the kindness of strangers

The best take on Minnesota nice made its way to me via visitors and a transplant, during a very unexpected layover last week. I had thoroughly enjoyed my short trip to Boston – company and conversations at mealtime, seeing people (!), enjoying my friends, their kids and food together.

Mom met me at Legal, thrilled I was in town and that I had a real haircut. “You look so sophisticated now, Jan!” she beamed, while handing me a big grey TJMaxx bag containing a clear plastic drum of farm animals. No ensemble is truly ensemble without a plastic cow.

Anyway, I had my usual conversation with the cabdriver on the way to Logan. Which means I let them steer, asking questions, learning, and usually freaking out other people sharing the ride. E Terminal ticketing and checkin has a scandinavian-inspired facelift (gorgeous wood everywhere), but the rest remains a grey low-ceilinged dump. A kind man struck up a conversation with me while we were in queue, and we talked about travel, Logan, work, finding vegetarian food, and family as we waited for ticketing, then the actual flight. The published delay of 15 minutes for our flight was a bad omen. (If they own up to 15 mins 2 hrs in advance, you know you’re in for it.)

And we were. Leaving 90 mins off schedule in a packed 757, we hit severe turbulence. My seatmate (a different friendly traveller) retinted the entire front face of the right leg of his pants with hot coffee. I remembered the cabdriver asking me “What if you died today?” and feeling less at peace with the notion of breaking off in a tailpiece, just some misplaced tomalley with printouts of a little blond boy in a half-melted purse.

We landed almost 2 hours late. The flight we were on was supposed to help passengers connect to 70 different flights. No such luck. What else was there none of? No personal apology; no meal or hotel voucher; no eye contact when handing a ticket with a rebooked flight a full 24 hours later, and no discount rooms left in MSP. Did I mention no basic politeness from gate agents? As some of you know, I possess a _fierce_ politeness when required, but this could not lead so much as a faceless agent to say, on the phone, that success was a remote possibility. “I’m just telling you there’s nothing there and that I won’t be able to help you.” NWA, that is not customer service.

Anyway, my original friend remembered me and found me after we landed. Were it not for his help, I would not have found the one hotel room near the airport and under 200. The price, as I understand it, is considered astronomical for the area. And no cab this time – the kindly accountant took me to the hotel, and wrote the next day to make sure I arrived safely.

There are many ways that story could have ended, but it was one of those cases where it’s the journey, the journey, the journey.Boston heat landed with me and my migraine; I got home 20 hours late to a happy little boy and a happy (if tired) husband.

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Filed under Bad Customer Service, Bloomington, boston, cambridge, Food, Mall of America, Minneapolis, Minnesota, MIT, mother, Northwest Airlines, restaurant, son, vegetarian

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