Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Frustration Into Funny

On Tuesday evening I landed at LAX in Los Angeles for my two day marathon schedule with a client. The plan on arriving was simple enough. Plane lands at 4:40PM, pick up Hertz rental car using my trusty Hertz Gold membership, jet over to my hotel and drop off my stuff, freshen up, relax a bit and head over to K-Zo in Culver City for a dinner meeting.

I wasn’t able to catch the earlier non-stop from Nashville to LA, so I had to connect through Dallas. Always a risky endeavor in the summer. Sure enough, no sooner had we landed- still on the tarmac- when lightening strikes shut down the airport. We couldn’t get off the plane for fear of a strike hitting the ramp. There we sat for a half hour.

The connection to LA was delayed further as a second round of storms came through. We finally departed an hour after scheduled.

I landed at LAX at 6PM, but wasn’t too worried about being late for dinner. Still plenty of time to get my car and head straight there- no sweat. I caught the Hertz bus outside the airport and was shuttled amidst the fragrant odors of diesel and unwashed international travelers to the Hertz Gold board. I bounded out of the bus, walked up to the board, and looked for my name and car parking slot number. I kept looking. Nope. My name wasn’t there. A nice Hertz lady nearby instructed me to enter the Gold service office and talk to a representative. Fifteen minutes later I got to the front of the Gold line and was promptly informed that my Gold membership had expired last week. I needed to go to the main service center across the parking lot to get my rental papers.

I walked into the building and knew I was in big trouble. The line had about 30 or so people in it, snaking back and forth, with only 4 or 5 rental clerks sitting amongst the 30 or so rental desks. I can only assume Hertz is working hard to limit payroll overhead.

After 10 minutes the line had not shortened by a single customer. I left my place in line (now #31 of #32) and wandered over to the customer service desks. Those are different form the rental desks, seemingly there to hold court over the proceedings and assure people that yes, they need to get into the long line over there to get a car. There were 4 of them sitting there talking to each other about personal matters with one even taking care of her insanely long fingernails.

I asked one of the ladies if she could help me. I explained that I had originally booked a car as a Gold member, my membership lapsed, and I had little time to get my car and to a dinner meeting and could she please help me get my rental processed. She politely informed me that no, she could not do that and I had to wait in line with all the other people. I restrained myself and my tongue, and returned to the line.

45 painful minutes later I watched the person in front of my get called up and I was next in line. There was one person behind me. I had obviously ridden a wave of business and I represented the last bits of white foam that reach the highest point on the sand after all the action is over. As I waited to be called up, a lady with a MANAGER badge on came up to me with a smile and said “I’m so sorry for your long wait, we can take care of you right now over at our customer service desk.”

She escorted me over to the same lady that had rebuffed me nearly an hour before and instructed her to take care of me. The customer service agent smiled and got my rental car set up in a couple minutes. I don’t even think she remembered me.

I restrained myself. I smiled, said thank you and left. I let the stress and frustration flow out of me and didn’t, though every ounce of my being wanted to, take her head off. I just let it go.

I arrived at dinner thirty minutes late and when asked what happened I told this tale to the delight and laughter of my dinner guests. I was able to tell it with humor only because I worked hard to not let it ruin my day or dominate my emotions. A lesson learned. Again.

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