A Tale of Two Gates

Unhelpful Gate AgentsTravel can be a lot of fun, albeit in doses. And I certainly prefer personal over business, as a lot of the road wears on you and in many ways that people who don’t have to travel simply do not realize or appreciate. But it can also be very rewarding and the experiences provide so much learning along the way.

An old football coach of mine used to carry the quote by someone (unknown to me) which was “You’ll be the same person ten years from now that you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

Largely, I think that’s true.

So I try to do a lot of reading. And, particularly on trips, I try to make it an intentional point to make the best of each adventure and learn something along the way—particularly from the people that I meet.

So I’m checking in around 6am on WorstWest Airlilnes, a carrier that I simply do not like and is generally notorious for poor service. So as I’m checking in, the two people behind the desk are throwing verbal assaults like left and right hooks at each other. Honestly, I was in shock.

Employees fighting or undermining each other in front of customers is among the childish as well as recklessly irresponsible behaviors. So I try not to be annoyed, I mean I really tried, I smile and manage to squeeze out a  “thank you” as politely as possible despite standing there at the desk for five minutes waiting for these two cranks to quit their bickering, all while cringing to think about the impact this behavior has on customers as well as others in their organization.

We board the flight to Montreal, I actually sleep for a few hours which is quite rare for me—generally I love the cabin time for solitude, writing, and reading. I did read a bit in the book “They Call Me Coach” by John Wooden, as well as jammed through about seven old Wall Street Journals. 

Upon arriving we’re probably a half hour late into our transfer city of Minneapolis, but there’s seven of us on the plane continuing onto Montreal so I’m certain they’ll hold the next puddle jumper for us. Certain. 100%. I mean, what idiot wouldn’t hold the gate when 25% of your cabin (remember, puddle jumper) isn’t there but only a few minutes away. Right? 

We run to the gate, only to find the doors are closed. One person made it, from row 19 on our first leg. We, unfortunately, were in rows 35 and above. So, yes, the back of the plane is safer. It is also slower. I prefer the “crazy and reckless” front of the plane to that of the “safe-and-cozy-in-the-event-of-a-????” in the back of the plane. 

Then, knowing that six more were right behind them, they closed the door. So the group of us sat there for ten minutes, all the while the plane is sitting there as well, with a group of gate attendants full of “I can’t” (umm, actually you could but you don’t want to), “No” (Why say yes, when your culture makes it feel so good to say no?) and “Well what do you want me to do?” (Ah, yeah, well, just do your job and help me out here…And maybe a smile would be nice as a kicker).

The two of them had about the level of service, empathy, and desire to try to help as much as a door knob. Really, it was unbelieveable. I really tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, and perhaps these are really at the heart of the matter good people having a bad day. But, then again, it’s likely they’re a product of the environment and culture they’ve created.

Suddenly, like a little angel fluttering her way through the terminal wearing red and white, a bubbly woman by from another gate to offer to help us over in her little area, a totally different culture. In fact, RGL (Rude Gate Lady) actually tried to stop NGL (Nice Gate Lady) from taking us over to her little section. RGL actually had us rebooked on a flight that got us into our final destination by about 11pm, with two more flight legs to go. And all the while, she was doing us SUCH a favor and it was SUCH a burden to get us on our way.

A little jacked with such bad service, we followed the NGL just with the hunch that someone who smiles and actually offered to help us simply MUST have some better outcomes for us—and if not, at least she’d be nice to work with.

When we walked over to her gate, it was a totally different experience. Apologies for the delay. Empathy. Solutions-orientations. It was as simple as “Hey guys, looks like a long day. I’m sorry. Let’s find some solutions to get you outta here into your final destination, and I think I might find some better options that what you currently have that can get you in a few hours earlier.”

No surprise, she found seats on a flight that got us in earlier—three hours earlier—but more so did it in a way that made the group of us feel better.

And, I expect, her as well. 

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