Sunday, March 20, 2011

Travelogue Toronto – Day 0: Getting There

The seasoned traveler learns one thing, if he learns nothing else: patience. Travel is a long, slow, tedious business that is to be endured. The excitement of going to the airport, getting on a plane, and flying somewhere may be all well and good when you're six, but the luster soon wears off that particular thrill leaving one with the reality of travel; there are delays, overbooking, and misdirected luggage. Sometimes all three on the same flight!

So, the seasoned traveler learns patience. That is what separates him from the crowd. Three-hour delay? Piffle! As long as he gets there in time to shower, review his notes, and perhaps down a gallon of coffee, the seasoned traveler laugh at the delay. (Why not? The airline does!)

It is easy to spot the amateur at the gate. She is the one who has been hanging on the gate desk for the past two hours passive-aggressively trying to secure herself and her family a seat on the overbooked flight to Toronto. But wait… I am getting ahead of myself.

Friday, when I got approval for the trip that my boss wanted me to take to see a client, the airline website informed me (as I was in the process of paying for my ticket) that the flight was overbooked and asking me if I would be interested in volunteering to give up my seat and take a later flight. I suppose that there is some sort of perverse logic to selling something you know is not available in the hopes that the person who just bought it will accept something completely different in exchange. Heck! The broadcast advertising business practically runs on this principle. But there is something irksome about being so blatant about it.

So I knew Friday that the flight was oversold. Presumably, so did the family sitting to my right. But perhaps not... Apparently, they had never heard of 09/11 and all the ramifications it had on the airline industry. From what I have gathered from the conversations they have had (it's not like I am eavesdropping, he has been shouting at the airline on his cell phone for much of the last hour), yesterday afternoon they were afraid that their flight out of Aspen was in imminent danger of being canceled due to weather. So they rented a car, drove to Denver, and attempted to catch their connecting flight from here twenty-four hours ago.

I'm sorry, am I the only one who knows that the airline will cancel your reservations for your connections if you fail to make your originating flight!? Am I the only person who thinks it unlikely that you could drive out of the mountains if the weather is so bad that they cannot fly? Am I the only one who has seen the weather reports for the past couple days that informed me that the mountains got flurries but nowhere near enough to shut the airports?

Don't get me wrong, I feel bad for them. I really do! But obstructing access to the check-in desk at the gate and hovering by the gate agent in the hopes of getting on a flight; well, that's just rude. I have lost count of the number of times over the past two hours that someone has waited for her to conclude her business with the gate agent only to be told that she was not in queue.

The worst part is that if she ever gets the chance to talk to the gate agent, she intends to lie them in order to get sympathy. At the start of her encampment, she leaned over and said to her father (?) that she was going to wait for the agent to get free and then tell them something to make the agent feel sorry for her. She suggested two stories and settled on the story that she was a college student and had to get home for exams.

I wish them well and hope that they get home. But after the passive-aggressive display I have been witness to this evening, I hope that it is not on my flight. That would be too much like rewarding this strategy.

Wherever you are today, I hope that you can get whatever you want without being a total prat about it!

Don Bergquist – March 20, 2010 – Denver International Airport, Denver, Colorado

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