Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Saturday, December 13, 2014
Friday, December 12, 2014
Our 1545 scheduled departure had morphed into an actual time of 1815; significantly tardy but well done, all things considered. The not-knowing is what really ramps up anxieties: can we/can't we, will we/won't we, should we/shouldn't we. Of course, anxiety therapy is the REAL job of the 21st century airline professional. Our marketing department is quite successful in raising our customers' expectations to spectacularly unrealistic heights. Then we, in the operation, are tasked with tempering and managing those expectations, in light of the realities of machinery, weather, political instability, global terrorism, etc.
How do cogent, successful human beings become so detached from reality anyway? Are we really so susceptible to the outrageousness of hype? We WANT to believe that the implausible is possible.
At breakfast time, the atmosphere in the cabin was perceptibly "lighter". Captain Hill was able to fulfill his speed commitment and it looked as though we would be arriving at 0915lcl, only about an hour past our scheduled arrival. After service, when everything was buttoned up for landing, I put on my jacket to say good-bye to our guests.
"It was our pleasure to serve you today. I hope that everything was satisfactory and that we'll see you again soon. Thank you for flying UNITED." The folks seldom have much to say after the short night's rest but feedback this morning was positive. "Nice job." "This could have been so much worse." "Wow, how did we make up so much time?"
When I arrived at row 8, I wasn't sure what to expect. Both D and E had been unconscious most of the flight. Now was the time for the opera anxiety to ramp up again, in light of their planned connection. 8D was smiling and gracious, as one might expect. But, other than when expressing outright anger, 8E has one of those "neutral" faces that is almost impossible to read. Who knew what was going on behind those intense eyes?
"Gentlemen, have you consulted united.com about our progress?" 8D, "Yes. It's almost unbelievable that we're only an hour late. It looks like we might make it to VIE in time, after all." "Wonderful. I'm sure that our GS Representatives in AMS will be waiting for you. Thanks for your patience and thanks so much for continuing to choose UNITED."
8E, "I wasn't confident in our chances. You guys really pulled it off tonight. I want to apologize..." as he extended his hand. "Mr 8E, I certainly understand. I didn't take it personally. Your plans were aggressive; maybe too aggressive. But it looks like you'll be able to enjoy Der Rozenkavalier, as planned."
A light conversation about the plans that Philip and I had made ensued. We landed. Rene, our top-notch GS Rep in AMS took over and, I assume, they all lived happily ever after. I haven't heard anything to the contrary.
Philip and I did NOT get to Lohengrin, as we'd planned. Oh well, it's the nature of the business, isn't it? Instead, we enjoyed a nice supper at a favorite Asian restaurant and a nice stroll, ending up at Grand Hotel Amrath-Amsterdam, an Art Nouveau confection of a building whose history is as fascinating as its architecture and decoration. But that's another chapter...
In retrospect, as disastrous as this overall scenario must sound, the pieces of the operations puzzle seemed to come together as designed:
Issue: Rolling delay over a seemingly minor MX issue. Resolution: Timely, calming, informative announcements and appropriate crew presence in the cabin allay growing anxiety.
Issue: MX issue unresolvable. Resolution: Replacement aircraft available and ready for crew and customers, already cleaned. Re-catering accomplished in a timely and competent manner.
Issue: Customer uncertainty and anxiety. Resolution: Again, the announcements were of great help. Each department handled its component of the irregularity efficiently and in a customer-friendly way. Both aircraft were WiFi-equipped, so customers could track our progress inflight in real time.
Issue: Unreasonable expectations (our stock-and-trade) Resolution: Calm, confidence, poise, tact and timing.
Friday, December 5, 2014
Thursday, December 4, 2014
Over the last few years, I've been making a more conscious effort to get OUT of my comfort zone. The more common question for me these days is, "why can't I?" If you've followed me for a while, you've read about some of my little theories and experiments; some more successful than others. But the underlying theme is always, "Make our customer feel welcome and valued in the first few minutes and the rest will be easy."
That's a little easier said than done from the B-zone galley of a 777! Working that position successfully is all about planning and setup. The key preparations are accomplished during that critical first few minutes of customer arrival onboard. It's generally unlikely that the B-zone galley Flight Attendant would ever have much face-to-face interaction with customers but especially not during boarding. Besides, there are 2 Flight Attendants in the aisle whose express purpose is to get folks settled in. Who needs a third?
A week ago, as our crew gathered for the departure of flight 58 to AMS on our Thanksgiving 5-day trip, I noticed two very nattily dressed gentlemen approach the gate podium, looking anxious and excited. They consulted with the agent and took spots in the queue for Boarding Group 1. (Our plane had arrived on-time but was still being cleaned and catered.) Something about their appearance and energy told me that it wouldn't be the last time I'd see them that afternoon and evening. I was right. They were seated in 8D and E, B-zone front and center.
Once the lion's share of boarding was complete, we learned that a seemingly minor maintenance item on one of the cargo doors would likely delay departure for up to 30 minutes. That lessened my own anxiety level because it meant I would have more time to get things in order. But as often happens, the "update in 10 minutes" proved not to be promising. Since most of my tasks were complete already, I put on my jacket and set out to say "hello" to our customers.
When I work premium galley, I'm actually able to do this about 20-30% of the time, circumstances allowing. "Hi, my name is Tony and I'm the Flight Attendant that you won't be seeing very much this evening. I'll be working for you in the galley. If there's anything special that I can do for you, please let me know. I'm happy to do what I can." The responses I get can be interesting: a smile, a laugh, a "thank you" are the most common. 8D and 8E surprised me.
8D was so gracious, his body language was relaxed, he had a smile on his face when he said, "Nice to meet you Tony". 8E was the polar opposite. His face was red and drawn up in a look so sour it would curdle milk. "We have pre-paid reservations for the opera in Vienna. Do you have any idea how long this will be?"
"I don't but this captain is very good about keeping us informed. I'm sure he'll let us know."
"Well, the Global Services desk has already sent a message that they're protecting us on a flight from AMS to VIE that's 2 hours later than what we booked. We're not going to make it and our trip will be ruined."
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Friday, October 24, 2014
Saturday, October 11, 2014
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Friday, September 12, 2014
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Friday, August 29, 2014
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Why doesn't "normal" or "average" get the job done like it once did? More and more it seems that, in order to get our attention, an event or issue must be over the top, sensational, extraordinary; with social media posts being a prime example.
I think back to the utter contentment of my grandparents who raised 8 children (of 10; 2 died in infancy) on a subsistence farm in the rural south during the Depression and celebrated 73 years of marriage together before death separated them. They are my Thoreauvian idyll of contentment. On late winter afternoons/early evenings when the dark came early, we would stop to visit them at home, without notice. The way we would find them, consistently, still inspires me: their chairs were pulled close, side-by-side, by the dwindling flames of the fire. The TV and radio were off. All was silent except for the occasional whip and whistle of the wind against the woefully uninsulatetd windows or an occasional POP from the fire. The room was dark except for the flickering light of the flame and a small lamp, lit on a table in the corner. They were so deep in conversation that they often didn't know we'd come until we opened the door.
I've always wondered, "what were they talking about when we interrupted?"
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
The dreaded visit to THE GEEK SQUAD...
I knew the hard drive on my SONY VAIO notebook was failing. That's why I replaced that computer with a large, inexpensive Windows 8 HP notebook before it was too late. I dutifully transferred my backed up data files then transferred my 10,000+ photos (many laboriously digitally acquired via flatbed scanner). I did it all just in time!
Or so I thought. The photos didn't transfer. The drive died at the next power up. SONY charged $50, all the while assuring me, "we can solve your problem." (Which they did if my problem was having $50 too much money!)
So, here I am with lil Honey, the Best Buy Geek, my Hail Mary pass.
I've just been informed that the files "won't populate" (a $99.99 fix for media backup), so the drive must be "sent off" for data recovery: minimum charge $500 for level 1 and over $1000 for level 3.
Level "0" for $0.00!
I shake lil Homey's hand, thank him for trying, tuck my tail between my legs and slink away.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
A walk in the sunshine and tall grass,
Rife with butterflies and squirrels.
"Good morning", from a magnanimous neighbor, mowing the green belt by the street, improving the neighborhood for all...just because.
An enthusiastic answer to nature's call (twice) and an eager response to "let's go home for a cookie."
Never once doubting or questioning that THIS is how it is meant to be.
Or that tomorrow's promise of the same will be fulfilled over and over again.
It's a dog's life!
Saturday, July 19, 2014
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Philip was making his daily visit to the Produce Dept of our favorite supermarket, scrutinizing (the way that only he can) the avocados. He overheard a lady nearby say, "Do you think he would like some?" and noticed that she was looking in his direction.
She smiled at him. He smiled back. That's when she popped the question:
"Would you like to have some fresh, home-grown tomatoes? I'm visiting from Palestine (TX, 4 hours away) and will never use them all before they ruin." Philip has never been one to turn down a vine-ripened, home-grown tomato, so he followed her to her car. The tomatoes he brought home from that adventure were delicious!
Over a tomato, sweet onion, fresh herb and balsamic vinaigrette salad, Philip said that he had the feeling the lady wanted to hug him. So they hugged. She refused to accept any payment for something so rare that you just cannot find it in the store anymore.
They parted company with his promise, "I will be paying your kindness forward!"
She answered with another smile.
Can you remember the days when this story would have been so common that it wasn't noteworthy enough to repeat?
Just paying forward my part of a (delicious) kindness!
Friday, July 4, 2014
Sunday, June 29, 2014
The Saturday before July 4th had become something of a tradition in the Reece family; the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren of Harold and Alma Reece and anyone lucky enough to be dear to them. My family had begun to convene, reunion-style, at Dad's Ellijay, Georgia heaven-on-Earth every year to celebrate "being", for lack of a better term. I think my parents dreaded the event as much as they eagerly anticipated it, since hosting 100+ can be a tall order, even in an open field beside a lovely mountain stream. But few things brought Dad the joy that this weekend did. It was an honor to be there and to share that joy.
Two years ago, on this weekend in 2012 was very different. My Dad underwent surgery to remove cancerous growth on his brain. We had every reason to believe that procedure would be the end of his life. As it turns out, it was the definitive beginning of his end.
I was able to be with him and with my family thanks to the memorable efforts of a very special Delta employee named Dora, whom I've only seen once or twice since. Dora (last name unknown) will always occupy a special place in my heart and prayers. How different things might have been without her.
Dad survived his surgery in typically jaw-dropping fashion. But he didn't escape the final few steps of his path. They were difficult for all of us, to say the least. Dad took those steps with his characteristic, uncomplaining plodding gait right to the end.
I've said it before but will do so again and again: My Dad was likely the most unexpected teacher for this student of life with a fire for learning, discovering, knowing. We were alike in many ways but different in just enough ways to make our journey together a struggle, as much for him as for me!
In the final analysis, if there ever is such a thing, Neal Reece taught me the most important lesson I'm ever likely to learn. He taught me how to face my fate with dignity and grace. It's a tough lesson to learn.
I can only imagine how difficult it was to teach.