Trolled by travel

Veterinary work is an emotionally charged field. Rarely are people in an ambivalent, steady state sort of mind the way they are, say, at the gas station, or buying bananas at the grocery store. They are either happy because they have a cute young pet getting routine care, or stressed because their pet is ill/expensive/having surgery/waiting too long in the exam room. You get the picture.

So I’m used to dealing with stressed and angry people. You have to be. There are ways to defuse situations, and ways to escalate them.

Now I know that I am, personally, sometimes but not always, a bit of a hothead. Shocking, I know. I’ve never yelled at clients, never gotten loud, never thrown things or berated coworkers or any of that. Not because I’ve never felt the urge, but because that’s not what you do. Being pleasant and polite in the face of stress is what professionals are paid to do, so you do it. That aside, getting into it with clients or customers never serves any purpose, right? Help them solve their problem and move on.

Angry Birds Part IV

Now on the flip side, when I’m out and about living life, I get irked not uncommonly. I try really hard not to, but it happens. And when it’s accompanied by jet lag, lack of sleep, and dehydration it only gets worse.

It was in this state that I arrived back home on Wednesday. I was already mad because I had to gate check my bag, which I HATE doing, and despite my attempts to make the bag handler-proof as it was being whisked away I realized my car keys were still in it. Greeeeeeat.

And because I am lucky when I travel and we had the extra pleasure of a TSA agent at the gate doing a triple level of screening, he took my nervous fidgeting as I watched my car keys being handed off to some stranger on the tarmac as signs of impending terrorism. He pulled me out of line for additional harassment, which consisted of him looking at my drivers license, up at me, back at my license, back at me for a good three minutes while asking me my name and my destination about three times. But he wanted to be thorough, so then he asked my middle name just for funsies, I guess, and, convinced of my benevolent intents, finally let me on the plane.

The flight attendant tried to take my one remaining bag away, you know, the one with my laptop and iphone and wallet and all of the photography equipment. And because I was feeling very New York by this time, I said bite me “No thanks” and just walked by to my little breadbox of a seat and stuffed it under.

At Chicago, I was bounced around between the B and C terminals a few times until they decided where my connection was going to take off from, meaning I never got time to get coffee. Then on the second leg home I had someone sitting in my seat. He nonchalantly said, “Oh, I thought you’d just want the window instead,” and I said, “I’m sorry, you thought wrong,” and stared at him until he got back in his window seat and glared at me for three hours. See? Crabby. Do not be around me if I haven’t had my coffee.

(This is also why my husband told me we wouldn’t be going to Africa if I didn’t get a Xanax prescription, but he wasn’t there to be embarrassed by me so I could be as snitty as I wanted.)

ANYWAY, I got back to San Diego, where I had to wait the usual 45 minutes for Lindbergh’s baggage handler (I assume there is just one, who I conclude is also elderly, arthritic, and partially blind) to get around to getting the bags off the plane. To everyone’s credit at least no one stole my car keys, though they did rough up my bag a little just to make the experience authentic. But here’s where it got ugly.

The San Diego airport is under construction, so I had to park two counties away in a remote lot and take a bus in to the terminal. I checked with the information booth, who confirmed where to go to get to the bus back to my car. So I took my bag and my keys, walked through the terminal, over a bridge to the shuttle area, which is about a mile long and has two lanes of taxis and shuttles, looked around in vain for signs for the parking bus, looked up at the sky as it started to rain, and asked the guy standing there where to wait for the bus. There was nowhere to escape the rain, by the by.

“Did they tell you that at the information booth?” he said, shaking his head underneath his rain parka. “You have to go back inside and catch the bus back inside the terminal. I don’t know why they keep telling people to come here.”

So I go back up the bridge, through the rain, through the terminal, and out to the street, where a big orange bus marked “AIRPORT PARKING LOOP” had just pulled up.

“You’re going to Terminal 2 Parking, right?” I asked.

“No,” he said, like it was a strange question.

“But it’s part of the airport parking,” I said, pointing at his bus.

“No, I don’t go there,” he said. “You have to go across the bridge and catch a parking bus there. It’s orange. You can’t miss it.”

“But I already went over there,” I said, wondering if I was still on the plane, having a surreal dream. “They said to come here.”

“They were wrong,” he said. “You have to go over there and find it.”

“But they don’t even know where the bus is!” I said. “I’ve asked three people and gotten three answers and no one knows where this magic bus actually materializes.” As you can see, by now the stress of the day has filled my Bucket of Rationality beyond capacity by this point. It was overflowing. “Do you know where it pulls up?”

“No,” he admitted. “But it’s not here.”

And then I started to sniffle, because as awful and stereotypical as it is, that is what I do when I am overtired and stressed and frustrated. Some people yell, some punch, and others, like me, lose it like a three year old.

Now, if the situation was turned and I was the one dealing with a freaked out traveler, I can think of many things I could do or say at this point that might be helpful, ways to solve the problem. Instead, he did the following: “Now miss, calm down.”

Which is of course the exact wrong thing to say to anyone teetering on the precipice. This pretty much guarantees they will never calm down. That was all he had to offer. Admonishment, and a vague insistence that I could just figure it out if I just walked around a wee bit more.

Now by this point I had already been wandering around the stupid terminal for half an hour, so I said, “Forget it. I’ll just walk.” Problem solved.

And he started to argue with me: “It’s a long walk, miss.” Now, suddenly, concern. That, or more likely I was ruining his fun since he was looking forward to calling the guy on the other side of the bridge to let him know I was coming back for him to mess with some more.

“Are you going to drive me to my car then?”

“Well, no, but it will take a long time-”

“It’s already taken forever and I’m still at the terminal,” I said. “At least I know I’ll get there.” And I walked away. And I did walk to my car, and it took a long time and I was in terrible shoes so each step towards the end was agony and I was a sopping wet mess in my soggy wool coat, but it was still better than bouncing around from idiot to idiot like a ping pong ball across the terminal one bridge.

This was not a travel horror story, I realize this. I think it’s actually pretty much the norm these days. This is why I could never be a frequent traveler. I don’t like deviations from clockwork-like precision. You should see me when a flight gets cancelled- ugly. But on the flipside, it’s made me more sympathetic to the rantings and ravings of people when they are under stress because I do the exact same thing. And when I’m the bus driver, I figure it out, know what I mean?

I’d love to hear your stories of clueless and unhelpful travel employees to make me feel less alone in this. Or, on the flip side, has someone ever, you know, actually gone out of their way to help you on the road? I hear it happens once or twice in a lifetime.

Filed: Blog, Daily Life, Musings Tagged: , ,
  • Vonny

    The last time I flew was also the first time I took my dog with me. She had been crate-trained well beforehand but I was very stressed because, you know, my doggy will be out of my sight in unfamiliar surroundings! I checked her in first and, not thinking clearly, put the scissors I’d brought to cut the plastic ties that were required to secure the crate door back into my purse. Through the scanner I and my purse went and then “who belongs to this?” It was I and my contraband item. Oops. However, I explained why scissors were in my purse, surrendered them, and that was it. The very large security man was nice to me and did not decide I needed a full-body search or anything else. The attitude of security or other personnel makes a lot of difference to travellers.

    I haven’t travelled to or within the USA for a long time, but TSA agents seem a bit scary to me.

    • TSA agents are frighteningly humorless. I’ve seen one crack a smile, once.

  • Cbuhrich

    My best “ugly” travel story was when our flight from Minneapolis to home was cancelled. I was traveling with three other business associates who were all men. As we stood in line at the counter to get our flights rebooked we were given the news that we would be spending the night in that fair city. As I requested a hotel voucher the agent actually looked at the four of us and said, “I can give you two vouchers.” Now I enjoyed working with those guys but together in a hotel room….I wanted to scream “Lady, have you lost your $@&+!? mind?” but I was polite in a condescending, syrupy sort of way. We got the vouchers.

    • Wow. Um, no. Glad they got you the vouchers!!

  • Sue W.

    โ€œ’Now miss, calm down.’โ€ Which is of course the exact wrong thing to say to anyone teetering on the precipice. This pretty much guarantees they will never calm down. ”

    Oh. My. Gosh. I SO relate, except it is my son and husband who say this to me, minus the “Miss”. And my end product of stress and anger is tears, also. Hate that.

    My travels have actually become *less* stressful since I ended up in a wheelchair, due to the MS. Airport peoples are really super helpful. It’s a shame that that’s what it took, but I’ll take any “cup half full” scenario I can get.

    • That is wonderful that the airport employees are accommodating. I’ve seen it so many times when they haven’t brought enough chairs to the gate and people who are trying to make connections have to sit and wait until they get their act together and I always feel so frustrated on their behalf.

  • Anonymous

    I have so many travel horror stories (one including the San Diego airport) that I’m not even going to think about them or my blood pressure will sky rocket. I used to enjoy flying, now…well let’s say some of my state’s finest will be in my system when we fly in May.

    So glad someone else relates to the “calm down” thrown at upset people. You want to upset me more and send me over that edge, tell me to calm down or just relax. I’m triggered like River in the Beaumonde bar and it’s on!

    • The fact that one of your horror stories involves the San Diego airport surprises me not one iota.

  • Kari

    As much as I’ve flown, I only have two travel horror stories: the kid watching Pokemon videos from DC to LAX without headphones, and when they made me gate-check my bag in Chicago last month and t didn’t make my transfer in San Francisco. And that actually was a boon–I didn’t have to schlep it from the terminal to long-term parking–instead, it was delivered to my work the next day.

  • Lisa W

    Usually my frustration is due to sitting on the tarmac for untold amounts of time, but when I came home from London in September I was walking (well, hobbling) on what turned out to be a terrible case of bursitis and tendonitis, and a stress fracture, in my right knee. I got through the x-ray only to be told that I couldn’t carry on the small bottle of cologne that I had gotten on my honeymoon. There wasn’t even much left in the bottle, but they don’t make it any more so it has a lot of sentimental value to me. They made me walk all the way back across the terminal to have someone put it in a box and load it into cargo. Then they lost it. They did finally find it and bring it to my house, and the guy who delivered it had the same reaction I did: “They really made you put something this size in cargo? I’ve never had to deliver something this small.” Other than that it was a pretty great travel experience.

    • No common sense. Not one iota with these people.

  • Kari

    The only time I’ve really lost my Cheerios flying was when I left Costa Rica with a fever and generally feeling miserable. This was back when all international flights inbound to the US had to have all passengers and their carry-ons rescreened at the gate. So there I was, exhausted, feverish, and had my bag packed extremely carefully to fit everything in…and at the boarding gate they made me take everything apart for screening, and made me get rid of my sealed bottle of water that I’d bought after I went through security. So I boarded the flight upset and thirsty, and they only gave miserable feverish me one measly cup of water the entire trip back to Miami.

    So I got to Miami late at night and had a layover until the next morning. I’d booked a hotel, but while it’d billed itself as an airport hotel, it didn’t have a shuttle. When I discovered this, I was already so overwhelmed and feeling horrible that I couldn’t think past the fever brain, and I called my boyfriend (back in CA–not like he could do anything) and started blubbering those tears you get when you’re sick and just want to curl up into a little ball and die. It wasn’t pretty.

    Eventually it all got straightened out and I made it home. But ugh. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • The exact same thing happened to me coming back from Peru. I was so frustrated- why even bother selling it if you can’t take it? Then you end up a shrivelled raisin with DVTs.

  • Linda

    The worst travel experience for me was four years ago when we went to Mexico for a family vacation. Apparently, a cute four year old girl looks like a terrorist. When my daughter went through the metal detector, it went off, and then the screener got the wand. Well, the wand wouldn’t go off, so she went back through, again the detector went off. Then the screener tried to take my daughter’s hand (she screamed – stranger-danger after all).

    Then two men came out from some magic door and told me that they were taking her to another room for “additional screening”. I handed my bag to my husband and started to walk towards the men. They then said, “only the girl can come”. WHAT? Are you kidding me?! Like h3ll I am going to let my four year old go with two strange men.

    So, I started to take her clothes off, right there in front of everyone. They asked what I was doing, and I said, you aren’t taking her away from me, so I will just strip her naked and you can see that she isn’t hiding anything. Now, a couple of nosy ladies gave me that look and I just glared right back at them. One actually said that I would be just as bad as a child pornographer if I did that. Oh yeah, I almost took HER out. Long story short (or sort of). Her shorts had these little buckles on a pocket and they were setting off the metal detector. I have no idea why the wand didn’t catch that, but when we were at the gate, I walked up to the agent and asked for scissors. She gave them to me and I cut off the buckles. My sweet girl cried for a bit, but the rest of the trip we breezed through the security.

  • I can definitely relate. Ugh. And I also have the same reaction. When I am stressed or tired or frustrated, I usually end up fighting back tears. It isn’t pretty and I feel like such a child, but I can’t help it. When life gives me lemons, I cry like a two year old.

    A few years ago I was flying to visit a friend who lived on the other side of the country. Since my city didn’t have a major airport, I decided to take the greyhound to the larger city two hours away and catch a shuttle to the airport. My flight left at ten am so I took the the four am bus, figuring it would get me there in plenty of time. At about five am a gigantic blizzard blew in and the bus came to a halt on the highway. I didn’t arrive in the city until about 9 am. Missing my flight was inevitable. Given I had very little travel experience at that point and it was one of the first times I travelled alone, I almost started bawling in the middle of the greyhound terminal when they told me there would be no airport shuttle for another hour. With the weather, cabs were also out of the question.

    However, I was lucky to have a saviour. The man at the greyhound customer service desk took pity on me and called the airline for me, explained the situation and got them to book me on a later flight with no extra fees. He was amazing and I don’t know if I would have gotten through without him. The first thing I did when I finally made it to the airport was write him a thank you note.

  • Jeanne

    it seems i only have travel issues when i travel internationally, by my self. every. single. time. the first time, i showed up at the airport on a bright, sunny, January day in upstate ny (where we get 3 feet of snow at a time) only to find out the newark airport was closed due to a blizzard. the bonus was i got to make my first international flight across the pond in first class. in retrospect, maybe that wasn’t a bonus. ruined me for coach, i’ll tell you. then there was the time i showed up at the airport for my flight and the airline i was booked on no longer served our local airport. nice of the on-line travel site and the airline to not notify me. I wasn’t sorry to see them file for bankrupcty a year later. then there was the time i was flyiing back from scotland and had a layover in toronto. there were bad thunderstorms in the midwest and o’hare was closed. they weren’t re-routing anyone, the hotels were full, but i could try to find a seat in the airport for the night. then the agent turned her back and continued chatting with her friends. i was not happy. and i didn’t need to go to chicago – just across lake ontario and into ny. anywhere in ny. they totally blew me off and i ended up renting a car and driving home. got home before my scheduled flight would have gotten me there, too. i drive fast when i’m upset. the last time i went, i got stuck in our local airport due to equipment isues and missed my connecting flight in newark – which was taking me directly into edinburgh. no problem, they said, i’d just have an extra stop in manchester on the way. 6 hours in manchester. that was almsot a whole freaking day of my vacation. and there was an earlier flight out, but they wouldn’t let me on it – for no apparant reason.

    now, if i travel with anyone else, domestic or international – i’ve never had a problem. go figure.