I’m trying to take all of next week off, you see, to visit family and reground myself; pretend like I have roots or something. And with today being the last work day before I left, I needed to get everything in a place where I could be gone. I knew it would be a challenge — it always is — but today was particularly bad.
A few things contributed. First, I came into it at the end of a particularly long and demanding month. I think I’ve billed more hours this month than I have all year. Second, I got only four hours of sleep last night. That’s because last night I went to my class, and then had to do more work, and then had to pack for my trip, and then had to get up at the crack of dawn to do more work — because it JUST WOULDN’T STOP COMING IN and all the other lawyers I work with had already checked out for the weekend, so I had no one to delegate to. Third, I had to call Delta. As with any call to an airline, the purpose could have been anything; the experience was the same as it ever is: I jumped through hoop after hoop of automated directories, ultimately reaching an agent who told me that I was stuck between one policy that required me to change my ticket or have all of my flights be canceled and be forced to buy new tickets, and another policy that would permit me to keep my tickets but which required me to pay hundreds of dollars as a penalty for making that airline-mandated change.
And then, THEN, when I objected and pointed out how the airline had created an artificial dilemma where I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t (and either way they wanted money), the woman started interrupting me and talking over me. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. And she just kept saying the same script over and over and over.
Remember what the straw did to the camel’s back? Yeah. Let’s just say the call didn’t end well.
The thing of it is, for as annoying as the woman was, it really wasn’t her fault. Her employer has stupid policies and doesn’t empower her to make any decisions to accommodate the consumer. Nor could she have known that I had come into the call tired and basically in a state of controlled panic as I watched the work pile up and the minutes tick by. And for my part, what I didn’t realize is that the acute sense of powerlessness and insignificance that you get when you try to confront a giant, impersonal corporate bureaucracy was essentially going to tap into (and unleash) a month’s worth of frustration and stress and feelings of powerlessness in face of my work schedule. For my sake and the Delta agent’s, I should never have called Delta in such a state. But I did. And the result? Well, I think “meltdown” captures it.
I managed to hold it together long enough to finish the call and close my door, but then things got messy and I was grateful the guy next door to me wasn’t in, because he might have thought I’d gotten a cold. Or something. I sent off some texts — which were fairly Robespierrian in tone — to my Dad, and ate all the dark chocolate that I’d brought as a snack for the plane. Because really, when all is wrong in the world, there’s nothing quite like the French Revolution and dark chocolate (mostly the dark chocolate) to make things better.
And things did get better. The last few hours of work were furious and intense (and a little jittery from the sugar rush from the chocolate). I left late for the airport and only just made my flight; they made no promises about my luggage. But overall the trip went smoothly. I didn’t miss my flight. The Atlanta airport was comfortable, well stocked with food and WiFi, and the layover was long enough for me to get another meaningful chunk of work done. We landed early in Salt Lake, my luggage did arrive, and Salt Lake taxis have apparently seen the light and decided to accept credit cards.
So here I am, safe and sound in a hotel in Salt Lake. I’ve brushed my teeth and done a little ironing to relax. Work awaits, but there’s nothing I can do about that now. Tomorrow will be another day of travel as I make my way to Reno, but along the way I’ll be seeing good friends and getting some much needed sleep on the flights. Time for the vacation to start!