The Time United Airlines Customer Service Team Surprised Me

Airlines get a terrible reputation. Cancellations. Delays. Lost baggage. TSA security theatre.

I have trouble getting to work and I live a mile from my office, so I am a bit lenient with people flying millions of miles across the globe at thousands of feet up in the sky.

One of the most stressful arts of flying is worrying about making your connecting flights. (Reason #10,498 I try to fly direct whenever possible. Screw the extra mileage points/additional segment.) When I booked my current trip, EWR to YYZ (Toronto) to DUB (Dublin), I made sure I had three hours to layover. Enough time to get lost trying to find my next gate and maybe even have time leftover for an airport beer.

So as I watch my 4:07 p.m. flight get delayed to 4:40 pm to 5:25 pm, the panic starts to set in. My Toronto flight begins boarding at 8:45 pm. No worries. Hakuna Matata. It’ll be fine. Don’t panic. Don’t call your mother. Breathe.

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And then the desk attendant comes out. The only words I make out from her garbled announcement are “unforeseen maintenance problems” and “possibly 6:30.”

FUCK. Shit. Bloody fuck.

I sprint to customer service, dialing the 800 number for United as I stand in a line that’s bound to move slower than molasses dripping from a Canadian maple. It’s 5:40. Fine, we can work this out.

“We’re experiencing higher than normal call volume.” Of course you are.

“Would you like to speak to an agent?” Yes, always, please. 0. 0. 1 for English.

Elevator music.

I swear an eon passes (12 minutes) before a customer service rep picks up. I explain the situation, stress I would pay as much as necessary to get on a flight to Dublin tonight. I’m not sure what magic he worked, but this man was able to get me LITERALLY the last seat on a direct flight to Dublin, leaving at 6:55 pm.

It’s 6:02 pm.

“Sir, can you confirm that this flight is leaving from Terminal C?” “Yes, Gate 72.”

I’m at Gate 105. Alright, sprinting. It’s not like I went to the gym today anyway.

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“Can you absolutely promise me that when I show up at this gate, I’ll be able to get on the plane?” “Yes, you’re all confirmed. I’m emailing your updated itinerary as we speak.” (Damn Verizon for not being able to do two things at once. I hope for the best.)

Time check. 6:10 pm.

Off I go. Racing like a madman through Newark Airport. I am that person you see in movies, except I’m not trying to convince someone I love not to get on a plane with his new wife. (Okay, I’m not Rachel Green. Don’t be a buzzkill.)

Panting, I arrive at this gate to see that my new flight is delayed until 7:25 pm. With my new boarding pass in hand, I let out a deep exhale that would make my yoga teacher proud. And I finally call my mom.

I have no idea how it happened, but I am sitting on a plane, that I am 99.9% sure is going to Ireland, solely based on the number of gingers and brogues around me. My blood pressure is starting to calm own and I am excited to start my travelling. (Maybe celebrating my good fortune with a Guinness.)

Toronto, we will meet someday.

And now, I think I owe United Airlines my first-born. At the very least, I may have to send them a small portion of my soul. They may break guitars, but today they earned serious bonus mileages and my continued loyalty. Yes, it is their fault my initial flight was delayed, but they handled the situation with compassion and composure – two things I was lacking as I was thisclose to a full-fledged panic attack in the Newark Airport.

Cheers to you United and cheers to future flights together!

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Note: This actually happened almost two months ago, but in true procrastination form, it took me that long to transfer this story from my notebook to my computer to my blog. I had a wonderful time traveling and I can’t wait until my next trip! 

A Tuesday Morning Not Much Different Than Today

It was a Tuesday morning with not a cloud in the gorgeous blue September sky. A day not much different from today. An ordinary day.

If you looked at the front page of today’s New York Times, you wouldn’t know it was a day with such extraordinary history. A day of loss and sorrow and confusion. It seems eleven years later we are supposed to be ready to move on and go back to a life of pretending today is an ordinary day filled with schedules and tasks. Today has never felt ordinary to me. This day will never feel ordinary. Now, even more than ever, it is important for us to remember. To reflect. To vow no such thing will happen again.

I remember a seventh grade English class. A kid leaving to go to the bathroom and coming back to say the President had been shot. Teachers speaking in hushed whispers in the halls. Corralling us all into the cafeteria, no information and all speculation. Even the most imaginative mind of a preteen could not have accurately predicted the day’s events. That was the problem with a NYC public school on this day. You could not tell us what had happened. Every single one of us had a relative or close family friend working in Manhattan. And if they didn’t, they had a father or mother or brother or uncle who was a cop, a fireman. This was Staten Island. EVERYONE is related somehow to a cop.

So we sat. And we talked. Not realizing that so many of us would have parents who could not make it home that night because roads and bridges and tunnels were closed. We did not understand the extent of this destruction until we learned days later about the parents who would never be coming home.

Now, I remember all too clearly the dark, dreary grey smoke that blanketed every borough of New York City. I remember the continuous loop of the news cycle showing the planes hitting the Towers. I remember the inability to make any phone call for days because the cell tower had gone down with the Towers’ collapse.

The sudden slew of “I love New York” shirts and “FDNYPD” hats that became commonplace in our wardrobes. The America flags flown from every house, whipping in the wind of every car window. The learning of new words… Terrorist. Osama bin Laden. Cantor Fitzgerald.

Attending memorials, not funerals, for first responders whose bodies were never found. Hearing the bagpipes of Amazing Grace play in person for the first time at a service for a friend’s father, who was a member of the firehouse on Staten Island that lost the most men.

Years later, driving down side streets of Staten Island that have been renamed to honor lives lost and ordinary men and women who became heroes. The pride in the New York Mets for refusing to listen to Bud Selig as he said the team could not wear commemorative caps on the 10 year anniversary.

There is no way to entirely move on. It will not take eleven years. There is no way to accept an attack on your home, on your country, and continue to go about your day without remembering.

There is no way to diminish the price I feel every time I walk off a train to see the Freedom Tower rising proudly from the ashes, flipping off the terrorists who thought they could squash our New Yorker spirit and our American patriotism.

There is an obligation now to make sure the future generations learn about this day and its significance. It is our duty.

Because we must Never Forget.

Why Are We Getting Married and Pregnant at 23?

It seems every Sunday night, Mark Zuckerberg likes to play this game with my Facebook Newsfeed. People keep changing their relationship statuses and uploading photos of their left hands with sparkly diamonds. If I am REALLY lucky, a sonogram photo makes it onto the list of most recent news. I have no problem with people getting married (or the gender of either party). I get excited for old camp counselors and baby sitters and family friends when they announce their engagements, their pregnancies. My issue lies with the people I just graduated with, who are still struggling to find stable jobs, who have just recently moved out of their parents’ homes, and who are committing themselves to this one person who they met in the basement of a fraternity for the rest of their lives.

I can’t commit to a nail polish color without a minimum of six minutes of deliberation, let alone a husband. The word alone makes me break out in hives.

Maybe this has to do with me being selfish. My last relationship ended because the guy felt I prioritized every other aspect of my life over him. I didn’t see the problem with this. Happy hour invitations and Homecoming weekend at Penn State with my friends will always rank higher  than a date night. I refuse to be the person who drops her friends for a guy or changes my opinions just to appease someone else. At twenty-freaking-two, my priorities are my career, my gym’s class schedule, and the current sales in the Nordstrom shoe department.

I am still learning about chevron and the difference between left and ring wing politics and the rules of Olympic handball. I am still learning about myself and how to make myself a happy, fulfilled person. How are you so comfortable with who you are as a person, at 22, 23, 24, that you know who you plan to spend your ENTIRE life with? The way science is improving that equals EIGHTY years with one person. Hell, I wouldn’t even want to spend 80 years with Justin Timberlake. (JT, if you’re reading, I am lying.)

The people my age who are pregnant, on purpose, scare me even more. If you knew the current state of my bedroom or the backseat of my car or the inside of my purse… you’d know I am not responsible enough to take care of myself, let alone be in charge of another tiny human. I can’t sew a button, I can’t iron a shirt, and I can’t make a meal that doesn’t revolve around eggs and bacon. There would be a lot of googling of “how to change a diaper” and “are babies able to eat cold, leftover Chinese food.”

It’s not that I don’t like kids. I like them when they are clean and funny and smart and in cardigans and in bow ties. I just like returning them to their owners even more.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I was never the girl growing up who had planned her wedding and her fairytale family. I had plans to write books and travel and become a lawyer and a plastic surgeon and a forensic scientist and a detective. Whatever, my Grandma introduced me to Law and Order and CSI when I was ten. It happens. If a husband and two kids and a picket fence fits into my plan of “having it all,” it would be breaking news to me.

I don’t understand when we switched from being career-driven, focused, creative young professionals to girls fawning over baby onesies and wedding registries. I will continue to spend the next few years focusing on making myself a better public relations executive while these others girls get their official MRS. degrees. Maybe by the time I’m 36 I’ll consider getting married. If I have the time. And if I do get engaged, you better freaking believe I’m getting a manicure before I mupload that photo onto my Facebook page.