Wednesday, March 28, 2007

You're Freakin' me OUT, man!

Ever since my second-grade trip to the moon (dressed as Flash Gordon, riding an abandoned hot water heater with half-melted camera flash cubes - remember those? - taped to it that served as spaceship control panel buttons) occasional “things” about traveling have freaked me out. Things like watching an automobile accident unfold in front of me, cars whirling and twirling this way and that. Things like getting rear-ended by someone traveling 40 MPH while I’m stopped behind a commuter bus or at a traffic light (yes, BOTH of them happened to me).

Things like missed airplanes due to late airplanes. Things like burning towers, crawfish runway landings in high winds, hacking seatmates, unidentified gooey substances down in the slot that the bulkhead tray table folds into, blue water in airline toilets, the sudden squealing of train brakes, scary editors at writers’ conferences, mascara (not mine) on hotel pillow cases, elevators that won’t go up … or down, or a wad of chewed gum (not mine) in my nachos (yes, that really happened) .

Yes, there are plenty of things to freak me out on the road.

But last week I encountered The Worst Freak-Out, which was that I freaked MYSELF out! Let me tell you a story.

Back on January 4, I decided to book my first ever Jet Blue flights for an April event, this after deciding that using my AA frequent flyer miles when I could buy $39 one-way tickets wasn’t a prudent use of hard-earned miles. I’m moderating a “Selling Fiction” panel at the American Society of Journalists and Authors annual conference in NYC, and I’m flying in a couple days early to get in some face time with my publishers, take in something on Broadway… enjoy the razzamatazz of the Big Apple before the ASJA conference begins. Since all traveling expenses are on my dime, I’m trying to cut corners where I can, and hotel rooms alone just about broke my bank. So, I set up my online Jet Blue account, booked my reservations and Voila! Such a deal!

In a follow-up flurry of plan-ahead details, last week I forwarded my Jet Blue confirmation e-mail to my husband. Right after I pushed the “send” button, a FREAK-OUT sensation zinged up my mouse arm and exploded my brain. TELL ME I DIDN’T SEE WHAT I THINK I SAW! With racing heart, I dared to face the ominous details head on. Details of the reservation I MADE ONLINE with MY OWN BLAZING POINT-AND-CLICK FINGERS, in case you missed it.

“NOooooo!” My wail careened out of my gut, flew through my lips, bounced around my office walls, out the door and into my startled husband’s ears.

“WHAT? What’s wrong?”

“I canNOT believe what I’m seeing!”


“I made my airline reservations backwards! I have me flying out of JFK the day I’m supposed to be leaving Chicago, and visa versa! HOW DID I DO THIS? I’ve NEVER done this before. Hundreds, dare I say THOUSANDS of reservations! This is a first! I cannot imagine. . . . .”

I immediately clicked to the Jet Blue site to see what kind of tricky, backwards, ill conceived setup they offered that caused me to do such a stupid thing.

“Round Trip” - “One Way” [click your choice]
“Where from?” [pick your city from a drop-down menu]
“Where to?” [pick your city from a drop-down menu]
“Date to leave?” [pick your date from a calendar]
“Date to return?” [pick your date from a calendar]
“Number of adults?” [I’m thinking at the moment that this is DEBATABLE!]


HOW COULD I HAVE DONE THIS?” (That’s about half of what I screeched.)

“Just phone the airlines and explain what happened,” my husband calmly said. My husband who barely ever travels on airplanes and never makes the arrangements. My dear one who therefore hasn’t dealt much with airlines and customer service.

“This is gonna cost me HUGE!” I bellowed, then moaned, then dialed the number with one hand while cradling my forehead in the other.

Let me cut to the finish line here. After much gnashing of teeth, explaining, pleading and especially admitting how DUMB I am and how this is my first Jet Blue “experience,” and how I FREAKED MYSELF OUT with this discovery (and how much MORE I’d have FREAKED MYSELF OUT if I didn’t discover this until I went to check in online the night before my flight!), I ended up paying $40, the difference in available flight fares. Even though the Jet Blue agent didn’t think they’d do it, after putting me on hold and, on my behalf, fighting the good fight with whomever she had to fight it (I can just hear her now, “I have this insanely incompetent, verge-of-tears, self-deprecating, slightly hysterical, pleading woman on the line”), Jet Blue kindly waved my $30 change fee.

The moral of this story? Always check the details in your e-mail confirmations. Watch your fickle online booking fingers, no matter how seasoned they may be. If your assistant makes this type of doofus mistake when making your flight arrangements, know that he or she is already FREAKED OUT about it and yelling won’t help.

Admit your fault to customer service. (Your stupidity, your disbelief that YOU could have DONE such a thing, your utter despair that you are losing your mind since, after all, your grandmother had Alzheimer’s and . . . ) Maybe they will give a rip and extend grace to your poor demented soul (and pocketbook).

Or maybe you’ll have booked on an airline that recently made it’s own massive mistakes and is still working to make amends, which, in my personal humiliation book, they certainly did—even though their debacle hadn't even personally debased me. As it turns out, I’m good enough at doing that myself.

No comments: