Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Airport Hospitality

After waking at what felt like the butt-crack of dawn after days of sleeping in until as late as 10:30, Mom delivered me to the TF Green Airport in Providence, Rhode Island. We weren’t sure what traffic would be like around Worcester on a workday morning, and for some reason, I thought my flight was at 10:20, but it was really at 10:50. The traffic getting there was tolerable even with road construction and the heaviest volume seemed to be headed in the opposite direction. Consequently, there were a couple hours with which to entertain myself before my flight.

Baggage check-in was quick for me, but not for the woman two kiosks away. I don't know what the specifics of the situation were, but her suitcase was partially open on the scale, exploding jackets like one of those trick cans of nuts with the snakes in it. There was a puffy black quilted down coat hanging out and she was trying to jam a black glossy fur (or maybe fake fur) into it, and clothes were hanging out the sides onto the scale. She was waving a hot/cold thermal bag and asking the attendant "Will they check EVERY SINGLE item in here?" I am not sure if she was genuinely dense, had never flown before, or if it was some kind of an act. Maybe it was an airline  "secret shopper" test for customer service. She had been there at the kiosk for the entire time I was in line, with eight or nine people checking in between us.

The clerk at my check-in kiosk rolled her eyes (ever so slightly, in the most polite manner) as she handed me my gate number and luggage claim ticket. When our eyes met, I said, "And for this morning's entertainment ..." She said, "Yeah, no kidding." She smiled, looking relieved the drama was not her station, and then I was off to the nearly empty security queue. In virtually no time, I was through the procedures and on the other side. No body scan. No groping. Just the regular level of disrobing (jacket, scarf, shoes) and a quick walk through the funhouse doorway or portal to hell or whatever it is, depending upon the day.

The airport shops featured the usual array of overpriced college (Brown University) and professional sports team branded tee shirts, sweatpants, hoodies and ball caps, but as much as I liked some of them, I could not justify $24.99 for a ball cap. My analysis for expenditures is simple – "How many hours do I have to work to pay for Item X?" I didn't like the answer for the $24.99 ball cap. Ditto for the $19.99 tee shirt. I barely spend that much on groceries in any given week, or on clothing items for work, where I occupy most of my quality awake time. Blame growing up hearing "We can't afford it." Blame the Frugal Finn gene bestowed upon me at birth. Blame the wage differential that has me earning my 1999 New England income in 2010 Tennessee. Blame whatever you want. I am not paying that kind of money for a ball cap unless one of the New England Patriots or Boston Red Sox are handing it to me in person and taking me to dinner afterward. And it better not be some third string player or bench warmer, either. I want a personal encounter with the A Team for that kind of money.

I did get a couple books for 50% off at the Read and Return cart – there is no problem justifying two books for $21. There was only a slight twinge when I stopped for a bottle of (overpriced) water on the way to my gate. The twinge had less to do with the cost of the water and more with the sales transaction.

The woman at the kiosk greeted me with “Good morning princess! You are my first customer today!” Well, good morning to you, too. There was an accent, but I couldn’t tell from what region of the planet. “Is that all for you sweetheart? Thank you very much honey! Here is your change darling.” She was trotting out every candy covered term of endearment possible, and I wondered what chapter of the ESL book these were from. “Have a great day, lovely.” Wow. That was a heavy dose of sweetener for so early in the morning. I’ve had long term relationships that didn’t use that many pet names throughout their entire run, never mind in one 30-second exchange. I wondered if that was the daily ‘first customer’ treatment, and considered hanging around a bit to see if she talked to the second customer like that, or if I was really the special, lovely, honey princess she had just built me up to be in my head. But then I figured why push it. Why spoil the fantasy? Why not bask in a glow of specialness for just a few minutes? Thank you water lady!

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