particular girl, though, that put a completely new and different spin on over reacting.
This girl wasn’t the violent type.  She wasn’t the swearing type.  She was a bawler.  She missed her connection when her inbound flight brought her in a few minutes too late due to aircraft maintenance.  She was trying to get to Chicago, but there were no seats on the next flight.  She was given meal vouchers and a standby seat on the next flight out.  If she didn’t make that flight, she was going to have to be booked on the first flight of the morning.
The airline would pay for her hotel, since it was the airline’s maintenance issue that caused the delay.  Usually, this situation is inconvenient, but easy to handle.  The fact that the airline takes care of passengers stranded in this manner softens the blow of being stranded.
This girl, however, was not taking things very well.
She came to my flight, which was her standby flight, with her ticket. She was sweet enough at first, but when I informed her she wouldn’t get a seat unless one opened up, she began to sob.
I always feel really bad when someone cries in front of me.  I don’t want them to cry, I want to fix it and make it better, and get them on their way.  I would be totally freaked out if I was stranded in a strange city, especially if I couldn’t afford a hotel.  
I assured her that everything would be fine and then she told me that she had to be on the plane because she needed to be at a funeral at 8am. Her brother had died, suddenly, in a car accident. Not just any brother, her twin brother.  She had to get home and take care of her mom, who she said she was afraid might just die of sadness. 
That’s so sad!!
I assured her that I would try my best and started to go through the inbound connections list to see if I was expecting any misconnects.  We can see who is coming in late, so when you’re running down the concourse trying to make your flight, rest assured, we know exactly where everyone is coming from. We know if you’re going to make it before you even step off the plane based on how far back your seat is on the inbound plane and how far away the gate is.
I was going through that list and I saw that there was an aircraft coming in on F concourse possibly misconnecting a family of five. 
This passenger,  Stephanie  Oscar, with the dead twin brother was number  7 on the standby list.  I felt confident that I could help her.  Only 3 of those ahead of her on the list had even checked in at the gate, and it was boarding time.  The other three did not respond to pages, so I moved her up on the list to number 4. 
She came back a few times to keep checking on the status.  I told her that I thought she would probably get on, but I could not give her a seat until I was certain there would be a seat.  I took her aside and told her about the family, and that I was pretty confident she would get on. She  started crying again and showed me a picture of her brother on her phone. 
I felt really, really, bad for her.  I really wanted to help her.  I almost wanted to cry too.  What would it feel like to lose a twin brother so suddenly?  Would it feel like half of you was missing? How would I take care of my mom if my brother or father was suddenly taken, especially since she lives so far away in New Mexico! I don’t even think I’d be able to sit still long enough to fly…I’d be bursting on the inside and overflowing with nonstop tears on the outside.
I had to help her. I wanted to put her first on the list, or possibly take a volunteer as an oversold situation to help her out.
I went to my favorite manager, the one who backs me up when I break a rule.  He knows that if I’m going to actually ask to break a rule, that there must be a pretty good reason.   I asked him about the flight coming in on F concourse and whether he though those passengers could make it or not. 
Fortunately for them, their plane made up some time and they were already on the ground.  Unfortunately for me, there would be zero forseeable seats opening on the Chicago flight.  I was so afraid to tell her.
Just as I was paging her up to the counter, my manager told me that if I could get a local volunteer who would stay without hotel compensation, he’d confirm her on the flight in their place.    I made the announcement,  found a young man who purchased his ticket that night to save money but really needed to go tomorrow and performed the seat swap in the system. I told her to come get the boarding pass from me discreetly while I boarded the other passengers.
She was thrilled. She gave me this huge hug and then thanked me profusely.  She said that she’d be right back and that could she get my name. 
I gladly gave it to her, and I felt really proud that I had made a difference in someone’s life who had suffered an unimaginable loss. I felt sort of guilty that I had skipped the standby list, but when I pulled up the records, I felt better because the people on the standby list weren’t willing to split from their parties anyway, so even if there were somehow only one seat, she would have gotten it.
I walked down to the jet bridge, and checked with the crew to see if they were ready to board. I received a thumbs up from the lead flight attendant.  As I was walking back up towards the gate, I felt my phone vibrating in my pocket.  I pulled it out and realized that it was a Facebook notification.  I had a few extra seconds so I gave in to the urge to sneak a look at my phone.
“Stephanie Oscar wants to be your friend”.  The message box said.  I hit confirm.
This just kept getting better! Not only did I help someone in need, I made a friend!  Okay , maybe just on Facebook, but maybe we could keep in touch and I could give her moral support and she’d remember me as someone who turned her bad day around.
I decided to sneak another look at her profile to see if she wrote a status update about how great her airline service was. 
I really needed to start the boarding process, but I couldn’t resist the urge to see her profile just for a second, just to see if she mentioned me.  Maybe she would write a letter to the airline and I would get a special award from the CEO.  I’d always wanted to win an award like that because I knew I was the nicest, sweetest, most tech-savvy agent, and I thought I deserved it.  I mean, it’s not that hard to deliver good service, right?  Just be really …….gullible.
Stephanie Oscar is LOLing because the dumbazz airline fell for my tearz. LOLZ. C U at the party 2nite bitchez.  Just now
I looked at earlier updates
Stephanie Oscar is pissed off that she missed her flight, and is now gna miss da party 2nite 1 hour ago
Stephanie Oscar is ready to get wassstedddddd.  3 hours ago
Wait, what?  Why would she friend me on Facebook if she was going to talk about me? Did she think I would wait til later to approve it? Was she that stupid?  Speaking of stupid, I’m stupid.  I can’t believe this is happening. I am not a dumbass. Now I have to work a flight and my feelings are hurt. 
Oh hell no.
I decided that I would handle it calmly, and with a cool head.   Her seat assignment was still on the counter,  that lying, manipulative brat wasn’t on the plane yet, so I definitely had the advantage. 
About halfway through the boarding process, she skipped sweetly over to the podium and sauntered up behind me,  and asked if she could board yet. 
“Not yet, Stephanie.”  I said.  I avoided eye contact and called every zone number until the only passengers left were the standby passengers. 
She stood very arrogantly against the wall and nonchalantly tapped away at her phone, probably making fun of me on Facebook.   I wanted to snatch that phone out of her hand and smash it.  What an asshole she was!
After the plane was completely boarded, it was determined that another plane had been sitting on the gate but the jetway had broken.  There was a group of 7 people on that plane and it opened 7 seats.  There was one person that had been behind her on standby. 
I took her ticket and ripped it, and reassigned the seat to the last person on the list, and then I cleared the standby list for the other 6 seats, for the two parties of three that were originally ahead of her.  I paged them all and handed them their tickets.  I grabbed the paperwork off the printer and slammed the door in her face, but not before saying “Stephanie, don’t worry, I’ll be right back.”
She looked worried but I didn’t care.  I walked the final passengers down, got the door to the plane shut and then called my manager back on the phone and explained to him what I’d done and why.
The first thing he did was yell at me for having my phone in my pocket. It is one of my worst habits. I always sneak looks at Facebook and rapid fire texts when I have a spare second.  Then he laughed and told me he’d be there to back me up.
I waited until the plane backed off the gate, in full view of the window, and I could see Stephanie Oscar looking out in horror and disbelief from the slats in the jet bridge turret. Then I walked slowly up the bridge hallway and opened the door to a very emotional and teary performance.
Mark, my manager, was standing at the gate patiently listening to Stephanie tell him how awful her situation was, and how she didn’t understand how the plane could leave without her.  She pointed her finger at me.
“SHE promised me a seat.  SHE said that I was guaranteed on board, if I just waited until the end. She lied. Your employee lied to me and now I won’t even be there to bury my brother!”
She threw herself into the chairs in the boarding area and sobbed so hard her whole body was heaving. 
I panicked for a moment, wondering if I had gotten something wrong.  She was so committed to this funeral thing, that I was believing her again.  I was starting to feel like a total jerk when Mark printed out the reservation and chuckled under his breath.
“Watch this.” He said, and then walked over and sat next the inconsolable Miss Oscar , who was telling an elderly couple nearby her sob story between heaves.
The elderly couple gave Mark and I hateful looks as she explained how we slammed the door in her face.  I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as I fought the urge to slap Stephanie Oscar.
“Miss Oscar, I’m sorry that you have been inconvenienced, but did you say that you are traveling on an emergency ticket?” he asked casually
“Yes, my brother died in a car accident and I booked a ticket right away.” She said, sniffling and wiping her nose on her sleeve.
Mark showed her the copy of her reservation that she had printed out.  “How did you know he was going to die? This ticket was booked 3 weeks ago.”
She looked at the piece of paper blankly and said nothing. 
The elderly couple aimed their disgust at the silent liar while Mark gave her directions to the nearest customer service counter to get her hotel accommodations.  Since her original flight was late due to maintenance, we did owe her a hotel after all.  Our flight was off the gate and we were no longer obligated to stay there, nor did we want to.   A transatlantic flight had just cancelled and the customer service line was all the way down the concourse.  She could wait in that line, perhaps do some thinking, maybe update Facebook..whatever.I imagine her status should say something like this….
Stephanie Oscar is realizing what a bitch slap karma and a jaded gate agent can deliver if necessary.
She probably would have gotten away with it if she hadn’t tried to friend me online…why she was able to come up with that entire scenario and misstep there, I have no idea.  I have caught people in the funeral lie before, but she totally had me. 

The Moral of the Story:  Over reacting is overrated and lying and manipulating is just a bad idea.



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