traveling takes a lot of energy. there’s a lot of prep work involved which i can easily manage and then there’s the act of actually traveling that makes me a grumpy person. going to an airport, checking in, sitting around, buying overpriced food, grabbing last minute literature i never read, anticipating the boarding call, boarding and then actually flying really wears me out. the anxiety is due to the fact that i have a nasty habit of never sleeping the night before opting to pack instead at the last minute. with a few hours to spare i usually end up tossing in bed waking myself up every couple of hours in total paranoia that i am going to miss my alarm clock. i don’t know why i behave this way. silvio's laying next to me and he has an alarm clock too!
but this is a good travel story. preparing for gdc, i bought our plane tickets yesterday for california. we found an amazing deal. $216 per person, non-stop direct from jfk to sfo. united and all the other big airlines are trying to compete with the cheap-ass boutique airlines. good for us! i generally always purchase flights according to upgrade availability. with this special deal, so was everyone else. no more upgrades were available i was told. that’s ok i rationalized, we only paid $216 for our tickets. can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip.
after purchasing our two tickets, i called united’s main customer service line to ask if there were any upgrades available. hey, a girl’s got to try! no i was told again. well do you know if the seats have been released or are there just less seats available for upgrades now? my customer service lady didn’t want to answer any more questions so she grunted a few sassy words and i said thank you and good bye. not to be defeated, i called united a third time to ask for an upgrade. ok, busted, we’re spoiled. a got a cheerful guy and when i asked him for an upgrade pretending as though i’ve never asked, he said, “well this must be the day for upgrades!” and i responded with a how so? and he went on to explain that he seemed to have a lot of requests today for upgrades. everyone working the system was doing exactly what i was trying to do. oh, trouble…sorry there’s nothing available he mumbled. so i politely asked if he could check for at least a bump on the return flight (for the third time). i said, i know you guys have a special stash of seats for special people like me (i am hardly special, qualifying only as the lowest of the premier statuses). he liked my joke laughing along as he searched for seats. as he fiddled with his computer, he apologized for it running so slowly and i said, “no worries. take your time, i’ve got time.” he thanked me for being so patient and i thanked him for being human. this short exchange opened up at least ten minutes more of conversation about how people just don’t take the time to really talk anymore. with cell phones, calls are quick, declaring tardiness or the need for a quick answer to a quick question. we started the whole, remember when you had to wait until 11:00 pm on a weeknight to get cheaper long distance? and how when i was in college i’d call home on the weekends to save my parents money? he went on to remember a few other things that i couldn’t remember. i told him i was only 31 and he said, “oh well i’m 50. things have really changed for me.”
after a semi long exchange he said, "look here, i found you upgrades on the way back. it’s a three cabin plane so i can get you in to business class." i said, great i’ll take it. my two feet worth of legs will need the stretching room. another minute passed and he said, "oh and i got you set up for the flight out too!" i laughed with him at the mini miracle that just happened. he thanked me for my patience again and i thanked him for the help. we hung up, probably both smiling.
i refreshed my united online itinerary and saw that none of my miles or silvio’s miles were pulled. oh no! drats, it didn’t work. it didn’t go through. not wanting to give up hope, i called united again! giving the customer service rep my record locator number, i asked her if she could tell me what seats i had assigned. she replied, "well, you’re in 6a and 6b on both flights round trip!" i quickly hung up grinning ear to ear knowing that the nice gentleman rep from before upgraded us both without pulling the 30,000 required miles out of each of our accounts! incredible. what a random act of kindness. he must’ve done something complicated because it did take a long time. because i’m ocd, i went online to check our itinerary. and there it was again – our lovely free upgraded seats. if this is any sign for our upcoming trip, i’m stoked to be leaving new york city!
now i know you might think this is an impossible trick. but psst, i’ll tell you a little secret. it’s not the first time this has happened! please believe. ask a stranger how their day is and life can be full of delightful surprises.
it’s hard to believe i had to call so many times to get the answer i wanted to hear. chris, a sf mate i’ll be visiting soon had his own recent experience with united airlines. his story is the exact contrast to mine. maybe only one coast was allowed some travel karma yesterday and i lucked out. too bad time won’t hear my side!