Sunday, February 11, 2007

Worthless Rage

We live in such a fast pace world that when things slow down or doesn’t move as we think they should it’s a catalyst for stress. For some it’s a recipe for rage.

In the hustle and bustle of the New Delhi airport, standing in the British Airlines check-in line a man was yelling as loud as he could, shaking his fist and causing quite a stir. Turns out that he was told that he was going to have to pay a considerable amount for overweight baggage and he was outraged. The little girl behind the check-in desk was the object of his scorn, though he was sharing his wrath her supervisor and BA in general. His conclusion was that he wasn’t going to pay, and told his family of four that they would just go home. As they were escorted from check-in he continued his tirade and I stepped into his spot, still warm with fury.

The girl smiled and said, “Sorry about that. But he’ll be back?”

“Really,” I said, “how do you know?”

“They all do,” she answered. “They make a scene and make threats, but they won’t miss their flight.”

Sure enough, before boarding I saw the irritant man with wife and two children in-tow. I wondered if airline gave him a discount on the baggage fee? I find it interesting that some people seem to barter for anything and everything. I could as easily see this guy yelling at the vegetable vendor or the rickshaw driver as to the BA attendant. Does he really think he can negotiate the price of luggage as lettuce? Perhaps.

Our departure from Delhi was delayed over an hour. Snow and low visibility in London caused another holdup. Backlog of getting flights in and out of Heathrow caused a traffic jam and our plane wasn’t able to park at its gate. I had just forty-five minutes before my next flight but felt that I could still catch my connection. One hour later, we were still stuck on the tarmac and the natives were getting restless. In desperation/frustration a French passenger lost it and stood up to take his bags down from the overhead bin. Surrounded by three flight attendants they tried to restrain him and moved him back to his seat. I’m not sure where he thought he would go if he got his bags, open the side door and jump off?

Once off the plane rather than standing in the long line at the transfer desk I opted to go to my gate and see if the flight to Chicago was also delayed. The door to the jet way was literally closing when I arrived, but I was able to catch it before it locked. I made my flight, but assumed my bags wouldn’t. I was right.

When I started writing blogs I wanted to call it “Lost Luggage” as it seems to be my lot in life. On arriving at Northwest Arkansas Regional airport, the second thing I did after hugging my daughter and granddaughter was to tell them, “I need to file lost baggage claim.” My daughter just moaned having to go through the familiar and time-consuming ritual. Twenty-four hours later my bags arrived, a mere ten hours before my flight to Los Angeles.

I have been traveling for more years and miles than most people. In the process of time, partly through observing others, I’ve learned some crucial life lessons that help, not only when in transient, but also facing everyday challenges.

First, there are some things we can’t control. I wish it hadn’t snowed in London causing the backlog inbound/outbound traffic. But snow is one of those things that God does, not man. To pour wrath on humans for a non-human circumstance doesn’t make sense. Not only does yelling not do any good, it makes the screaming manic look like a two year old throwing a temper tantrum. I’m not impressed with those who scream at employees to vent their frustration. They just look like idiots and they solve anything.

Second, when bad things happen to good people, me, the best thing to do is rise above problem -- yeah, be better than the situation. Why? Because I still can’t change anything and if it can be changed I probably can get the same mileage in making it right by being civil rather than being hostile. I must have called American Airlines five times in one day inquiring about my lost luggage. They were courteous and so was I. Yelling at the person on the other end of the telephone line, whose only job is looking at the computer screen, wasn’t going to get my bags to me any faster.

My daughter reminded me that I wasn’t always so laid back and non-aggressive. But she also admitted that she likes this dad over the old one. Wish I had learned these lessons years ago.