Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Looking for the Good

So, a funny thing happened on the way from Amsterdam to Houston...

After posting my admonition yesterday (I regularly post in a social media group of my airline peers) about finding and focusing on the quiet, content, "majority" customers in your workday rather than those who tend to monopolize your time and attention for all the wrong reasons, I had the chance to practice what I preach.  As predicted, flight 59 was a "full boat", somewhat complicated by a 777 aircraft with an inoperative lavatory and myriad electrical issues including uncontrollable cabin lights (undimmable) in A zone and ZERO galley power (no ovens, coffeemakers, worklights, chillers, etc.) in the economy galley at the start.  Our British Airways maintenance guy resolved the galley power issues amazingly quickly, hardly impacting our departure time.  All else was left to sort out using highly seasoned service skills!

All the usual culprits were present and accounted for; many made their presence known during boarding.  Many more "rose to the surface" during the meal delivery:

Me to 20DEF: "Would you prefer chicken with rice, beef with potatoes or the vegetarian option?"  20F to me, very sarcastically:  "I ordered the vegetarian, NOT chicken!"  Me to 20F:  "Look again.  Your meal is chickpea masala with lentils."  20F to me:  "Hmm." (accompanied by a face that would curdle cream).

21L to my friend and colleague Salvador M. (you should ALL have the pleasure of working with Salvador some day!):  "My video is STILL not working."  Savaldor to 21L:  "I'm sorry.  After you brought it to my attention during the first beverage service, I called to have your seat reset.  Let me get our Service Manager involved."  According to Salvador, his repeated earnest attempts to resolve were met with an impassive glare.

Of course, there were many more "for instances" but I'll bet you GET THE PICTURE!

After service completion, Salvador mentioned to me that he had tried to do what I proposed in yesterday's post:  find the "good ones" and focus on them.  As we discussed my premise, I asked if he noticed the grandmother and granddaughter in 41JK, for example?

As I passed with the meal cart, the granddaughter was crocheting and the two of them were DEEP in conversation, enthralled in each other's company.  It was astonishing!  When's the last time you saw a 10-11 year old girl prefer conversation with her grandmother to an iPad or "gameboy"?  And she was crocheting while they spoke!  The only break in their tete-a-tete was to smile and respond politely when I asked what they preferred to eat.

The gentleman in 43F was EXCEEDINGLY polite and pleasant in even the smallest exchange.  Eye contact, smiles, "yes, please", "no, thank you", he was truly an old-school human.

Two more highlights of my trip appeared during the final 2 hours of the 10+ hour flight.  While I was preparing for the pre-landing snack service (I was aft galley), an older lady appeared at the area by Door 4L with her AAdvantage credit card in hand.  "Excuse me.  I'm sorry to bother you.  Will wine be offered with our dinner?"  I looked up to the smiling, earnest face of someone who cares about her appearance and cares about the impression she makes on others.  "Yes, we will offer a full beverage service along with a hot sandwich before landing."  (If I'm being honest, I was hoping to dismiss her so that I could finish my task.  I get that way sometimes).  But there was just something about her....."But if you'd like some wine now, I'd be happy to get it for you."  "Oh no, I don't want to bother you.  I can wait."  And she meant it.

I insisted.  And when I handed her the white wine, she offered her credit card.  I don't know what it was about her.  She just EPITOMIZED what I'd been pontificating about.  I hadn't even noticed her during the meal service and I am the one who served her!  "Oh no, please take this one with the compliments of the airline.  Merry Christmas!"

Well, that one exchange unleashed a WAVE of positive energy!

When we offered the sandwiches before landing, my new friend in 21C introduced me to her "roommate" in 21D who, she said, had been a "Stewardess" for Braniff in 1952.  What an elegant lady she appeared to be!  She reminded me of a retired colleague who I had much admired in Honolulu, Donna Hamilton.  Beautiful, lithe, elegant-of-movement, well put together and she was oh so charming!  I asked if they would accept a bottle of champagne to help celebrate their holiday together and, well, you can just imagine how that went...

As we were collecting the snack boxes in preparation for landing, I was on the opposite side of the cabin.  When I arrived at the row 41 area, I noticed that my crocheting granddaughter was now absorbed in a movie and that her grandmother was playing Candy Crush on an iPad!  What irony!  As I collected, I asked the granddaughter what she was crocheting.  In very halting English, she said, "a blanket".  The grandmother looked up BEAMING.  I asked, "who taught you to crochet?"  Without hesitation, the grandmother said proudly, "I learned her."  I replied, "when I was about your age, my grandmother and her sister taught me how to crochet.  It takes a lot of skill and patience."  She said, "I make blanket for my puppy."  Who knows if they fully understood me but I mentioned that I had noticed them in conversation earlier and that it made me happy to see them so happy.  I think they got it!  As I started to walk away, the little girl smiled and said, "Merry Christmas".

Roxanne H., Salvador M., Michael H., Amy W., Philip S. and I were together in Economy yesterday AMS/IAH.  It was a full boat with all the usual obstacles; a long and tiring day.  I don't know about the rest of them but if you ask me what I remember about the experience, you'll get a quick response...

"Merry Christmas!", plain and simple.

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