March 13, 2007

Delayed Flight Blues

While the SJC airport isn't the worst place in the world to spend 3 hours, a plane delay shows the mettle of the average traveler. I just watched some dude holler at the United rep here at gate C2. To what point, I honestly have no idea, as they've been very good at keeping us up to date, offering to rebook folks, etc... I think that it is hellishly tempting to indulge in some handy outrage when things like this go on. I've felt it at times, sure, but I don't indulge in that particular vice.

And I suppose I do consider it a vice. I have no better way to cross the country than a non-stop flight, even with a 3 or 4 hour delay. For a trip to LA, I'd have hopped in my car by now, but for flying to DC.....I see it as saving many days of driving, many months of covered wagon riding, or a solid year of walking. Not that I'm saying "Gosh, how lucky I am to be delayed" or even "Look at how good I'm handling this, admire me" but I guess I'm saying: "Christ, it's just a damn plane delay, dude, leave the customer person be."

I have some sensitivity to their plight, I was a customer service rep (csr, natch) at Circuit City when I was a pup. This was a pretty good high school/early college job, really. The pay was decent and you got a handy discount on the stuff they sold. And back then (I don't know if this is still true) CC had the leverage to basically force manufacturers to take back returns and get credit for them. This meant that we had broad power to be nice to the folks with incoming broken stuff.

The only thing we had to do (and who could blame us for doing it) was ensure that the device was actually broken. If it was , 99 times out of 100 we could give them a credit and send em into the store, even if it was wildly past the warranty period. This made a lot of sense for us too, we could simply send it back to the manufacturer, slapping on an RTV sticker on the thing, and we'd never have to see the machine or the customer again. For nice people, it felt good to just give them a new VCR or whatever. For jerks, you knew you wouldn't have to see them in a few weeks after a repair job.

Most people were pretty okay. Not that there weren't many jerks, of course, this was the store in Tyson's Corner, near the mall there. Washington DC and the surrounding environs is a place where power, for some definition of power, matters a lot to people. Whether it is power over an electorate, power over their children or power over their broken VCR and the CSR who'd dare question their word by plugging it in. It was a great way to learn about people.

Not long after Circuit City, I took a job at a litigation boutique law firm in downtown DC. A punishing commute terminated at the underground parking. I'd park at the lowest most level, at the end. 7 stories underground. Then I'd get out of my car, walk down two flights of stairs to the copy/support level. Seriously. Think of this: 20 stories (or something like that) of fabulous office space, then 7 stories of parking, then 1 level for the computers, the copiers, the accounting department and the people who worked in them.

My job there was to nurse along, hospice care really, 20 servers running Microsoft Mail for the Macintosh. This was before exchange. I had 1200 mail users that were under my care. After a short period getting used to the system, I ran it well enough. To keep the system healthy, I had to compact/vacuum the databases every 2 or 3 weeks, otherwise the servers would die, and my pager would go crazy. There was a fair amount of yelling anyhow as the Lawyers and the other folks would delete mail by accident or other related mishaps. I learned a lot at the firm as well. The first was that, of course, shit rolled downhill. In our case, shit got in the elevator, swiped a badge, and descended 120 feet. We were in service of all the groups, so any minor problem with the computers was instantly cause for hollering.

I had my pride and I walked out of not a few offices until they calmed down, but for the most part I just fixed the machines and kept the mail flowing. After the law firm, I moved to California and have been concentrating on the technology production side of things (vs the consumption side) and it is a happy place to be but it isn't a lie to say that I was yelled at professionally for some 4 or 5 years in total. 3 or more years at Circuit City, a year at the lawfirm, and some other places here and there. Strangely, I'm decent at handling people, and like doing it. It's kind of weird.

Funnily enough, none of these places were bad to work at, and I mostly felt bad for the people who had to unload on the kid behind the counter in the silly grey CSR vest whose only real desire was to give them a new VCR.

No comments: