Tag Archives: thinking

For those who’ve been wondering…

By way of an update, after several emails I submitted the complaint in its entirety. Following some telephone tag, American Airlines offered an apology and compensation equal to about 25% of our ticket and expenses (over $2,000) due to the delay. They also indicated they were forwarding copies of my correspondence to the “appropriate management personnel.” While I still have my doubts that action will be taken against the offending employee, it’s a moral victory.  Lesson learned: when you are abused, complain–calmly but forcefully.  If possible, hit ’em in the pocketbook. Their hearts and minds may follow.


Several who have heard portions of the story have asked for details and posting here seems like a reasonable approach.  I like to think I’m a reasonable person. Travel is tough–particularly air travel in today’s environment. Mistakes happen, things get messed up. I’m a former “road warrior” and experienced traveler.   It takes a healthy dose of patience and perseverance to travel by air–especially these days. The emergency recent trip Janice and I made served as a great reminder of that. I have summarized a recent experience with the observation that security was not the issue.

Our recent return flights from Louisiana tested my patience for a number of different reasons–including the fact we returned home a day and a half later than scheduled. When I was traveling full-time you learned not only patience but problem-solving skills. Things were tolerable because airline employees were for the most part sympathetic and willing to treat travelers like customers.

Well, that’s changed. In the forty plus years I’ve traveled I met the rudest and most arrogant airline employee ever in Washington D.C.’s Reagan Airport.  Her attitude would be unacceptable and unbelievable if she was a gate agent. I nearly fell over when she informed me she was a supervisor. I tried to write up the encounter only to discover that American Airlines only allows comments with less than 2000 characters. I’m posting the full version for those who are interested in the story. I’m reasonably certain American Airlines won’t be. If I’m wrong, I’ll let you know! (The portions in italics had to be left out of the American Airlines version.)


By way of brief background, we had missed a connection in DFW on Sunday, July 30. Special Services there booked us on AA3590 and AA4693 for Monday, giving us boarding passes with seat assignments and assurance that we were “confirmed.” When we arrived the following morning those boarding passes “didn’t work” and we were issued new ones. The ones from DCA to BGR did not show a seat assignment and the gate agent told us to “get them in DCA.”

Upon arrival in DCA, I attempted to do as instructed. The gate agent said the flight was oversold and asked if we would give up our seats for a $500 voucher each. We explained we needed to get to BGR. He said he was “working on seat assignments.” Knowing the flight was oversold, I checked with him several times while waiting and got the same answer.

When the flight was boarding it became clear we had not been given seats and were being treated as standby passengers. At one point, we were invited to board, only to learn that one seat had been assigned twice. Since we had to travel together, we exited the plane. That was my first encounter with the primary reason for this complaint. I did not know who she was until later when I discovered that in addition to being a supervisor she is the rudest and most arrogant airline employee I have encountered in over forty years of travel. She was standing in the jetway screaming at the woman who took the last seat available, “RUN! You have to run if you want to be on this flight.”

When we returned to the gate desk, the agent was clearly totally lost. He was still trying to find a seat for another passenger! I assured her she was not going to make the flight. I said to the gate agent, “I would like an explanation of how we became standby passengers and how you plan to get us on a flight.”

Your supervisor said, “Sir, we do know what we’re going.” I replied, “Obviously you don’t or we’d be on this flight and you wouldn’t be telling another passenger she might get on.”

The supervisor said, “You need to go to Special Services.” I replied that I would need evidence of my ticket (laying on the desk). She said, “We can’t give you those.” When I asked how I would prove my ticket, she replied she’d meet me there.

At Special Services the agent said I needed both boarding passes. As I approached to the gate, the supervisor yelled at me, “I told you to go to special services and I would meet you there.” I replied that was obviously not true based on where she was standing (and doing nothing). I asked to speak to a supervisor and she told me “I AM the supervisor.” I attempted to see her name tag explaining, “Then I need a manager. What is your name?” She said, “I’ll give you my business card.” When I put my hand out for it, she said, “I’m not giving it to you now, we are trying to close out this flight.”

I reminded her that I am a customer and that in the amount of time she was spending arguing with me she could have given me both. She replied, “You can’t tell me what to do.”

I believe her name is either XXXX or XXXX. Your Special Services Agent quickly resolved the problem without the boarding passes or any assistance from your so-called supervisor. She also assisted me with meeting a manager who was quite gracious, but also insistent that she would “look into it” because “she is one of our best supervisors” and “we spend a lot of money on customer service training.”

Well, I’m a retired organizational consultant with a good crap detector. This is not a training issue—this is an employee with an attitude. I also observed her refusing to help an employee doing a wheelchair assist, sending her to special services. This is a short version since I’m only allowed 2000 characters.


So in the span of a few minutes, we went from being offered $1,000 to give up our seats to being treated like crap.  That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment, don’t you think? And–for those who enjoy irony–when I booked our original flights, on one leg there were only “more desirable” seats available so I was charged extra! 

Love and Wonder

The following post is from the blog Not Otherwise Specified, an ongoing story of recovery from addiction. The blog is written by the daughter of a friend. The blog’s “About” page explains, “Today I have over eight years of recovery in my program of choice. By writing about my experience, I hope to reach others struggling with all types of addiction.” I admire much about her, including her ability to share her insights. This piece on “Love and Wonder” strikes so many chords with me, I simply must share it, along with the suggestion you visit her site and consider subscribing.


I loved technology when I was a kid. In middle school, I entertained myself for hours by teaching myself HTML code and photo manipulation. While the internet ultimately played an integral part in my addiction, it was also a creative outlet and a tool for inspiring positive change. I started my social media campaign, Human Too, in that same spirit of positivity and I feel incredibly blessed to have creative license in my career as a web content manager. However, the drawback of working with social media platforms is that you actually have to use them.

Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t some element of futility in trying to harness social media for benevolent purposes. The part of me that teeters on the edge of needing a tinfoil hat -but I don’t think is too far off the mark – cynically believes that technology is not only a drug contributing to the Achilles’ heel of civilization, but also a means by which the masses can be easily manipulated. That’s some serious 1984 or House of Cards shit, but it’s tough to refute. The difference between me and other cynics is that I still think it’s possible to live a contented and meaningful life in spite of the disillusionment.

When you turn on your TV set or scroll through your newsfeed, it seems as though the world has collectively gone mad. And maybe that’s not far from the truth. The world doesn’t make sense. There is an element of absurdity to the whole concept of human existence. But when you unplug and stop to consider the realm directly outside your window, the picture is likely to stand in stark juxtaposition. Maybe you hear the traffic or the crickets. Maybe you watch your neighbor get the mail or water the garden. Maybe the breeze blows. Maybe someone on the street coughs or waves or speaks indistinctly. And maybe, in that moment, everything is okay. So which version of reality is the most accurate?

If you choose to invest yourself solely in the digital narrative, it’s easy to view the world as an angry, hostile place. And sure, people are angry…but mostly we’re afraid. I can only speak for myself, but my buttons are most easily pushed in terms of my identity as a gay person, a woman, and a police wife. “How will you hurt me? What will you take from me?” These are the questions behind my own personal brand of rage. My fears are immediate and acute and frequently supersede my consideration of my global brothers and sisters. We are all self-preservationists in our anger. We are driven by and united by fear.

All of that is not to say that self-preservation is bad. The instinct to survive is what makes us human. Fear is human. It is merely an observation that we share a common ground.

In a climate saturated with the threat of nuclear war and simmering racial tension, it’s only natural to feel like our existential terror is somehow unique. But millions of people have experienced or are currently experiencing the heaviness of wartime. Millions of people have experienced plagues, famine, natural disaster, genocide, and the collapse of civilization. Millions of people have held their lover and wondered what kind of earth their children were destined to inherit. We have been fearing the end since the beginning. It’s part of the package deal when you occupy this planet.

I used to get very upset by the idea that there is no life after death. I don’t know what I believe anymore, but I think it’s highly likely you simply cease to have consciousness. I believe our energy leaves an imprint on a place. I also believe in the fabric of the Universe – a divine thread connecting all living things – but beyond that, I cannot say for certain.  The only reason the uncertainty bothers me now is because I can’t bear the idea of not seeing my wife. I guess if we don’t have consciousness, we don’t know the difference.

These are heavy thoughts. Perhaps you’re thinking: “What’s the point?” And here’s where the cynics and I diverge. The point is that you are conscious in this moment. The point is that you have the ability to love and to be filled with wonder. Our purpose, in my view, is to love and wonder.

Early in my college career, I spent about five minutes as a philosophy major. Looking back on my notes, I found a page that declared “the meaning of life is awe”. If you can maintain your sense of awe, you have unlocked the secret of living. It’s hard to say how that bit of insight came to me, but I have subscribed to the ideology ever since.

Addiction numbs our consciousness. Our drugs of choice block us from feeling love and wonder. We die prematurely.

There’s a reason Buddhists strive to be “awake”. There’s a reason yoga and meditation advocate for the present moment. The “now” is all we have. It is the only time in which we are able to love and be loved. It is the only time we have to consider the profound and miraculous beauty of our delicate existence. The precariousness of our position is what makes it breathtaking.

I don’t think anything needs to “come next” for this flawed and absurd life to be more than enough. We don’t need to do anything for life to have meaning…we need to simply be. I have often sat by the ocean and reflected sadly on the idea that the dead no longer have the capability to inhale the intoxicating air. It is a gift to experience the wonders of this wild earth. I think the real question is whether we receive it or we reject it.

The activity of appreciating the morning light is not just for poets and painters – it’s for humans. If all I do with the rest of my days is exuberantly behold the sunset and love as much as I can, I have achieved the “it” for which mankind toils. If all I do is celebrate wildflowers, a good meal, clinging rain drops, a shy smile, cool summer grass, and all the other remarkable minutiae…it is enough.

I am sober. I am awake. My being vibrates in the truth of the moment.

The cards are stacked and it’s hard to say how the deck will scatter. I don’t know if anything I do will ultimately make a difference. But I know that my being has purpose. I want my voice to be a whisper in the din: “Wake up”. Don’t die without living. Don’t live without meaning.

Unintended Consequences -- -- the good, the bad, the ugly:

A recent post on Facebook told the story of a teacher shopping for school supplies. She was approached by several parents shopping together (who had their school-aged children with them) and subsequently forced to listen to them complain about how much they were spending on back-to-school supplies and how teachers must think parents are made out of money. Apparently, they didn’t notice that the teacher was spending even more money than they. Her cart was full of things she needed and supplies to help out the students she knew would not have what was necessary.

It was an interesting story, certainly. The teacher handled a potentially ugly situation gracefully and sympathetically. I admired that but felt a real kinship with her when she described what she really wanted to say those parents.

Adults often “thing” children. We forget they are there and, more importantly, forget they are watching, listening and learning.  It’s a mistake that’s easy to make. Even teachers must guard against it. We see them as “kids” or “students” and lose sight of the fact they are small people with big brains that are like sponges.

Not only did those parents not notice the teacher’s cart was full, they forgot there were little people watching, listening, and learning.

So the teacher wanted to remind those parents there were little people there and what they were hearing was, “School is not important enough to spend money on, teachers are not to be trusted, they have bad judgment, and learning does not require investment.”

In fairness to those parents, they (hopefully!) didn’t want their children to hear that. We sometimes call this “unintended consequences.”

I watched a child tugging on her mother’s hand as they walked down the street, almost yelling, “Mom! Mom!” Mom was totally focused on her cell phone screen and it appeared not even acknowledging the child. I don’t know what was so important on the phone. I don’t know why the child needed her mother. But I’m fairly sure I know the message the child was getting. I also know that a few simple words and eye contact with the child could have conveyed a very different message.

When it’s back to school shopping time–or school budget time–I believe all adults have a responsibility to “watch our words.” We may be frustrated at the expense while we’re shopping and angered with increasing budgets and taxes but because we’re adults we should be able to express our frustrations and anger in an appropriate manner.

Let’s not teach our kids to disrespect schools and teachers. Let’s be careful we do not devalue learning and education–even unintentionally.

Education is expensive. But it’s also important. Let’s teach our children both of those truths and model good problem-solving skills.

Sometimes unintended consequences can be good. Another time in a store, I heard a young child ask what might have been a fairly simple question–I honestly don’t remember it exactly, but it was relative to why something was where it was.  The parent stopped and looked at it with the child then said, “That’s interesting. Why do you think it’s there?” I didn’t need to eavesdrop on the entire conversation to know that child was learning he and his thinking is important. I also hope to have that child in a classroom I’m teaching some day.

Thinking is not only allowed, it’s needed. Not just in classrooms, but in life.

Let’s honor… who and what?

A Normandy Cemetery

Memorial Day–a day that triggers different thoughts and feelings. Also, a day that, hopefully, gives us pause and at least some moments of reflection. For a while this year, I thought an added feature would be a day of argument.

There are some folks who want to clarify the purposes of holidays–they are most noticeable on social media, often posted as a meme (a virally-transmitted cultural symbol or social idea). I saw one this morning suggesting we should understand there are three related holidays:

  1. Armed Forces Day (third Saturday in May) to pay tribute to those serving.
  2. Memorial Day (fourth Monday in May) to pay tribute to who died in active military service.
  3. Veterans’ Day (November 11) to pay tribute to those have served in the Armed Forces.

So it becomes arguable that there are three different days for three different populations. And the minute something becomes arguable, folks on Facebook are on it.

I value accuracy, but I’m not joining the debate.

I heard a conversation during which one person pointed out that Memorial Day was not a day to thank those currently serving. His listener replied, “Is it possible to thank those who have served or are serving too much?”

I don’t think so.

As a child, I remember visiting my Grandfather’s grave with my Dad this time of year. There were actually several trips involved as the flag holder was cleaned and painted, the stone cleaned, flowers planted… and we were often not alone as others performed similar tasks in anticipation of parades and visits to honor and remember. No one pointed out that Grandfather did not die in active military service and then suggest it was not appropriate to honor him on Memorial Day. I’m not sure if it was because the memories were fresher or because we just didn’t argue so much back then.

George Patton said, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” Perhaps that is where we might stand this Memorial Day, recognizing and honoring the lives of those who served and died, who served and lived, and those who are serving are lives to be honored and not forgotten.

Just How Busy Are You, Really?

“If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

David Allen

Well, that quote got my attention! The article it was in was about productivity–something that’s been weighing on my mind during what is traditionally one of my busiest months of the year. The article also mentioned a recent article in The Atlantic  suggesting that being busy may have become a status symbol.

I’m chuckling at the thought I currently have lots of status.

In a more serious vein, let’s go back to the quote. I think it, like most good quotes, gives rise to a number of thoughts and considerations.

I’ve always believed that there really aren’t time management problems–there are priority issues. Too often we are not conscious of what is getting our attention. I recently emailed someone for some fairly simple information I needed. When I didn’t get a reply, I emailed again. This time I received a fairly lengthy explanation for his failure to reply–he explained that he is extremely busy. What I found most interesting about his reply was that he could have given me the information in the amount of time it took for him to explain how busy he was, but he didn’t. Isn’t that interesting? I can accept that my needs may not be a priority, but I’d like a little honesty.

I think his failure to provide had less to do with how busy he was and more to do with him judging my need didn’t make it to his priority list.

Some time management/productivity gurus suggest managing energy rather than time. I’ve found that’s a great way to justify procrastination. “I don’t have the energy right now, so I’ll do something else.” For that matter, it works the same with time. “I don’t have enough time to do that (even though it’s really important) so I’ll wait until…” It’s certainly not hard to find reasons not to do things!Notice, though, procrastination is still about priorities. All we’re really doing is justifying the shifting our priorities.

Notice that procrastination is still about priorities. All we’re really doing is justifying shifting our priorities. That may be okay, but let’s recognize and admit that we’re doing it. We can at least be honest with ourselves.

When we’re less than honest with ourselves–that’s when we end up giving things more attention than they deserve. Anyone who’s ever tried to have an important or urgent conversation with someone who is constantly checking their smartphone and answering text messages knows exactly what I mean. And that’s just an example.

What does have your attention? Is that what’s important to you?

How busy are you, really?