I love small jets and small airports, but they have their disadvantages. Flying home from Ohio I was booked to fly out of the Toledo airport. A small airport served by only one airline. They have three flights in a day and three flights out. The incoming flights all come from O’Hare airport in Chicago and all outbound flights go to O’Hare. So when I arrived for my early afternoon flight and found that O’Hare was currently shut down; all flights from Toledo had been cancelled. My choices were to wait until the next open spot on a flight out of Toledo which was about 8:00 PM the next night, or drive to Detroit to catch a plane to Minneapolis and then on to home, in St. Louis.
I rented a car and headed for Detroit, only an hour’s drive away. When I arrived at the larger airport, the inconveniences of the O’Hare shut down were very apparent. The stress of the travelers was high, and the stress of the ticketing agents was also high. It seemed the stress levels at security were equally pushed for travelers and workers alike. At the gate, nothing had changed and the stress was visibly recognizable. It was very easy to see what travelers were being interrupted by the O’Hare ordeal and which airline staffs were the ones handling those stressed travelers.
A man sat down next to me and said, “Well, what can you do?” That made me think.
I got up and stood in one of the lines handing the problem-faced travelers. I waited my turn in line and finally got to the ticket counter. I am sure I seemed rude, but I asked the attendant to wait a second until I got the other service person’s attention. I then explained to them, “I know you’re having a rough day. You’re handling problems for unhappy people and you’re doing the best you can in a very difficult situation; and it’s not yours, or their fault. Could I bring you a cup of coffee, water or cold drink? And I be delighted if you would let me bring you a snack. What would you like?”
That counter got very quiet. The workers declined my offer, but almost gushed with appreciation for the show of support. The people behind me in line became noticeably more patient. I hadn’t anticipated that this little gesture would be a stress reliever for all those who noticed. I went and purchased a couple waters, returned to the counter and explained it was the least I could do to show my appreciation for their hard work; they were taking the brunt of people’s frustration while trying to satisfy those travelers’ demands.
Maybe when faced with problem situations a good question to address is, “What can I do?” And then do something… positive.
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