Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Turning "no" into a flight home

By Sunday, I was really ready to come home. There were things I wanted to do - an invitation to the Art Institute or a sightseeing cruise - but when it all came down, I just wanted to see my boys before they went to bed that night.

Unfortunately, my flight didn't get in until 10:00 PM. They would have been asleep for hours.

Having used up every ounce of fabricated extrovertedness I could muster anyhow, I packed my bags and headed to the airport. I took a taxi to the train station and the train to O'Hare. It cost me around $10, mainly because I ridiculously over tip cab drivers.

My first stop was the American Airlines self check in. "I would like to catch an earlier flight home. Can you help me?" I asked.

"No, but you can do that on the self serve kiosk behind you."

"No" number one.

I move to the kiosk and begin typing in all of my information. The kiosk informs me that there are no seats available for an earlier flight.

"No" number two.

There is an American employee standing beside the kiosk, so I smile and ask her if I there is another option to finding an earlier flight home. She shakes her head and told me that the people at the desk have the same information as the kiosk.

"No" number three.

At this point, I was checked in for my late flight home, and I still had four hours to kill. I went and stood in line at the main American counters.

When it was my turn, I stepped up to the man behind the counter and said very calmly, "I would really like to get home sooner, can you help me get on an earlier flight? I know the kiosk said there wasn't anything, but I was hoping you might be able to help me."

He said he would try and began plucking away at the keyboard of his computer. No weather delays. Lots of standby passengers already. There was nothing he could do.

"No" number four.

I asked him what gate the next flight to Raleigh would be using, and he told me. He said I could ask the gate agent, but there wouldn't be anything for them to tell me.

After I made it through a very slow security line, I found the gate with the plane leaving for Raleigh.

FINAL BOARDING CALL the sign blinked above the desk.

I stepped up and smiled at an incredibly tired looking attendant.

"Yes? Do you need something?" she asked.

Pulling out my calm smile once again, I told her that I had hoped that she could get me on this flight to go home. I really just want to go home.

Sigh. "I have too many standby passengers as it is. I'm not putting you on my standby list."

"No" number five.

I smiled and raised my eyebrows at her.

Sigh. "I guess you can wait there and see."

I replied, "I've got nothing but time. Thank you so much."

She went through her remaining list of standby passengers. One by one they boarded the plane. Finally, she turned to me and said, "I guess I can take you, but it will be $75."

"Wonderful," I said. "I could just hug you, although that would be inappropriate."

A quick scan of my card (justified by not spending the money on the cruise or a cab home later that night) and an even quicker text to Kevin to tell him I was on my way, and I boarded the plane with not one, but two seats to myself. Ninety minutes later, I was landing in Raleigh and hugging my boys.

Turns out, they even delivered my luggage to me the next day instead of making me come back to the airport and pick it up. I did a lot of smiling at that guy too.

There are so many times when I'm told "no," and I just give up. It doesn't seem worth arguing or fighting back. Of course, this time I didn't argue, and I didn't fight. I just kept smiling and asking the question in a different way to a different person.

And come to find out, "no no no no no" in American Airlines vocabulary? Actually means "yes."