Fun_People Archive
1 Nov
Travel Travails

Date: Mon,  1 Nov 93 01:05:39 PST
To: Fun_People
Subject: Travel Travails

 From: (Dave Yost)
 From: (Curtis Jackson)
 From Travel Weekly September 16, 1985

Diary of a Reservations Agent 
By Jonathan Lee

After 130,000 conversations--all  ending with  "Have a  nice day and thanks
for calling"--I think it's fair to say I'm a survivor.  I've made it through
all the calls from  adults who didn't know the difference between a.m. and
p.m., from mothers of military recruits  WHO didn't trust their  little
soldiers to  get it right, from the woman  who called to get advice on how
to handle the man  who wanted to ride  inside the kennel with his dog so he
wouldn't have to pay for a seat, from the woman who wanted  to know why she
had to  change clothes  on our flight between Chicago and Washington (she
was  told she'd have to make a  change between the two cities) and from the
man who asked if I'd like to discuss the existential humanism that emanates
from the soul of Habeeb. In five  years,  I've  received  more than a  boot
camp education regarding the astonishing  lack of  awareness of  our
American  citizenry. This lack of awareness encompasses  every region of
the country,  economic status, ethnic background and level of education. My
battles have included everything from  a man not knowing how to spell the
name of the city he was from to another not recognizing the name "Iowa" as
being  a state, to another who thought  he had to  apply for  a foreign
passport to fly to  West Virginia.  They are the enemy, and they are
everywhere. In  the  history  of  the  world,  there  has  never been as
much communication and new things to learn as today.  Yet, after asking a
woman from New York what city she wanted to go to in Arizona, she asked,
"Oh... is it a big place?" I talked to a woman  in Denver who had  never
heard of Cincinnati,  a man in Minneapolis who  didn't know there  was more
than  one city in the South ("wherever the South is"), a woman in Nashville
who asked,  "Instead of paying for your ticket,  can I just donate that
money to the  National Cancer Society?" and a man in Dallas who tried to
pay for his ticket  by sticking quarters in the pay phone he was calling
from. I knew a full invasion was on the way when, shortly after signing on,
a man asked me if we flew to Exit 35 on the New Jersey Turnpike.  Then  a
woman asked if we flew to area code 304.  And I knew I had been shipped off
to the front when I was  asked, "When an airplane comes in, does  that mean
it's arriving or departing?" I remembered the strict training  I had just
received--four weeks  of regimented classes on airline codes, computer
technology and telephone behavior--and it allowed for no means of
retaliation. "Troops," we were told, "it's a real  hell out there  and ya
got  no defense.  You're gonna hear things so silly you  can't even make
'em  up. You'll try to explain  stuff to your friends  that you don't even
believe yourself, and just when you think you've heard it all, someone will
ask if then can get a  free roundtrip ticket  to Europe by  reciting 'Mary
Had  a Little Lamb.'" Well, Sarge was right.  It wasn't long before I
suffered a direct hit from a woman who wanted to fly  to Hippopotamus, N.Y.
After assuring  her that there was no such place, she became irate and said
it was a big city with a big airport.  I asked if Hippopotamus was near
Albany or  Syracuse. It wasn't.  Then I asked if it was near Buffalo.
"Buffalo," she said,  "I knew it was a big animal!" Then I crawled out of
my bunker long enough to be confronted by a man who tried to catch our
flight to Maconga.   I told him I'd never heard  of Maconga and we certainly
didn't fly to it.  But he insisted we did and  to prove it showed me his
ticket: Macon, GA. Now I've  done nothing  during  my conversational
confrontations to indicate that I couldn't understand  English.   But  after
quoting  the ROUNDTRIP fare the passenger JUST ASKED FOR he'll always ask:
"...Is  that ROUNDTRIP?" But I've survived to direct the lost, correct the
wrong, comfort the weary, teach  U.S.  geography and  give  tutoring in the
spelling  and pronunciation of American cities.  I have been told things
like, "I can't go stand-by for your flight because I'm in a wheelchair."
I've been asked such questions as: "I  have a connecting flight to
Knoxville.  Does  that mean the  plane sticks to something?"  And once  a
man  wanted to  go  to Illinois.  When I asked  what city he wanted go  to
in Illinois, he  said, "Cleveland, Ohio." After 130,000 little wars of
varying degrees, I'm a wise old veteran of the communication conflict  and
can anticipate  with accuracy what the next move "by them" will be.
Seventy-five percent won't have anything  to write with  or  on.   Half
will have  not thought about  when  they're returning.  A third won't know
where they're going.  A few won't care if they get back.  And James will be
the first name of half the men who call. But even if James doesn't care if
he gets to the city he never  heard of; even if he can't spell, pronounce
or remember what city he's returning to, he'll get there  because I've
worked  very hard to  make sure that  he can.  Then with a click in the
phone, he'll become a part of my past  and I'll be hoping that the next
caller at least knows what day it is. Oh, and James...  "Thanks for calling
and have a nice day."

Jonathan Lee is a Nashville, Tenn.-based reservations agent and
writer  of television commercial jingles.   This article
originally appeared in  the Washington Post.

[=] © 1993 Peter Langston []