I think my travel agency has been taken over by aliens doing tolerance testing on unsuspecting humans. The agents’ accent sounded Venusian, but it might have been Martian. Maybe North Martian near Planum Boreum, it’s hard to tell over a staticy phone connection. At the beginning I thought she was being helpful, but over the course of the next 45 minutes, it became clear that I was just a subject in ongoing testing to determine if the human psyche was calm enough under pressure to be allowed to interact with other intelligent species. I don’t know if they’ll admit us to the galactic government based on my responses, but I tried. I started the incident by asking why the flights I booked were canceled. She read me a scripted piece about it being entirely up to the airline and she and her company (clearly staffed by raging bean counters with megalomaniacal designs) were completely blameless. She told me we’d already been rebooked on another flight, and I was elated that she had so kindly taken care of the problem before even contacting me. Maybe, I thought, this is just a courtesy call to let me know so I don’t worry when the flight numbers change. But no, that was just the opening salvo in her quest to find the fastest way to make a human start chewing on chair legs. She had re-booked the flight for a full 10 hours earlier. When all the people taking the flight would still be at work. I explained that time wouldn’t work so she said ok (actually, she said zocktl, but that’s Venusian for ‘Ok’) and put me on hold to consult with the ‘airline’. I’m sure I was on hold for the precise amount of time calculated to make me a maximum of angry without hanging up.
I wonder what units they use to measure human anger. Twitches/Second? Growls/Minute? WallKicks/Sprain?
When she came back, she told me good news (‘Maxzra!’) there is a later flight that day we could have, and it was only 4 hours earlier than the one I had booked. After taking a moment to press my finger under my eye to make the twitching stop, I told her again that the flight couldn’t be earlier than I’d booked, it had to be later. And she put me back on hold. This time with terrible muzak and a scratchy connection so bad that I thought she’d hung up on me twice. I’d passed from angry to seething during the second hold experience, so I’m sure the test was going splendidly from her point of view. After my third pass around New Seasons trying to find food (Did I mention I was on my lunch break and trying desperately to find something I could eat?) I noticed the clerks were eyeing me rather closely. Since I was on Hawthorne, and the scale which clerks on that street use to start watching a customer is… expanded from average, I took a deep breath and tried to look less homicidal. This time when she came back online, she told me the only possible flight after the canceled one was at 5am the following morning. There were no other options at all. I thought about it decided that only a sadist would cancel a 6pm flight and make its only possible replacement take off at 5am. 5am flight means 4am arrival at the airport which means getting up at 3am. No one but a seriously a**hole sadist would do that.
So, ok. 5am flight. At least there’s still a flight even if it’s a godforsaken time of the morning. I gave the go-ahead to the agent, she pushed the button, then started giving me an upgraded version of ‘The spiel’. You know the standard one: be at the airport early, plan ahead, yada yada yada. In the upgraded version I was subjected to for experimental purposes, I was told that all customers for domestic flights must arrive at the airport 2-3 hours before the flight. International flight customers must arrive 3-4 hours before the flight. Sooo.. a flight from Eugene to LAX which will last approximately 2 hours requires me to be at the airport 2-3 hours early. Between 2 and 3 am. I was picking up my lunch but when that sunk in, I just stopped in mid reach for my sandwich. Is security so tight that the Eugene airport needs 3 hours to clear security before 5am on a morning that would be weeks away from any holiday? I don’t think so. I think that was the closing salvo in her attempt to drive me into a frothing gibbering fury before the call was over. She almost had me there at the end. It was really close, but I will not be driven into a screaming rant by jaded alien auditors from the outer solar system. Instead, I’ll do my part for galactic peace and go eat a ragnarok cookie.