5:19pm // Gate A-6 Pittsburgh International Airport
For a seasoned traveler, canceled flights are a way of life. Sometimes they are canceled for weather, or equipment malfunction and sometimes they are canceled for no apparent reason. Today, it’s no apparent reason. Despite how much I travel, I will never be used to this, and I am annoyed. Though perhaps not as annoyed as the Parisian mother of four trying to get home. I get in line behind about nine people, all rolling their eyes and speaking loudly about the injustice of the situation. I need to get to Charlotte tonight, I have a big meeting the next morning and if I don’t make it, it will look very bad to both my customer and my boss. I frantically open my United Airlines app to search for other flights, and my heart sinks as I realize there are none that get me in before my meeting tomorrow morning. I look up to see the gate agent press her lips into a tight line, biting back words I bet she is itching to release as the gentleman verbally accosting her says something about a conspiracy theory between the government and the airlines.
I feel for her: I’ve never been a flight attendant, but I spent more than a decade waiting tables at the Jersey shore, and have had my fair share of verbal abuse from disgruntled customers. She’s handling it with class, saying nothing and keeping her cool, but I know she’s getting frustrated.
By the time I get to her, she doesn’t have even a shadow of a smile left to give. I nod and say, “Hi, I just need to get to Charlotte sometime before 9 am tomorrow, is there anything you can do?” She sizes me up, asks for my name and starts speedily clacking away on her keyboard, and then she leans in and says; “Did you check any luggage and how fast can you run?” I smile and explain that I did not check anything and that I can run pretty fast. She nods and starts clacking away again. Within seconds she says; “We’re not supposed to do this, but I’ve booked you on a competitive flight that leaves in 15 minutes, which means you have 5 minutes to get to the gate. It’s direct and gets you in by 7pm. Think you can make it?” I nod furiously and thank her profusely as she smiles, hands me a ticket and says; “Good luck, now run!”
Five minutes later, as I settle into my seat on the flight, breathless and sweaty, I say a silent homage to Kim O., United Airlines gate agent extraordinaire. I raise my plastic glass of club soda and lime to you, wherever you are Kim O., you are a lifesaver and a testament to human kindness. Thank you for being you!
Journey On, Janes. 🍸