Thursday, August 04, 2011

Back from Europe

Unpacking here at the crack of dawn. This jetlag thing gets you thinking deep philosophical thoughts like -- where the hell is that blue hairbrush? I'm sure I packed it. And other trivial stuff like, why are we born? Why do we die? Why is a Coke in Europe only 4 ounces and costs nearly $4.00?

For the most part we had a glorious trip, but on the last day my son and I hit a snag, with one airline royally messing us up, (causing us to miss a connection) and another called Virgin Atlantic saving the day. I like to pretend to be a role model for my 16-year-old, a pretense that melts often enough in the light of day. I completely blew it at the airport. I let him see me screaming and ranting like a harridan. I went off and lost it big time, yelling at a certain airline's customer service rep, "Thanks Gordon for reciting the airline regulations, now try to stop being a ROBOT and start being a HUMAN BEING."

He had that infuriating Customer Service Asshat tradition of a name plate with NO LAST NAME. That practice is guaranteed to raise by blood pressure instantly by 25 points. It's disrespectful to Gordon, or Suzy, or Rachid -- like they don't merit a last name -- and insanely unhelpful to the customer who might want to mention to their management what a useless idiot a member of their staff has been. It's slippery and sleazy and has 28-year-old MBA written all over it. It's inHUMANE and results in customer service reps who don't act like humans. It's what they did to slaves in pre-Civil War days. Thought we got over that, last I checked.

Making a scene in this manner was completely pointless and embarrassed my son no end, but then again, when does a parent of a teenager NOT embarrass their cool kid?! We left one terminal and went off to the other terminal to see if Virgin could help us.

On the bus between terminals, I actually calmed down and thought about a more winning game plan. My son noticed my frown turning to a smile and got worried. He asked me if I was going to TWEET about the bad airline. I shocked him. I resisted the urge. I had gone from raving lunatic to Yoda Mom. I said, "I'd much rather NOT TWEET about the bad airline and hope Virgin can be our hero today and TWEET about that."

While waiting in that very long line earlier, at the offending airline's "customer service" counter, I had called Virgin Atlantic's 800 number and they had warned me that I'd missed the last flight to Boston for Monday and the next available was ... Thursday! I nearly dropped the phone on that one. For many reasons we could NOT say in London for an extra 3 days. They suggested going to the airport counter for Virgin and inquiring about it in person, perhaps they could help me get home sooner.

When we got to Terminal 3, that's exactly what happened. I met the most amazing person -- Ricardo Munez -- who was one of those miracle workers of customer service who helped us in every way. He was polite, fast and booked us on the next plane the next day. Still, we had one little issue, we were in London for the night with no hotel.

And, per usual, Twitter performed above and beyond the call of duty. Knowing I might be stuck in London and much preferring the company of my Twitter buddies, I sent out a quick tweet and got three responses in about 20 minutes. Euan Semple and his totally awesome family put us up for the night and showed us wonderful stuff like a pub and a pony and a pot of tea and finally an evening in front of the telly watching Sirens by good old @reynolds -- all good things spawned by social media, doncha know. We slept well and then they graciously got us back to London Heathrow and on our way the next morning. Semples take a bow! Twitter take a bow! Virgin Atlantic take a bow! And I just found that hairbrush.

Photo Credit: Shaggy Pony by las on Flickr