Sorry for the late blog. I had a bit of an adventure traveling yesterday. An hour delay in Missoula due to rain in Chicago made me twenty minutes late for my flight to Greenville. If someone doesn’t think everything on this earth is intrinsically connected, take a flight and see how closely intertwined everything is.
Since I didn’t get to Chicago until 7pm, the 6:40 flight to Greenville that I missed was the last one of the night. They sent me to the customer service desk to get rebooked on the next flight out.
At the customer service desk, a woman and her kid were in front of me. I recognized them, because they had sat next to me on the plane from Missoula. The delay had screwed them as well. They were trying to get to Boston and the next flight wasn’t until 7am. The woman was in a panic. Her kid was bouncing around the desk, saying she had to use the bathroom over and over again. The woman working the customer service desk offered her a hotel room and a meal voucher for the night. She said thank you and rushed away before her daughter peed on herself.
Now it was only the two of us in the line. No one in front, no one behind. That is important information for the remainder of the story. It was literally just her and I. When she left, it was just I.
A gentlemen called me to the front. I told him I was on the same flight and that I needed to get to Greenville. He could get me to Charlotte at 1 in the morning, but if I wanted to go to Greenville that wouldn’t happen until 7:09am. Which meant I would have to reschedule me chemo. Which meant another night sleeping out of my suitcase. Which meant another night not getting to see Jaimie.
I was calm about the whole situation. Nothing could be done about it, so why get angry. I told him that I would take the 7:09 flight and then proceeded to ask about getting a room voucher.
“We don’t give room vouchers for weather delays,” he said.
“But you just gave one to the woman in front of me,” I replied.
“Maybe she was on a different flight.”
“No, we sat next to each all the way from Montana.”
“Who offered her the room voucher,” he asked.
I looked for the customer service worker but she had walked away.
“Let me get my supervisor.”
About ten minutes later the supervisor came up to talk to me. I explained the situation, and the supervisor said once again, that they don’t give room vouchers for weather delays.
“But you just gave one to the person in front of me. On the same flight. There’s no one else here.”
“Who gave her the voucher?”
As she asked that question, miraculously, the woman who gave the voucher came behind the desk.
“I did. I gave her the voucher. It’s because she had a kid.”
“I understand that,” I said as calmly as I could. “I just don’t understand why I wouldn’t be given one as well, considering it happened right in front of me and again, no one else is asking.”
That’s when things broke bad.
The woman who gave the voucher was clearly not feeling me. “She had a kid,” she said, her exacerbation starting to show. “Don’t you understand that people have different things going on in their lives””
I’m not quite sure what it was, but something about that last sentence got to me. Do I understand that people have different things going on in their lives? Do I understand?
Now I’m fairly open about my diagnosis, but I don’t just go dropping the C word to total strangers. I certainly don’t try to use it to my advantage.
“Yes, I understand that people have things going on in their lives,” I said, my breathing starting to get short and heavy. I took a pause to decide if I was really going to do it. I didn’t want to, but there was something about the week away from home and the prospect of spending the night on a chair in the airport with my lungs the way they air that made me go there. “So I have, um, I have cancer, and it’s kind of in my lungs right now, and I’m supposed to have chemo in the morning, so yeah, I do understand that people have things going on in their lives.”
It was embarrassing, hearing it out loud. It was embarrassing admitting it, it was embarrassing to see the looks on the faces of these people I had never met before. I felt like I had played the C card. And I didn’t feel good about it.
But soon that embarrassment turned to rage, as the customer service agent who had offered the woman in front of me the room voucher rolled her eyes at me.
YOU READ THAT RIGHT. SHE ROLLED. HER. EYES. AT ME.
I exploded. “Did you just roll your eyes at me??”
“I wasn’t even looking at you,” the woman said, and went back on her break.
By this point the supervisor who had been brought over to deal with me was horrified. “I’m so sorry, sir. Here, let’s get you a room voucher.” She tried to make small talk with me as everything printed up, but my rage blackout prevented me from doing anything beyond nodding my head.
I called and complained to the airline when I got to the hotel. The person listening was very apologetic, and told me I should file a written complaint. I probably won’t. In the grand scheme of things I got what I wanted. And I’m not in the business of getting people fired.
It was a good reminder though. We interact with so many people every day, and have no idea what’s going on in their worlds. It’s a good reminder to never assume someone’s life is perfect. You never know what card they can play.