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Find The Boots

Rantings from a few corporate types about life, technology, travel, guns, politics, and everything good in the world.

Travel Experiment: Be Happy

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Last week I flew across country to SFO for a week long meeting. It had all the makings of a terrible trip: no upgrade on the packed ORD-SFO leg, liquid ban still in place, and a meeting I really didn't want to go to. And I had to travel on the weekend on both ends.

I arrived at the airport with a poor disposition, and I thought of all the complaints we hear on FlyerTalk about how the TSA treats everyone so badly. I was braced for conflict, and then I considered that almost everyone in the travel industry has to deal with people like me on an almost constant basis. No wonder there's so much rudeness. How often are you nice to people when they approach you with a scowl on their face?

So I made a concious effort to smile and be friendly to everyone I came in contact during that trip. The TSA person running the Xray machine was a bit cross with the person in front of me, but smiled and we laughed about something as I put my bags through. No secondary search, and I had my shoes on and off within 20 feet and 30 seconds.

I was in the far back of coach with a middle seat on the ORD-SFO leg, but I made the best of it. Another EXP, two rows ahead and to the right (he had an aisle seat so what's his problem?) was complaining to the FA that he had to pay for the snack box. I wonder what he thought the FA could do about it? BTW, the FA was nice to me and I received good service as far as the Self Loading Cargo section goes.

The hotel turned out to be much farther away than expected and I had to deal with horrible traffic, but I kept smiling at people. The hotel even lost my laundry twice, but they were very good about tracking it down. The manager even came to my room to apologize.

The rental car guy yelled at the lady behind me when she tried to jump in line. He was nice to me.

In the end, the trip was still a dismal experience. My back is still sore from riding in the cattle car. But the nicest people I encountered, and the most competent, were the TSA people.

So if you're finding yourself treated badly by the TSA, consider that perhaps it's because you arrive at the checkpoint with a scowl on your face like someone just shot your best dog.

This isn't to say that a traveller should never complain. Companies can't fix things if they don't know there's something wrong. But it doesn't do any good to complain or be rude to a line worker that can't fix your problem anyway. The FA can't change the pay for meal policy, the TSA screener can't let you keep your shoes on. Write to the hotel or airline executives, call your congressperson, or even better, vote with your feet and don't travel. But taking it out on the line worker is just you venting, and all it does is spread and multiple misery.

Luckily, smiles are contagious too.


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  • At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I was recently treated very badly by TSA staff in Indianapolis. I was very nice and very polite, followed every rule, did all the things you did (smiling and being compliant and friendly) and was treated very poorly. It doesn't always work.


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