Fixing the Line

It’s been a long day at the Philadelphia airport.fixing-the-line
I still haven’t gotten to where I am going, Las Vegas, but at least I know I have a good chance of getting there now.The day started out “routinely” enough… Drive to the airport. Park the car. Get to the terminal. Get through security. Get on the plane. Go. Get there. I sure have been reminded today that many unexpected things can happen within that seemingly short chain of events. The drive to the airport part was longer than expected, the off site valet parking place ended up being well off the beaten path. I arrived, after allowing for 30 minutes to get lost 25 minutes late after that. Driving to the airport didn’t happen on time to catch the flight as the main road that gets there had a water main break.But wait, there’s more.

When I got to the airport, the economy parking lot was full and the only spots open were ones with short term rates. I decided to go in search of another off site place to park at that point- deciding not to go back to the original place as I was unsure of how I even got to the airport and didn’t want to try my luck back-tracking. I had no idea where to look. About 1/2 mile away along the road I found myself on, I found a place which worked out to be about the same price as the economy lot so I drove in and got a ride in their shuttle to the terminal.

When I got to the terminal, there was a line the likes of which I haven’t seen in probably 8 years waiting to check in or talk to ticket agents. Several flights had been cancelled and a lot of people need to re-book flights. I was told if I got myself on the standby list for the next flight going out within 2 hours of my original flight I could wave their usual fee. My larger concern as I looked at the seemingly endless line going from one end of the terminal to the other was that I wouldn’t get to a ticket agent in time to get on the standby list in any useful point on a list, and I would pay the fee to boot.

I saw the self serve lines were infinitely shorter so I went up to one and tried to rebook on the computer there. I was given the message that I needed to speak to an agent. There was one right in front of me so I walked up to the counter and waited for her to help me. I stayed quiet and let her finish the flurry of things she was doing. She then looked up, took my now useless boarding pass and re booked me as standby on the next flight. Total wait time: 15 minutes.

Funny how a 15 minute wait can be perceived, depending on the context.

More developments. After a long security line (which I watched with fascination get exponentially longer after I got in it), I finally got to the gate. The flight was delayed 3 hours.
And the flight was overbooked by 10 people. And there were 10 on the waiting list. I saw the potential for a lot of waiting for me. I figured that, better than getting rolled over to the next plane where there were only 3 seats that could be taken before I got one, and then the next one, etc. – maybe it was worth it to go to the customer service desk and see if perhaps they could shuttle me to Las Vegas via whatever, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Boston, LAX, San Francisco, Maui Hawaii(why not?) or…?

So, over to the customer service desk I went. I got in what I thought was the line, directly in front of the counter, only to be met with scowls and sharp tones of “excuse me buddy, the line’s over here”.

Yup. there is was. Going off to the left, was a short line of people waiting to speak to the airline representatives behind the counter. They were enduring the situation at best. At one point the guy at the head of the line we were in walked over and roped off the area with a stand that the airline had in place to delineate where you should go. Finally, the small group of Asian tourists and the elderly man who were at th counter when I got in line both left at the same time and both representatives were free to speak with the two people ahead of me.

Now I was at the front of the line. A woman stepped up to where she thought the line was, stepping through the roped off area the guy ahead of me had created which had mysteriously come open again. Now I was making the “hey buddy” comment.

She stepped to the back of the line which was now meandering behind me a ways, threatening to go into the seating area and towards the windows. I looked at the people behind me, the empty line to the side, then said “I’ll take the lead- how about we put the line back to where it makes sense?” They agreed, but no one moved until I did. Then, they all filed in behind me.

Finally it was my turn to go to the counter. The woman, let’s call her Angela, listened to my story and started to look for ways to help me get where I wanted to go.

“You know, Las Vegas isn’t the easiest place to get to.”

“Get me there anyway you can, anything you can do.” I replied.

Her fingers were busy typing. Occasionally she would stop, furrow her brow a little, then start again.

“Hmmm. hmmm. Nope.”

“I can get you on a 3:30pm flight to Pittsburgh, but I can’t get you out.”

Then she looked up, looked at the line, looked at me, and the expression on her face changed.
A little more color came into her cheeks as she typed, reached over and gave me a boarding pass.

“Seat 19B, confirmed, on the direct flight leaving at 3:50. It’s a middle seat.”

Funny how an eight hour delay and a middle seat can be perceived, depending on the context.
“Thank you, thank you very much” I said, hurriedly putting the ticket in my pocket.

She looked at me and said quietly, “I’m not supposed to do this, but I appreciate you fixing the line.”


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