Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Desperate Measures

It’s scary how relieved one becomes to discover something one detests so much. Such is the case with me and public restrooms.

When I’m business traveling, there is no choice since “I have to go” = “I have to go.” This, of course, quickly escalates into The List of “I have to find a ladies’ room. That isn’t closed due to the always untimely cleaning person. That doesn’t have twenty women waiting in line. (HA!) That has toilet paper. That has a door on the stall that will close, and actually stay that way without contortions. That isn’t filthy. That flushes, and was flushed after the last user’s visit.”

To you male readers, I understand that your easier jobs don’t entail my entire list. And yet, when it comes to your more time-consuming bathroom duties, I know you get my drift here. Imagine what it would be like if your every pit stop involved so many variables! And especially imagine yourself always having to stand in the lines you see snaking out of the restrooms labeled WOMEN, DAMES, GALS, COWGIRLS, LADIES, FEMMES or ODD PICTURE OF SOMETHING THAT LOOKS LIKE IT’S WEARING A WOMAN’S HAIRDO AND/OR SKIRT SO I GUESS I’LL CHOOSE IT.

But the truth is, men usually don't have to stand in long restroom lines, so thank your lucky stars! Nonetheless, this blog post is all about you, so keep reading.

When I’m gearing up to go, but am not yet DESPERATE, I can afford the luxury of reordering my list, ruling out the inferior, heading down the concourse to the next ladies’ room, moving over one stall and/or first flushing (hoping it will) “content” that did not previously flush since there’s always the possibility someone simply forgot. I can, through years of involuntary training and endurance, hold the door, my breath and my patience. I can even hold my “content,” but I can only hold it for so long. Difficult decisions need to be prioritized and implemented, and as we all know, DESPERATE DESPERATENESS calls for DESPERATE ACTIONS. When I’m DESPERATE enough, I skip everything on that list but the “I have to find a ladies’ room” part.

Throughout my years of jogging through terminals, I’ve learned I can hurdle a “CLOSED FOR CLEANING” sign, endure all kinds of messes, get Very Creative when it comes to toilet paper (that was missing), stand on my head to check under stall doors for feet, invoke super-human tolerance skills to endure the line, and still make my flight. I am a grown-up woman possessing grown-up skills.

And now, Dear Male Readers, we’re back to you. At least one of you. (Apologies to all the sincere gentlemen--the majority of you--who understand the Mars/Venus thing. At least a little.) The POLICE OFFICER “one of you” who leisurely preceded me--as in right in front of me—into the mini store at a gas station during one of my road trips. There was no evidence or sound of sirens or squawking squawk boxes. We were just two folks walking single file on our way to the bathroom. Right in front of me, he tried the MEN’S door, but it was locked. Right in front of me, and in fact seeing me, hand outstretched heading for the WOMEN’s doorknob, he veered into the WOMEN's and clicked the lock. No asking or explaining. No shouting anything about an emergency. No DESPERATE begging for a line cut.

My emotional knee-jerk response was, WHAT?! Since I waited right outside the door, I heard the familiar seat-slamming-up-against-the-tank sound. Then I heard, um, an easy job in process. Then I heard a flush followed by a squirt of water in the sink. (Who was he kidding?!) By now, my arms were crossed and I was glaring when THAT MAN exited the WOMEN’s bathroom, grinning like it was all a one-big-family joke.

“Men can’t wait?” I asked incredulously. He turned on the charm, grinned some more, coyly shrugged his shoulders and waited for me to respond in kind. Waited for me to acknowledge that the entire incident was nothing more than an adorable kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar by his loving Aunt Betty. But he should have noticed my inhale.

That was RUDE!” I spewed in a gusting hurricane of words.

Yes, I all but yelled at a police officer. Who offered no apologies or explanations. He simply turned red and sheepishly slunk away like the "Bad boy!" he was. He knew. He knew!

Then I entered the WOMEN’s room, only to discover . . . you guessed it! The seat was still up.

Like I mentioned before, I am a grown-up woman possessing grown-up skills. One of them is the old knee-to-groin maneuver. If you’re ever thinking about cutting in front of a lady to use the LADIES’ room just because you don’t feel like standing in line, think twice. I might be that lady, but I likely won’t respond like one.

PS I had my husband read this before I posted it. He—way too defensively, I might add--tells me he (speaking for all men, of course) has waited in restroom lines. He mumbled something about sporting events and beer. To which I responded, “And don’t YOU try to cut in line in front of me to use the ladies’ room, either!”

PSS I know what some of you are thinking, and yes, I've seen women abandon the long lines outside the LADIES to sneak into the no-line MEN's. I know it happens. Just for the record, I don't like that behavior either. But at least when there's a dozen in the LADIES line (typical) and none in the MEN's (typical), I understand the temptation.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Survey Says

I recently noticed something, which doesn’t mean it’s new. It only means my sixty-something self has “awakened” to the fact that, at least in my area, the majority of fast- and faster-food restaurant and grocery receipts (check the back or the bottom) contain either a coupon for something free during your next visit--from them, or perhaps another merchant--or implore you to visit a website within 48 hours to fill out a survey about their service, which will enter you into a drawing to win some fabulous prize.

The problem is, I usually don’t notice these freebies and opportunities until they’re expired. I just missed a free hamburger from Burger King (where, gosh darn it, I can have it MY way!) because I didn’t read the fine print soon enough. However, my husband, who sniffs out coupons, receives calls from relatives asking if he has an extra haircut coupon, which he finds on the back of grocery receipts.

A waitress recently pointed out to me that my bill contained an offer for a free breakfast during my next visit. “Make sure you keep this copy of your bill when you check out,” she said, "and watch the expiration date." Sure enough, with the purchase of my next breakfast and a beverage (iced tea, in case you’re wondering), my friend got her breakfast for free because we used my coupon. Aside from the cost of her coffee, it didn’t cost me an extra cent to entertain. And guess what else? Although the waitress (not my usual that time) didn’t mention it, I got another coupon for a free breakfast, even though I’d only paid for one to begin with! Which made me wonder: how many of these have I missed? Honestly, the offer is presented in regular print at the bottom of the front of the receipt, but who reads that?

Microsoft (yes, that Microsoft), who cares about my potential (see new trademarked slogan here) sent me four—FOUR—follow-up e-mails inquiring about my satisfaction with their recent tech support. After several HOURS of dinking with my computer—even allowing them to “take it over” to work on the problem--my issue was not resolved, but they genuinely seemed to care by letting me know they were archiving my case, should I desire to reopen it some time in the future.

This entire "we care and want your business" phenomena gets me to thinking how wonderful it would be if the airlines, including our seatmates, handed out coupons and/or survey opportunities.

Or would it?

Phone this number to let us know if you arrived on time, and we’ll enter you into a drawing for a free snack pack.

Bring this coupon to the gate for your next flight, and WE will attach your gate-check bag tag. During a recent flight, we were handed our gate-check tags and the guy behind me said, after he sighed, “Remember when they used to put them on?”

Turn this into your flight attendant when you deplane. IMAGINE if we, the passengers, had to undergo evaluation sheets filled out by our seatmates! Or better yet, IMAGINE getting to fill one out in front of your LOUD seat companion, who would learn—because she’s watching your every move—that during her next trip, she’ll have to sit in the time-out chair across from the lavatory.

How’d you like my landing? Phone 1-800-get-down to use our automated system.

Did you truly find our skies ‘friendly’?

We’re sorry your flight was delayed. Please accept this coupon as our token of apology. It’s good for one free cab ride to your next transatlantic destination. See how THAT goes for you, buck-o!

Because we couldn’t serve our beverage cart today, this coupon is good for one free flight.* You could hardly believe your eyes when, right after touch-down, the flight attendant handed you this generous gift! Until . . . you noticed the fine print on the date/time-stamped coupon, and that teensy qualifying asterisk. *Coupon expires two minutes after presentation, and must be presented to gate agent in Oklahoma.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Earlier this week, our oldest son flew from Albuquerque (his hometown, and that of the International Balloon Festival) into Chicago O'Hare (my home airport) for a business trip, which meant I was part of the Picker Upper Crew rather than the Done Dropped Off Again. Travel from the pickup side is a whole new adventure. And my, how things have changed.

Let us take a mind’s ride through the history of The Greeting, at least as it’s changed at O’Hare Airport.
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Remember the good old days when . . . we used to press in around the arrival gate and try to glance down the loading bridges, straining to get a peek at the One We Loved heading straight for our open arms?

Remember when . . . we were first told we had to wait outside the security area for that to happen?

Remember when . . . we used to have a place to sit down while we were waiting?

Remember when . . . we used to pull our car up at the curb (we had a place to sit in our car!), turn on our flashers and cast our eyes about to get that first look at our loved one exiting the terminal—and WITH their luggage?

Remember when . . . the road traffic control person didn’t bang on your window when you slowed down your vehicle in order to scan the crowd for your loved one?

Remember when . . . we didn’t have cell phones, so the picker upper circled and circled, having no idea why, two circling hours later, their loved one still had not appeared?

Remember when . . . we all got cell phones, and thus we could happily call each other to report we, the arrivers, were standing in a long line to fill out a missing luggage claim, or we were still sitting on the tarmac, or . . . ?

Remember when . . .

WAIT! I don’t remember when O’Hare Airport put in a remote cell phone lot, because I’m always the arriver.
- -

When we left for the airport to pick up our son (Oh, HAPPY DAY!), I didn’t even know where the remote cell phone lot was located. Big George, my faithful picker-upper husband, has all but become One with the thing. So George drove us.
As was pre-arranged, we waited in our car, which we parked in the middle of the fenced in lot, until our Dear One called us, a call which came after he claimed his checked bag (it arrived on his same flight, halleluiah!) and headed for the curb, where, after a quick moving hug, you might call it, we catapulted both he and his luggage into the car before the road traffic control person had a chance to bust our chops.
- -
Remember when . . . greeting a loved one felt more like all was right with the world, rather than making you feel like you’d just auditioned for a James Bond movie by hiding out amidst a billion vehicles, activating after a phone call, then kidnapping your target right off the curb?