Sunday, March 5, 2017

Nowhere to go and all day to get there

Just boarded the airport train at Lindbergh Center, starting my day's trip to Munich, the first of 2 Munich trips I'll do before Friday. Tethered in the wheelchair "stall" at the front of my car is a grocery shopping cart containing the worldly belongings of a fellow train-rider. I cast a glance at the 7 or 8 other riders in my car wondering, "Whose is it?"  The answer is not obvious; I can't even hazard a guess at first look. 

How different that person's reality is from mine, by what means?  Birth?  Choices?  Fate?  Some combination of those things and others?  The circumstances that guide his/her priorities and decisions are so different from mine. How could I begin to understand them?

Yet we are absolutely equal in all things that matter. Neither has any more or less value than the other. 

So far, we've traveled as far south as Peachtree Center and the cart remains unmoved and unclaimed. It will likely reach the southern terminus of the line and turn around north, whence it came, destination-less. 

No where to go and all day to get there:  I have met my antithesis.

As I exited the train, I realized that the cart remained tethered in place, as did one fellow train rider. He was a noble, yet somehow defiant-looking gentleman of about my age, I'd guess.

Our eyes met as I neared the door. I smiled. He raised his chin in a very dignified way and pretended not to notice."



Sunday, February 19, 2017

So...there was this OTHER guy...

on the same flight home from Sao Paulo the other night!  He was young, probably early to mid-20s, travelling with his family, maybe 6-8 total.  This young man was the polar opposite of our "E+ guy".  He didn't just look in your direction when you addressed him (which in itself is a rarity for those of his age these days).  He looked to make eye contact with you.   Every time!

Once contact was made, his face morphed into a radiant smile.  My immediate reaction, 21st century cynic that I am was, "What is THAT for?"

Life has placed challenge in this young man's path.  I learned quickly that he must be congenitally deaf.  When asked about his dinner choice, his reply was LOUD and had the characteristic atonality of someone who had never heard or who had never heard well, "Whuh?".  His head turned slightly and I saw that he had cochlear implants with hearing aids.  I looked him straight on and repeated the choice.  He beamed as he said, "bee".

His family didn't speak English, so he proceeded to help them make a decision about dinner, loudly and, astoundingly proudly.  He seemed so proud to be able to help them.  It took some time, but I pretended not to understand their "frango" or "carne" so that he could relay, "chi'en" or "bee".

He must have been paying attention to my interaction with "E+ guy" because when I rose from my break, he was settling his family members into the remaining open seats in D zone, making them all more comfortable.  His appearance was striking.  He looked like a character from Harry Potter: over his cothes he wore a long trenchcoat-looking thing made of something like black satin.  It was very "wizardly" looking.

Just after the pre-arrival breakfast, he came to the aft galley to ask for more Customs forms, in English, "Coul' I ha' mo' fo'ms peaz?"

In all those interactions, one thing was constant:  that smile.  "What is THAT for?", I remembered thinking.

I have a pretty good idea what the smile is for.  And I don't think it's any coincidence that my Harry Potter Wizard was onboard the same flight as my E+ guy.

At 56 years old, I pretty much don't believe in "coincidences" any more.


So...there was this guy...

last night on our way home from São Paulo, an older gentleman, I'd say late 60s, who stopped me on a post-service cabin pass to inquire about changing seats.  He was 3-4 rows aft of the Economy Plus (E+) section and wanted to move forward into an empty E+ seat to stretch out (only a fraction of our 200 seats was occupied).

I pointed out the E+ labels overhead and said if you move to a row that doesn't have that label, there is no additional charge but we do charge extra for E+ seats.

"You mean you'd rather let that seat go empty than make a paying customer more comfortable?"

"That's not what I mean at all.  There is an entire cabin behind your seatrow that is wide open.  You can move to any of those seats at no charge.  But "my airline-employer" does charge for the extra legroom seats."

"F-ing friendly skies.  Thanks for nothing, "airline-employer name"."

There's a point where I disengage from uncivil behavior.  He had reached that point.

I went to the aft galley to pickup my handheld device and returned maybe 15 minutes later, allowing him the opportunity to mull.

"Hi. Earlier I offered you a solution that you didn't seem to like.  (Showing him the E+ $219 charge screen on my LINK)  I didn't want to leave you with the wrong impression.

My airline-employer expects me collect for onboard services that have a charge.  I'm an employee.  That's one of my responsibilities.  I did attempt to offer you a no-charge alternative.  If you truly just want room to stretch out, we have plenty.  Come with me and I'll show you.  But I can't give away our products that we charge for."

He harumphed but followed me into D zone where we found 6 rows of 2 seats open and 3 rows of 3 seats, both of which would solve his problem.

"You're welcome to take any of these seats with no charge."

Grudgingly he said, "Thank you."

"You're welcome.  May I ask you a question?  When we first spoke, I offered this solution and you made a remark that was unnecessary and vulgar.  So, I walked away.  I'm curious...has that sort of thing ever worked for you in the past?  It certainly took away any incentive I had to help you."

No response other than a grunt.  I wished him a good rest and exited the situation.  Next thing I knew, he was stretched across 3 seats in the last row, snoring.

We didn't have any other interaction and I'm comfortable with that.  I wanted to leave him in his misery after our first exchange.  My bottom line for going back was I only control me, not him.