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! 

Staying Connected When You’re Offline

Last week I went on my first vacation since December. Woof. Definitely well needed and in my mind, well deserved.

I have a plan to visit as many, if not every, baseball stadium in the county. With that in mind, I headed off to Chicago with my Dad in tow. There were plenty of other items on the agenda (eating deep dish pizza, visiting the Bean, heading to the top of Sears Tower) but our trip was planned around Wrigley Field and the Cubs’ home schedule.

Thursday morning I caught up on emails and social media before heading out for a day of sightseeing and tourist attractions. I saw that a key influencer in the communications industry was in Chi-Town for a business meeting and a speech. He asked if anyone was interested in grabbing coffee before he headed back to LGA.

Most of the time, I’m convinced my parents have absolutely no idea what I do for a living. My dad asked if I was posting pictures to Twitter of our carrot cake Wednesday night. He got an A for effort. The only reason he cares about Facebook is because they are now a publicly traded company and he owns shares of Zuck’s stock.

So when I asked if he was cool with me meeting an older guy from the interwebs for some coffee, I was expecting a pretty chilly reaction. Much to my surprise, he asked if this was important to me. It was. Off we went.

I’d like to thank Peter Shankman for sitting down to talk PR (and life) with me. There is nothing comparable to meeting someone you respect and admire for their success, especially when your passions align. I even had the chance to pitch a client’s new product. Now I get to leave the Windy City with great Instagram photos, a stomach full of Chicago hot dogs, and a new connection under my belt to bring back to my office. I’d consider that a successful four-day trip.

What did I learn about this when situation? Maybe it’s not that important to be entirely offline. Disconnecting is always healthy and a way to stay refreshed, but you never want to be so isolated that you miss opportunities that can happen outside of a cubicle. Another important lesson for professionals my age: there are people out there willing to chat with a newly minted graduate. Grow a pair. Put down the cell phone. Nothing beats face to face networking.

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.

Beyond the Blue & White

I seem to have neglected this little friend for a few months, but I think now is as good of time as any to remount this pony.

I’ve debated for weeks writing something about my feelings towards the Penn State scandal. I always felt someone with more talent and a better way with words could say it better than I could. I kept my thoughts to myself in order to avoid an onslaught of hate tweets and spam commenters telling me I support child abuse. I think I’m past that point now. Screw what the commenters say and the media and those who have never stepped foot in the 16802 zip code.

I didn’t grow up a Penn Stater. I wasn’t raised in blue and white, I never attended a football game in Beaver Stadium until my freshman year, and I learned about Happy Valley on an accepted students tour. My aunt, a college advisor for high school students, told me that I should apply to Penn State because it didn’t require an additional essay. Ah, priorities. But that didn’t stop me from falling in love with the campus and everything Penn State had to offer. It didn’t prevent me from having the best possible collegiate experience I could have ever imagined. Penn State was what I thought college should be and so much more.

So maybe that’s why I have felt so lost and hurt and confused since November. Maybe this would be easier if I didn’t love my university. There are a thousand maybe’s I could list. Maybe if I hadn’t taken classes with professors who worked for USA Today and the New York Times and the White House and taught me the basis of everything I know about public relations. Maybe if I hadn’t found a sorority to open my eyes to new perspectives and possibilities. Maybe if I hadn’t found THON and learned the power of changing someone’s life. Maybe. But I did.

And now I feel all of these feelings. I won’t say I’m ashamed to be a Penn Stater, because that was never true. I am ashamed for the people who think I am a blind supporter of Joe Paterno because I still plan on going to football games. I am ashamed for those who think students (and our current athletes) had anything to do with these crimes, this scandal, and its cover up. I am disappointed that people can be so clueless, so ignorant and still feel like they have the right to say things to ME … just because I have a Penn State degree. I am hurt that the people who were expected to do the right thing, the moral thing instead felt they were above the law. I am heartbroken every time I hear Penn State in the news AGAIN for something else related to the actions of one despicable man and those who tried to negate his actions.

This is beyond the football. This is beyond the academics. This is beyond the administration. This is beyond the blue and white. This is our new reality.

Men have made mistakes and cowered away from their responsibilities. The rest of us are left to clean up their actions and continue to remind people what it truly means to be a Penn Stater. And one day, sooner than we think, Penn State will be back in the headlines for the GOOD that comes out of our university.

I am looking forward to that day.

You Are Now the Mayor of …

After an interesting development this evening, I started thinking about the possibility of someone in our generation lying about their whereabouts and what they are doing on any given evening. For people our age (Generation Millenial or whatever we are known as), every aspect of our lives is documented through social media, whether we like it or not.

I like to think I have control over what I broadcast about myself over the internet but I know that really isn’t the case. I choose when to check in on FourSquare and what to mupload to Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram/ etc. My accounts are followed by fellow professionals, coworkers and most importantly, my mother. Just as I tried to make sure want professors in college didn’t know if I had gone out the night before their class (damn you insufferable bar stamps), I am becoming more proactive about what and how I say via the internet.

So what happens when we tell a person we will be some place (like at home for the night), we purposely do not check in or tweet or post about our location, and then someone else tags us at a bar or out galavanting somewhere downtown. Wham. Right there on creepy feed, Mark Zuckerberg blowing up our spot. Definitely not streaming Netflix but instead out for a night on the town. Dirty little secrets aired to the public, All American Rejects style.

When public check-ins were becoming more popular, stories stated to hit the news about wives catching their husbands in affairs. The men were tagged in places nowhere near their homes or offices after telling their wives they were working late. Even if they were covering their tracks, a buddy could have checked them in at a sports bar or a strip club or anywhere they weren’t supposed to be, without even realizing the potential disasters. Like any tech-savvy person, the immediate next step was to start lying and checking in places they clearly weren’t.

Let’s ignore the bigger issue of people having to lie to their significant others. What is the appropriate course of action for us to take when we catch someone in this lie? Are we allowed to saw a person wasn’t where he or she claimed to be because a photo on our newsfeed said so? Or is that consider “stalking?”

For now, I would like to think I took the mature road by not posting a snarky comment on the photo that popped up on my mind, even though I clearly caught this person in a lie. My reaction was much more adult-like and sophisticated.

I’m giving this person the silent treatment.