It’s a long plane ride. No matter what anyone says about travel, with its many pluses and perks, there is always a downside. This is especially true if you are a senior.
After a long time in denial, I realized that walking was no longer my thing at airports. Blame it on a sedentary lifestyle, or on the years that have taken their toll on muscles and bones. Whatever, for the last several years, my travel agent has requested “wheelchair to ramp” service for me, and I am zipped around through immigration and customs, to and from my assigned gates, thinking like the old man in the Western Airlines commercial years ago: “It’s the only way to fly!” This is the one time I don’t mind being pushed around.
I am happy to report that my recent experience at the old Ninoy Aquino International Airport was quite unlike what other people love to complain about. Okay, it needs a facelift. But it was very clean. The air-conditioning was a bit too cold for me. At the entrance the guard was all smiles. Then, as if by magic, a young woman appeared with a shiny wheelchair.
I cannot say enough about the ground service. Porters, airport staff, Delta counter reps all looked happy and ready to serve. My wheelchair attendant was solicitous and respectful. She apologized for each bump. Pinoy TLC at its very best!
Delta took off on time. The cabin crew promptly whisked away my carry-on case and thoughtfully kept it in the storage space up front instead of the overhead bin, in case I should need it during the flight.
Our 747/400 landed in Nagoya a little over four hours later. The stopover was brief, but I still had time to savor the courtesy of the super polite, quietly efficient Japanese ground crew. My wheelchair was ready at the ramp, and the attendant spoke in that singsong tone so typical of gracious Japanese ladies. An hour later they saw me off with smiles, bows and sayonaras.
From Nagoya, an almost all-American cabin crew took over. This was the beginning of a 12-hour flight to Detroit, our port of entry to the United States.
There was a tall American flight attendant in the middle of the business class cabin beside my seat. I asked her if she would please accommodate my overnight bag in the forward compartment like the Manila crew had done. Her response floored me.
Towering over me and hands on her hips, she haughtily remarked, “You walked all the way here pulling this bag, and now you want me to put it away?”
I was stunned. I fumbled for words. Finally I said, “I am trying very hard not to believe that I heard you say that. If you had been paying attention, you would have seen me get off a wheelchair at the ramp.” Her face turned a shade of gray. Even if I had come into the plane doing cartwheels, she was still totally out of line. She backed off and quietly shoved my overnighter into the cubicle.
The long flight was smooth. I managed a nap. On their wonderful seats/beds, it is not hard to do. They passed around mimosas before breakfast. But even the bubbly could not wash away the bad taste in my mouth.
We landed in Detroit a little after the noon hour. The immigration officer looked cranky. I smiled at him. He scowled. He barked a couple of questions, without once making eye contact. Oh well, I know I don’t look my best after a long flight. I’m just saying.
It was a short hop from Detroit to Atlanta. It felt great to finally land and head for home. Getting together with family has got to be the most joyous occasion in anybody’s life. It is in mine.
I discussed my travel woes with my jet-setter nephew. He had just returned from a management seminar in Chicago, where customer service, particularly in the travel industry, was discussed at length. Participants, all head honchos of various international firms, were in resounding agreement that all things considered, Asians offer the best, most courteous service in the travel and hospitality industries. “If your business requires excellent personal service, you must hire Asians,” they said.
In the culture
I have asked around for other opinions. The general consensus is that in some societies there is an inborn resistance, an aversion even, to waiting on tables or serving people; this, in spite of clearly defined job descriptions and extensive training. Perhaps they are right. I believe it is in the culture. What do you think?
On arrival, I expected a good old-fashioned Southern welcome. I got a tornado alert instead. Lightning and thunder always scare me, but thank God, the twister missed us. We never even lost power.
I’m thrilled to be here, but I miss my teleseryes. I caught the last two episodes of “Ina, Kapatid, Anak” online. Of course the finale was predictable. But please, I expected happy, not silly.
Here I watch Spanish telenovelas, and of course, the news.
As I write this, the headlines are full of speculations about where Edward Snowden is headed next. I ask: Is he whistleblower or spy?
Paula Deen is out of the Food Channel because she used the “N” word, referring to her African American employees. I wonder: has anyone been canned for saying the “F” word?
Reality star Kim Kardashian and recording icon Kanye West had a baby girl. They will call her North (North West?), and now there’s even a rumor of wedding plans. Talk about the cart before the horse. But hey, what do I know.