First Class

So if your flight leaves the airport at 6 am supposedly it’s a good idea to arrive at the airport at some crazy time like 3 am the Tuesday before. This was the case for Ashley and me as we got ready for our anniversary/ birthday/birthday trip to NYC. Like, good travelers, we arrived early to the airport, had our luggage labeled and ready to go. Our check bags were properly packed and we were well prepared to do the TSA dance to get through security. We had our tickets, our IDs, everything. There was one problem, the Charleston International Airport didn’t have a plane. Our flight got delayed until 10 am. Since we had been dropped off for our flight, we were stuck. We got in line to see if we could change our flights and shortly thereafter we got the announcement. Our flight was canceled.

Ashley got on the phone with the airline and we waited in line to see someone at the ticket counter. we watched as person after person shouted threw their hands up in the air realizing they wouldn’t be reaching their destinations that day. It was becoming clear that we weren’t going to be able to make it out until the next day. We had plans, reservations, and things that had been paid for. We couldn’t wait 24 hours to get on a flight. We needed to leave now. I remember wanting to slam my hands on the counter, to demand that someone do something about this! Didn’t these people know how much I’ve wanted to go to New York since forever, didn’t they understand what was at stake here? Then I realized, they didn’t. I wondered what would happen if I talked to someone. If I told my story and listened to theirs. What would happen if I invited the airline staff to be part of that story and help me turn it into a good one?

After about 30 minutes in line, it was my turn. I stepped up to the counter to be greeted by a woman who looked like she was facing a firing squad. I asked her how she was doing and if people had thus far been understanding of the situation. She laughed a polite laugh and began to explain that a storm at La Guardia had grounded the plane and if it couldn’t fly to us, we couldn’t get out. I asked her if there was anything we could do. Was their another flight, maybe out of Atlanta? Could the airline help us get a car to get there if so? I told her that we were celebrating our anniversary and this was our first trip to New York. After that, I said, “If there is anything you can do we would sincerely appreciate it. But if not, we understand and appreciate your efforts either way.” It was like she never heard anything like that before.

She responded with a new mission. She was determined to be the hero of our story; to save our trip. And she did. She made several phone calls, spoke to higher-ups, and even called in personal favors. Not only did she get us a flight but it was in first class. The thing I learned looking back was that people rarely want to be the bad guy, they want to be the hero. They simply need an invitation to a great story. We made it to New York and experienced one of my favorite trips ever, all because instead of fighting against someone, we invited them to fight with us.

This is part four of a series called “How to Pretend you’re from New York.” You can follow this blog by clicking the gear at the top of the page and providing your email address.

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