Kindness Counts

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post. Where did time go? How does it fly by so quickly? I have so many ‘return to the States’ observations, thoughts and general posts whirling around in my brain. But here we are- a month later and I’m just now posting. I guess being home for the first time in a year, coupled with a plethora of familial emotions will take its toll on time.

Plus I’m a horrible snowball procrastinator. Just the worst. If I let something slide, and then slide even a little bit more, it snowballs into this seemingly overwhelming task that occupies too much of my thoughts, and thus results in a complete system shut down- a.k.a. curling into a blanket on my dad’s couch and watching the worst American television. Seriously. Is it just me, or has American TV gotten even more dramatic, over the top, expulsive, and so generally disgusting that you somehow can’t put down the remote and oddly continue to watch in shock (and awe) at this train wreck that is television? My return to America (or should I say ‘Merica) was christened with walking into the hotel room where my sister was watching Honey Boo Boo. Enough said.

But I digress. There will be other times, other posts to rant about overweight hicks on “reality” TV, or terrifying trashy pop stars occupying all forms of social media, and even American news. Right now I want to talk about kindness. About having patience, going above and beyond, stepping outside of your daily routine, and generally giving a shit at a time when ultimately, it’s easier not to.

I came home to be with my grandma. Specifically to be around for her surgery and help out with whatever I could. Unfortunately complications and confusions led to the surgery being scheduled ONE day after my scheduled departure. The idea of flying out of Houston (the surgery location) only one day before her major operation, made my stomach turn. So I picked up the phone and tried to change things.

What happened next was a series of fun back and forth calls- priceline telling me to talk to KLM, KLM telling me to talk to priceline, being told it would cost $3,000 to change it, being told it was impossible to change it- until finally my dad suggested talking face to face with some one. “Sometimes they just need to be reminded you’re a person”.

So I drove to the airport to speak to a person rather than a voice. Already feeling fairly defeated, I cautiously approached the Delta counter, where an older woman reluctantly said that she could help me (even though it was not her time to do so). After almost turning me away because I was dealing with Delta and not KLM, I told her of my frustration and current predicament and she looked at my face and paused. “Let me see what I can do.”

Those few words gave me rejuvenated hope. As she typed in her computer and waited on hold herself (even the people working there have to wait obscenely long to speak to someone), we talked about my grandma. Her eyes were kind and patient, and she spoke in a way that was both reassuring and firm. Even when the line grew behind me, she didn’t get off the phone. Instead she attempted to multitask- helping other customers while taking care of me. When she finally got off the phone, I couldn’t believe my ears. Not only was it possible to change my flight, but I could do so with minimal fees- as long as I provided medical documents. She made sure to provide me with a reference number and took the time to type in all relevant information, so that the next time I called, I’d leave with a changed ticket.

Seeing the overwhelmed relief in my face, she smiled and said that she wished all the best for my grandma and told me to stay strong. I teared up and thanked her for her patience and help. I left the airport feeling shocked and grateful and totally embarrassed by my blatant display of raw public emotion.

After racing home, and obtaining the medical information, I called once more and again was faced with hold hell. My heart sank when the man reiterated that my ticket was non changeable, but I insisted on the information I had just received. He reviewed the file, spoke to his manager, spoke to another manager and just when I thought I’d have to return to my Delta heroine, he returned to the phone and asked, “What seat would you like to sit in? Any preference?” Stunned I replied, “Wait. Do you need me to send the medical waiver?” “Nope. We’re all set.” “Wait. Isn’t there a change fee?” “Nope. We got that all figured out. Your ticket ended up being the same price.” “So…I have my changed ticket with no extra fees?” “You’re all set. We went ahead and e-mailed them to you.”

I could barely get off the phone without the choked sounds that accompanied the welling up of my tearful eyes.

What a baby.

Self deprecation aside, I finished that day feeling so thankful. I had not one, but two people go out of their ways to help me. But if it wasn’t for that original one, who took the time, made the effort and extended her kindness, I don’t know if I would’ve succeeded.

My mom commented that France trained me well for this. As I’ve learned from French Bureaucracy Survival 101: try and try again. And then again some more. Or if you don’t get the answer you like from one person, try another one.

Perseverance definitely helps, but kindness makes all the difference.


Thanks AYSHFI for this picture

4 thoughts on “Kindness Counts

  1. Unfortunately I understand this method completely. I am a feminist through and through but sometimes just breaking down at the check-in desk is where you end up. I hope everything works out for your grandma and she feels better soon!

  2. I love when things workout on the sunny-side, especially when it’s deserved and earnestly pursued. Betsy purchased a rather expensive chest-of-drawers from Crate&Barrel recently. For that price, I believed all the draws should have functioned as designed. Things where just a little off kilter. I voiced my objections, through the proper channels, against Betsy’s wishes. She was fine with the piece and didn’t want her money returned nor start the search for a new chest. We had already sent one back… oh, and this thing is heavy and those poor deliverymen, 4th floor walk-up! My emails with accompanied videos and photos climbed up the chain of authority at C&B. With their kindness coupled with my insistence, we negotiated a 40% off and a $200 store credit.
    I’m a firm believer of the face-to-face and I was a little shocked by this phone and email correspondence outcome.
    This story somehow relates to the kindness exchange that you so beautifully expressed above. I hope Karen is OK. I’m so out of the loop… not aware of her maladies.
    Love you,

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