Take a look
at this face, and tell me what you see (bigger version here):
looking at is the face of stoic determination. My friend Derek’s dog,
Shade, is a marvel of nature. She handles her duties with an array of skills
that only she has the power to manage. Is it too early to begin shooting? No matter… Even if you haven’t loaded your gun and you’re just drinking coffee while you wait for the sun to rise, Shade will jump out of the boat (the dog displays a blatant disregard for the rules of hunting in MN) and bring back a duck; any duck, even a decoy duck (she’s done it before).
Or perhaps you’ve shot a duck on a lazy afternoon, and Shade has made an attempt to retrieve it, but she’s changed her mind and returned to the boat with nothing. Toss an incentive like a Girl Scout cookie in the general direction where you think the duck might be, and she’ll disappear; only reappear with the duck after all (only Shade knows what might have happened to the cookie).
When I think about Shade, I think about gate agents in the airport. They have a tremendous amount of power, but how they choose to use it is entirely up to them. You can “suggest” a course of action, but there’s no guarantee that it will happen. Berate or belittle a gate agent with your personal traveling woes, and you might just find yourself parked in a jump-seat, facing the lavatory all the way home… without your duck!
After decades of flying, I’ve noticed an array of things that gate agents can do that “test the rules” a bit or just flat out ignore them. I got bumped to first class once, just because I worked for NASA at the time and I had a little gold space shuttle pin on my tie. Another time, I shared one of the two peanut butter cups I had with an agent who not only cleared me from the stand-by list I was on, she bumped me into first class, and gave me a boarding pass, thus clearing me from the first class waiting list as well.
Yes, I’m convinced. The quickest way to lose your hotel reservation after your flight gets canceled is to blame the gate agent (or yell at her) for the ineptness of the airline. Approach them soberly and politely. Smile. It helps if you get there early. Wait in line if there is one, then read their name tag and begin, “Hi Jennifer, have you met any crazy people today?” Getting Jennifer on “your side” is the first step toward getting whatever it is you want. “Listen, I know I’m early but I wonder if you’ve pulled up the record yet for flight XXX?” Letting Jennifer know that you’re sympathetic to her procedures and the rules she’s to follow is the second step. “You have? Awesome! I’m a Platinum flier and I think I’m on the standby list, but I was just wondering how deep that first class line is?” Being humble and letting Jennifer take the reigns of power is crucial. Cross your fingers, casually toss the girl scout cookie by offering her a piece of gum or something and wait. Jennifer might just surprise you pleasantly and say, “You’re 5th down the list Mr. Walker, and I’m not supposed to clear anyone until 30 minutes before departure, but why not, here’s your boarding pass for seat 2A. Have a nice flight!” SWEET!
I’m not saying this will happen every time, but just try getting drunk and yelling at Jennifer about your Platinum status and about “This @#$% airline owes you a #@%$ seat after what they pulled last week” and see where that gets you!