An unexpected training opportunity -- from gate B3 to gate E17 in the Charlotte airport.
Our flight from Hartford was late and just as we reached the gate they announced that all connections were OK except for Birmingham. As I was getting off the plane it was 12:10, our Birmingham flight was scheduled to leave at 12:14, and the gate
was as far away as possible. But we had to try. I took off to see if I could hold the plane, while Gail waited for Rhonda DeWeese who was further back in the plane, and they would come as fast they they could.
Never has a short run seemed like such hard work. Perhaps it was the lack of an adequate warm-up, perhaps it was the bags I was carrying (checking bags on USAir these days in just an invitation to have them spend the weekend in Philadelphia), perhaps it was the heavy jacket I was wearing. Whatever the reason, when I got to E17 I was exhausted. The good news was the plane was still there. The bad news was the ramp gate was shut. The only person there was the USAir agent finishing up her paperwork.
"Is that the plane to Birmingham?"
"Yes, but it's closed."
"I have to get on that plane."
"You can't, it's closed."
"No, I have to get on theat plane!!"
"No, it's closed."
"No, I have to get on that plane!!!!"
"No, it;s closed."
Time for a quick change in tactics. "Call the pilot, see if I can get on."
With some reluctance she does that, mumbles a few words, and then a moment later she opens the door and disappears down the ramp. Progress?
She is back pretty quick. "OK, where's your ticket." She takes their part. "OK, go ahead, get on."
At that point it's time to tell her about Gail. "Oh, and my wife's coming too, she's right behind me."
"Can't be more than a minute or two, she's going as fast as she can." An obvious grimace from the agent. I keep talking about how she'll be right here, and I can't get on the plane without her, and another minute or two passes, but still no sign of Gail and Rhonda, and the agent is getting really impatient. (As it turned out, the bouncy flight from Hartford had caused Rhonda a good bit of distress and the first thing she did on setting foot in gate B13 was throw up...).
Time for more delaying tactics. "Oh, and there's a third person with my wife, too, Rhonda DeWeese."
"Yeah, do you have her on the list?" Got to keep the agent busy. She checks the computer. "Yeah, but where are they?" Which is exactly what I'm wondering, not knowing about Rhonda's condition. Are they lost?
But still no sign of them. And I am still out of breath and sweating profusely.
More delaying. "Actually there are 4 of us."
"Yeah, but the fourth one should already be on the plane. Can you check to see if he is? His name's Cote."
She's getting really fed up with this whole process, but her training in customer service is ingrained deeply enough that she just can't shut the ramp door and tell the plane to leave, much as she may want too. A few more seconds pass while she's checks if JJ is on the plane. He is. And then down the concourse I spot Gail and Rhonda coming.
We get high-fives from JJ as we get on, scowls from everyone else, and a bit of sarcasm from the flight attendent as she welcomes the "late-arriving" passengers. The flight to Birmingham is even bumpier, but we are glad to be on it, even if Rhonda does throw up three more times....