My Friday

My wife and I were staying at a friend’s ranch near Bozeman, Montana.  We arrived Thursday evening (after a full day of travel), and had dinner prepared for us.  We awoke Friday morning and went for breakfast at a small diner in Manhattan, Montana. 

After some digesting time, my wife and took the family’s Suburban to check out the town of Bozeman, and possibly do some hiking.  We saw the beautiful Main Street, and stopped to get some snacks at the local Safeway. 

We set off to find the trailhead for the Sypes Canyon hiking trail.  Our hike started at 1:30 pm – not a smart idea considering it was about 88 degrees and the sun was nearly directly overhead.  The hike is mostly uphill – about 4 miles round trip and rising about 1000 feet during the hike.  Luckily, near the middle of the outbound portion, we were mostly in the shade until reached the top of the mountain for some incredible views.  We rested for about 30 minutes before heading down the mountain.  Downhill is always easier, and there was more shade by this point. 

Near the end of the hike, while taking a short water break, I noticed a call from my mother.  I didn’t answer because I was out of breath, and would call her back when we got to the car.  10 minutes later we were at the car, and my wife told me she had 2 missed calls from my mother.  Just then, my phone rang again.  I answered to hear my mother crying.  I knew something was wrong.

She told me my dog, Ace had had a heart attack.  Luckily, she happened to be at the vet with him when this happened.  At the time, she did not know if he was going to make it.  My legs were weak, but I couldn’t tell if it was the hike, or the news.  I told my mother we were heading back to the ranch, and would immediately try to get home. 

After my mother talked to my wife, I was handed the phone again.  This time I was talking to the vet, who was giving me the update.  Ace had a heart attack, they had done various medical sounding things that I couldn’t process as I sped back toward the ranch, and he was now stable.  The plan was to wait until the after-hours emergency hospital opened, cool my mother’s car, put him in, and take him to the hospital where he would be monitored all night.

Now it was time to try to change my flight, and the frustration really set in.  I dialed 1411 to get the phone number for Delta.  Usually with Verizon information I give the city I’m looking for to an automated voice, then I get a human.  I guess that’s changed.  Here is the exchange:

Verizon automated voice: What city?
Adam: Houston
Verizon automated voice: Are you looking for a business or residence?
Adam: business
Verizon av: What listing?
Adam: Delta Airlines
Verizon av: I heard China Airlines.  Is this correct?
Adam: No
Verizon av: What listing?
Adam: Deeeeeellllllllttttttaaaaaaaaaaa Aiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrlllllllliiiiiiiiines
Verizon: I heard China Airlines.  Is this correct?
Adam: No
Verizon av: What listing?
Adam: If you don’t put a fucking real person on the lone right fucking now I’m going to rip someones fucking head off!!!
Verizon av: I did not understand the response.  Can you please repeat the listing?

At this point my wife took the phone from me and tried to get the listing for Delta.  It took her 5 tries to not get China Airlines. 

Question #1 from this adventure: How can companies in good conscience think the voice recognition customer service systems even resemble something close to acceptable customer service?

I finally got a hold of Delta, and tried to explain what I needed.  Of course, since I had purchased a non-refundable ticket, there was a $100 per ticket fee, in addition to the difference in the airfare.  For my first option – flying to Salt Lake City Friday evening, and from SLC to Houston early Saturday morning, it was going to cost $100 each, plus $400 each for the changing one flight, plus some other amount for changing the second leg of the trip.  I couldn’t get a clear answer as to what the total was.  I hung up and frustration, thinking I could just make the change online.

More frustration.  Apparently, I cannot use my Continental OnePass miles for one-way tickets.  I think this is to disuade terrorists.  I guess the airlines think the terrorists are especially loyal to one airline…enough to plan their missions around when they have enough miles to purchase a ticket.  It makes me wonder if a terrorist were to purchase a ticket using miles, if they also get to cut in the security line, and hang out in the President’s Club.  I think they should…maybe they’ll realize they actually like America.  (side note – who thinks I’m going to be contacted by the Department of Homeland Security for having the words “terrorist” “airlines” and “President” in the same paragraph?)

Question #2 – at what point are airlines going to alter those cryptic, antiquated algorithms they have for assigning prices to certain seats on certain flights based on the time of day, date, wind speed, oil price, etc.?

Question #3 – when are airfares going to stop increasing?  At some point, the price will grind vacation travel to a halt.  Later, it will end business travel.  With new alternatives to business travel, like online meetings, conference calls, emails, etc., somewhere, business travel is going to be inefficient.  This goes teo Question 2 and the need to re-work the algortihms.

Finally, my mother assured me that my dog was relatively fine, and that we could wait until Saturday to come back.  It was “only” $600 to change and come back Saturday afternoon.  We went straight to the animal hospital and picked up Ace.  He was so happy to see us, and is currently lying down next to me, sleeping. 

I’m not sure why I decided to write all this, other than the fact that my vacation was cut short, and I have time today to do so.

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