Sunday, March 20, 2011
I really, really, really, love Southwest Airlines
During the month of March and April, I travel heavily speaking at various events around the country. This year, I am booked for twenty two engagements. March is Women History Month and April is National Pest Control Month. This post comes to you from the road. Being a woman of color in the pest control industry keeps me talking about glass ceiling issues. There is no glass ceiling over my head but this topic seems to be associated with women who work in non-traditional fields. I give groups what they want with clarification of how I view the glass ceiling.
I originally planned to blog about women in business figures but I was side tracked with my original thoughts with my travel adventures that started at the Nashville Airport. When you are a frequent traveler, you learn to just be a trooper and get to your destination. Everything else will work itself out, I tell myself to keep me pumped. I usually fly Southwest Airlines who are by far the best deal for my traveling budget. When speaking at conferences, they usually have a conference sponsored airline. I have learned to work my way out of them if all possible if I can get Southwest as an option.
Last week, I flew Delta. I felt trepidation early on and could not shake my thoughts that the next week of traveling was going to be awful. That emotion hung over me and my feelings of dread was birthed into reality. After preparing for weeks for life on the road in twenty two cities, I left Tuesday headed to the airport to catch my five o’clock flight to New York. I got there an hour ahead since I did not fly Delta regularly. “A quick trip to New York and back”, I thought to myself. A piece of cake, right? Wrong. My smugness came to an abrupt halt before my trip even got started.
The gentleman at Delta’s curbside check-in took about twenty minutes with two women ahead of me. I waited patiently by spending my time tweeting and fidgeting with anything that was not really something. When my turn came to check in, he pulled out a red tarp and started to lock down his stand. Stunned, I started tripping over my words trying to ask a question as if English was my second language. “What’s going on,” I managed to ask without sounding too alarmed. Without hesitation he said, “My shift is done.” Just like that, he walked away. In total disbelief, I checked my watch and rushed inside and that is when things went from awful to downright disastrous. Enter Richard W. (That was the name on the badge that is burned into my memory.)
Richard W. started with a “You are not going to make your flight.” No, “now let’s see what we can do for you” or a “wait let’s call the gate”. Not even a status check of the flight. He started with a no and he never left that mindset. It was “no” from the beginning and he was running the show. I tried not to sound too agitated but I asked, “Could you check to make sure the flight is on time?” Skeptically, he looked at me and then at my mink coat in my hand, insulted that I asked him a question and said, “That’s not fair to have others waiting on you.” Damn, I should have left the mink coat at home. Richard W. was not feeling me or my mink in Nashville with the bright sun shining. I brought my coat because my New York weather reports were forecasting snow.
I wishfully glanced down at the Southwest counter and wondered if Shirley was on duty but my ticket was booked by my agent and I needed to get on the flight so I stayed put. Richard W. sensing my pondering using another airline started searching flights. He mumbled a few words every few minutes and had to check with his supervisor several times because something was “not working”. I stood quietly knowing that if I showed out with this guy who was showing a lack patient with his own equipment, my butt would be sitting in Nashville another night. Stick with me; I am getting to a point.
As Richard W. went through several Delta employees for help, he bumped heads with a “Nigerian fellow” behind the counter who was not as patience as I was trying to be. The Nigerian sent over his supervisor to straighten out Richard W. She asked Richard W. if he could have handled whatever occurred between the Nigerian and Richard W. three kiosks down better. Richard W. was not having any of that check your attitude talk. Right in front of me, Richard W. gave his thoughts about his co-worker. His thoughts were very ugly.
Yep, Richard W. was ready for a strait jacket after an hour of banging on his computer keyboard. No doubt about; his issues kept coming. His printer did not work. He had no change and he did not know what to do about putting me on a flight that would not put me in first class. My mink would have clashed with the folks in first class, I assumed from Richard’s demeanor. Richard W. was a piece of work for sure. Two hours and $75 later, I was rerouted to tour the US’s other 49 states. What was supposed to be a night of prepping me for my media blitz with my agent was spent on one flight after another one. Thank you, Richard W.
I made it to my New York hotel at one in the morning. By the time I was able to catch my breath, emails for a story I had promised a publisher once I landed in New York was being sent with my epithet attached. Jennifer, a graphic designer, who was covering for me about my delayed story was wondering how long she was going to keep making up excuses for me. As for those waiting for me in New York, their concern prompted two phone calls home that sent everyone into frenzy. I am very adamant about checking in when traveling alone. I also missed two radio interviews. Ooy. Loving that Richard W., huh?
So what’s my point, you are wondering? We are living in crazy times. I don’t know what was going on with Richard W. but something was definitely out of sync with him. One person’s bad day can have a ripple effect. And when you are in the business of traveling as part of your living, you are always at tipping point. I kept reminding myself not to become drawn into the negative energy that was swirling around me at every turn at the counter. I thought about how many people who are in need of jobs right now who would have sold an arm to stand behind the counter at Delta. I thought about all the protests happening in the Middle East and the number of people in our country that were protesting to hold on to their jobs and livelihoods and the last thing I wanted to do was to add toxic fuel to the energy that is permeating the air globally.
Instead, I found myself trying really hard to focus on why I needed to be grateful. Being able to travel to share about things I am passionate about in life is manna from heaven. Meeting people from around the world and being able to sit at the table with others who care about the little things that go unnoticed but are important to how we perceive the world we live in is a blessing to me. Looking for the good and not allowing someone else’s really, really, really bad day pull me down is growth for me that I recognized immediately while standing captive at Delta’s counter. I could visualize me in days gone by throwing a hissy fit few years ago and taking the toxic energy from one airline counter to another one.
I took to twitter on Wednesday morning, to share with others about my eventful day with Richard W. that left others laughing and sharing their travel experiences. I hope next week is not as eventful and my decision to not participate with Richard W. in his moments of madness gave me time to think about the energy that we send out to others. On my way return trip home, I encountered Janet Soto at the Delta counter at LaGuardia. Her day was just as bad as Richard W. By the time I made it back to Nashville, I had written several thank you notes to Southwest Airlines.
I really, really, really love Southwest Airlines.
Photo Credits: Southwest Airlines Collen C. Barrett - President Emeritus and Gary Kelly, CEO
Author note: This story was originally published in The Tennessee Tribune Newspaper
P.S. I have read every book written about Southwest Airlines published and I believe Ms. Barrett is the ultimate case study for Women in Business!