Tuesday, July 28, 2009


United Breaks Wind
The crew of the United flight, Vancouver-Denver, was professional and courteous. Great take off and landing. I watched the animation movie, Monsters versus Aliens, mind you, so it isn’t like I expect a lot.
“Those going on to San Antonnio, go to Gate 39”. So I ran across Colorado state to Gate 39, hearing “Go Forrest Go” the whole way. At Gate 39 the signs all said San Antonnio. It said my flight 356 was boarding at 6:39 and departing at 7:09. I had ten minutes for a washroom stop and to grab a sandwich and perrier. Ten minutes to 7 there’s no staff there but other passengers say ‘maybe it’s late’. I run another marathon on my bum knee to where the departure sign says that United is flying to San Antonnio from Gate 25. There’s no notice at Gate 39 which says it’s the a phony gate. Maybe it's an new security measure to confuse terrorists. Sprinting I arrive at Gate 25 at two minutes to 7. “It’s United Policy to stop boarding 10 minutes before departure.”
The doors are closed.
“It’s 12 minutes,” I say looking at my watch, which I’ve just set to Denver time.

“But the doors are closed.” I can see that but they could be opened. There's 10 minutes and the plane is there."

“You’ll have to go to customer service. It’s by Gate 39.” The United Employee tells me. “But I don’t think there are any more flights to San Antonnio.”
“But you have my bags. I thought Homeland Security says you’re not supposed to fly bags without the passenger.”
“Oh that’s probably not a problem.”
So I trek with the Shirpa’s back to CUSTOMER DISSERVICE. The United Dissatisfaction line stretches forever. I somehow that night reach , Karen Verdone. She’s really a sweetie which could have worked against her because I was feeling fairly cannabalistic. She does book me a morning flight, gives me a half price hotel voucher for Aurora , a $50 taxi ride the next state over. Karen says I can speak to the manager if I need anything else. There's a million angry United customers behind me about to stampede.

“Why aren’t you paying for my hotel room. United personnel told me to go to the gate. The sign at the gate told me I was at the right gate. It said on the tv screen at the gate that my flight number was leaving at 7.09. No one made an announcement the gate had changed. You’ve taken my bags without me and you closed the B 25 gate at 12 minutes rather than 10 minutes. You've just mae me do an Olympic work out.”

“We’re not paying your hotel room. You missed your plane. It's your own fault for not checking the departure sign.“ said Carlos.

“That’s ridiculous. You made the mistake.”

“If there were a hundred other passengers, it might be our mistake.”

“There were other passengers and they’re likely behind me in that line that stretches from here to eternity.”

“The plane to San Antonnio left full,”

“It couldn’t have left full. I’m here. (He's making this up as he goes. It's there in the eyes.)

“Don’t you realize this is going to cost United a whole lot more money than the $50 for a hotel room. I’ve closed a clinic today, so I could be in San Antonnio. I’ve now had to cancel my room at the Hyatt. I’m going to arrive at my conference late so I’m being very accommodating. Don't you think you should accept responsibility for directing me to the wrong gate, not changing the electronic signs when the gate ‘s change, not changing the television screen, not making announcements and taking my luggage without me. I feel sorry for you Carlos. This attitude is what costs United money."

“I don’t like you making veiled threats”.

“I didn’t make any threat. I just said that you're going to cost United money. "

He’s gone all testosterone and United corporate, and taken that favourite Corporate America course, "Deny, deny, deny, lie, lie, lie". A big bodied black haired guy with that "I impress the boss" look. I’m irritated now because he’s essentially called me a liar. And he’s used the word ‘threat’ in an airport. Airport personnel get people tazered to death for less. So I recognize whose threatening who.

I walk away figuring God has other plans for me. I’ve been nice, smiling, professional, concerned. I did say I was a doctor and journalist. I offered to show him the picture of the Gate 39 in support but he had to pull the ‘threat’ card, raising his voice, showing me again that Americans prides brawn over brains. I begin to understand why civilized people want to avoid America. But then I think, I'm on my way to see some of the finest people I know in the world at this medical conference. And they're American.

And how could I explain to him a concept like ‘principle’ or how old people and mothers with children couldn’t have done the sprints I did. He wouldn’t understand my knee aching. He probably gets a ‘star’ for every passenger he brushes off.

As I turn and walk away, a woman in the line tells me, “United is awful."

At least I’m not standing in that line. I saw an older woman whose ankles looked like she had elephantiasis but that’s just the new air travel look.

Mostly I’m glad I didn’t bring my guitar because after meeting Carlos I am convinced that United Breaks Guitars.http://www.davecarrollmusic.com/story/united-breaks-guitars/ United Breaks Wind, that’s for sure.


bobbi said...

Holy Bill, that took a while to get caught up on your life, Jeez, good long read, Loved the Jewish Guy, Remember the Alamo, we all grew up with that, loved the Harley ride, you got to get a bigger ride man, get rid of the truck, felt warmed by the memories of hospitals and institutions you worked in and Loved the AA stuff, fuck, caught up on the adventure called Your Life, man I need another shot of frozen yogurt,,,,,,,not happy with united,,,,,Hope Your Knee is ok,

haykind said...

The United return flight went without hitch. I had to get help from customer service over the phone about departures and the agent was extremely helpful. Stewards and stewardesses, pilots and planes made my journey home a fine ride.