This week I went someplace that I haven’t been to in years – Sheridan Wyoming. I once visited Sheridan on a fairly regular basis as this is where my mother-in-law used to live. At the time, she was married to the Air Force recruiter there, and since I was going to a school in the Denver area, it was reasonably feasible to visit from time to time.
It seems that it has amused the folks at the Delta Airlines counter in Austin to memorize my name, because just like the last time I checked in, this time they all greeted me by name before I checked in or provided ID. It must have been amusing and maybe a bit confusing for some of the other folks checking in when three people behind the counter all called out some variety of “Hey Matt, welcome back” to the tall blond “woman” dragging two large bags behind her. Of course this means that now I’ve gotta try and learn and remember their names! Lol
Normally when I travel, I note a variety of attitudes directed toward me, usually amusement, sometimes even delight, and very rarely disdain. On this trip though, I’d swear that it was mostly disdain. The flight attendants on both legs of the trip were somewhat stand offish, and I’d swear that the flight attendant between Salt Lake City and Billings Montana was almost hostile. Nothing you could place your finger on or point to and say “See, she was rude”, but she left the distinct impression that she didn’t like me. Very curt and formal, never a smile, and never a “your welcome” to the many times I said “Thank you” to her for odds and ends.
I’ve recently learned that Delta will allow you to use your frequent flier points to buy membership in their airport club – the Sky Miles Club. This is kind of like a country club at most airports, where you can go in to a nice, comfortable, and quiet environment and get snacks, coffee, and even cocktails at no charge. I would never have considered forking over the $800 annual fee for membership, but since they let me use my miles, it was essentially free, and so I joined a few days ago.
When I entered the Sky miles club in Salt Lake, the woman at the reception desk was absolutely frigid. If I’d had to spend more than a few seconds with her I probably would have caught a cold! Moving past the ice queen at the front desk, I started to explore the place, trying to learn what Delta thought was worth almost a thousand dollars a year. When I entered the main club area, I found a large room full of people, a bar and bartender, a table set up with a toaster and bagels, and another table loaded with snacks. I was more than a little impressed with how big the place was and by how many people were in it. I’d say that there were easily over a hundred people scattered about in lounge chairs and at tables. It was too early in the morning for a drink, so I skipped the bar and continued exploring the joint. As I was walking past the conference and meeting rooms, a young man dressed in the staff uniform walked by me and gave me a huge smile.
“Well hello!” he said to me. Given that most of the feedback I’d had on this trip had been less than positive, I literally could have hugged the guy for the genuine smile on his face.
“Good Morning!” I replied to him, returning his smile.
“And how are you this morning?” he asked. From his tone and mannerism, I’d guess that he was either gay or TG himself. I know, I know, you can’t claim that “gay” has a special sound or vocabulary, but let’s throw political correctness to the wind and just be honest with each other here. The vast majority of the time, you can tell if a man is gay or not pretty quickly after starting a conversation, especially if he wants you to know.
“Oh, I couldn’t be much gooder, thanks for asking! How are you?” I replied.
“I’m doing just great thanks!”
“I’m exploring!” I told him with a wink and with about the same attitude that Elmer Fudd says “I’m hunting wabbit!”� He just let out a laugh.
“Well good for you! Please let me know if there is anything at all that I can do for you.”
Feeling a little better about the trip after the friendly interaction, I then made my way to the very small plane that took me from Salt Lake to Billings Montana. When we landed at the airport I walked the entire length of the place looking for the Avis counter and didn’t find it. Most other rental car companies I found, but no avis. At last I walked up to the Enterprise counter where there was a bored woman standing behind the counter.
“Excuse me, but do you know where to find the Avis counter?” I asked her politely, well aware that I was asking her to help me find her competition. She just looked at me for a second, no smile, no nothing.
“They don’t have a counter at the airport.” She said with supremely bored tone. She didn’t bother expanding or offering advice, she just returned to her paper work and totally ignored me. I found a seat, sat down, and pulled out my laptop and checked my reservations. Sure enough, it said that they were located down town, not at the airport, and so I gave ‘em a call.
“Hi, I have a reservation with you and I am at the airport. Do y’all have a shuttle or something?” I asked.
“We sure do. As a matter of fact, he is right outside of door number four right now.” She said with a cheerful voice. I looked around me to see that I was only a hundred feet or so from that door.
“Awesome! Thanks!” I told her and then stuffed my laptop back in to its case. I grabbed my things and headed out the door where I found the Avis van parked not ten feet away. As I approached it, two gentlemen I’d guess to be in their early sixties both rushed forward to take my bags for me.
“Climb on in miss, we’ll take care of these for you.” I was told. As I entered the van, I found four male passengers already seated and one of them moved over to make room for me. As the driver got in, he turned to me.
“Can I have your last name please?” he asked with a smile, holding a clipboard and pen in his hand. I gave him my last name and watched him skim the list with his pen, and then look up at me again.
“I’m sorry, what was it again?” he asked and I once again told him. I saw him skim the list with his pen again and this time I saw the light go off in his eyes when he figured out that yes, he had the right name, and yes, my first name was “Matt”. That was where all of the smiles ended. . .��
It was all I could do to keep from chuckling as I watched him peeking at me over and over through his rear view mirror the entire drive to the Avis lot. I’d give fifty bucks to hear what he was thinking . . .