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Date: Sun, 26 Apr 1998 21:08:25 -0700 (PDT)
From: "David P. Thompson" <eatheror@netcom.com>
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                IJMC- Reservations of an Airline Agent

It's cute to read this one, since I'm in the middle of booking a pair of 
tickets for an upcoming trip...now I am simply hoping I don't usually 
sound this stupid to the poor airline agents...of course, if they could 
get their reservation system onto the Internet I wouldn't even have to 
bother them at all...ironic, ain't it...it's harder to ask stupid 
questions over the Internet but usually it's easier to find all the 
information you want. <shrug> Just so long as a human keeps flying the 
plane, I don't want some Internet flight jock...what if it lagged? -dave

      (After Surviving 130,000 Calls From The Traveling Public)
      By: Jonathan Lee -- The Washington Post
 Dedicated to all the people out there on the phones every day.
 I work in a central reservation office of an airline company.  After
 more than 130,000 conversations -- all ending with "Have a nice day
 and thanks for calling" -- I think it's fair to say that I'm a survivor. 
 I've made it through all the calls from adults who didn't know the
 difference between a.m.  and p.m., from mothers of military recruits
 who didn't trust their little soldiers to get it right, from the woman
 who called to get advice on how to handle her teenage daughter, from
 the man who wanted to ride inside the kennel with his dog so he
 wouldn't have to pay for a seat, from the woman who wanted to know why
 she had to change clothes on our flight between Chicago and Washington
 (she was told she'd have to make a change between the two cities) and
 from the man who asked if I'd like to discuss the existential humanism
 that emanates from the soul of Habeeb. 
 In five years, I've received more than a boot camp education regarding
 the astonishing lack of awareness of our American citizenry.  This
 lack of awareness encompasses every region of the country, economic
 status, ethnic background, and level of education.  My battles have
 included everything from a man not knowing how to spell the name of
 the town he was from, to another not recognizing the name of "Iowa" as
 being a state, to another who thought he had to apply for a foreign
 passport to fly to West Virginia. 
 They are the enemy and they are everywhere.  In the history of the
 world there has never been as much communication and new things to
 learn as today.  Yet, after asking a woman from New York what city she
 wanted to go to in Arizona, she asked "Oh...is it a big place?" 
 I talked to a woman in Denver who had never heard of Cincinnati, a man
 in Minneapolis who didn't know there was more than one city in the
 South ("wherever the South is"), a woman in Nashville who asked,
 "Instead of paying for my ticket, can I just donate the money to the
 National Cancer Society?", and a man in Dallas who tried to pay for
 his ticket by sticking quarters in the pay phone he was calling from. 
 I knew a full invasion was on the way when, shortly after signing on,
 a man asked if we flew to exit 35 on the New Jersey Turnpike.  Then a
 woman asked if we flew to area code 304.  And I knew I had been
 shipped off to the front when I was asked, "When an airplane comes in,
 does that mean it's arriving or departing?" I remembered the strict
 training we had received -- four weeks of regimented classes on
 airline codes, computer technology, and telephone behavior -- and it
 allowed for no means of retaliation.  We were told, "It's a real bugger
 out there and ya got no defense.  You're going to hear things so silly
 you can't even make 'em up. You'll try to explain things to your
 friends that you don't even believe yourself, and just when you think
 you've heard it all, someone will ask if they can get a free
 round-trip ticket to Europe by reciting 'Mary Had a Little Lamb'." 
 It wasn't long before I suffered a direct hit from a woman who wanted
 to fly to Hippopotamus, NY.  After assuring her that there was no such
 city, she became irate and said it was a big city with a big airport. 
 I asked if Hippopotamus was near Albany or Syracuse.  It wasn't.  Then
 I asked if it was near Buffalo.  "Buffalo!" she said.  "I knew it was
 a big animal!" 
 Then I crawled out of my bunker long enough to be confronted by a man
 who tried to catch our flight in Maconga.  I told him I'd never heard
 of Maconga and we certainly didn't fly to it.  But he insisted we did
 and to prove it he showed me his ticket:  Macon, GA. 
 I've done nothing during my conversational confrontations to indicate
 that I couldn't understand English.  But after quoting the round-trip
 fare the passenger just asked for, he'll always ask:  "...Is that
 one-way?" I never understood why they always question if what I just
 gave them is what they just asked for.  But I've survived to direct
 the lost, correct the wrong, comfort the weary, teach U.S.  geography
 and give tutoring in the spelling and pronunciation of American
 cities.  I have been told things like:  "I can't go stand-by for your
 flight because I'm in a wheelchair." 
 I've been asked such questions as:  "I have a connecting flight to
 Knoxville.  Does that mean the plane sticks to something?" And once a
 man wanted to go to Illinois.  When I asked what city he wanted to go
 to in Illinois, he said, "Cleveland, Ohio." After 130,000 little wars
 of varying degrees, I'm a wise old veteran of the communication
 conflict and can anticipate with accuracy what the next move by "them"
 will be. Seventy-five percent won't have anything to write on.  Half
 will not have thought about when they're returning.  A third won't
 know where they're going; 10 percent won't care where they're going. 
 A few won't care if they get back.  And James will be the first name
 of half the men who call. But even if James doesn't care if he gets to
 the city he never heard of; even if he thinks he has to change clothes
 on our plane that may stick to something; even if he can't spell,
 pronounce, or remember what city he's returning to, he'll get there
 because I've worked very hard to make sure that he can.  Then with a
 click of the phone, he'll become a part of my past and I'll be hoping
 the next caller at least knows what day it is. Oh, and James..."Thanks
 for calling and have a nice day."

IJMC April 1998 Archives