duck-shaped pain


21 June 2001
I Was Her Bad Customer Of The Day Story During Smoke Break

Today, I decided, was a good day to not be a chicken. Nor a wuss. Not even a pussy.

I dialed the phone cautiously. I was nervous. I rehearsed what I was going to say in my mind. How best to approach it? How to ask the right questions? Even small words were like anvils -- I couldn't pick up the right ones to say.

"Hello, Crappy Travel Agency. This is Surly-Ass, In It For Life, Nine Smoke Breaks a Day Employee [1] speaking."

"Um, hello? Hi. I'm calling because I'm interested in a fare that you quoted me though email yesterday. I'm interested in going ahead and purchasing [2] it, but I have some questions."

Thousands of years pass.

"Oh, okay. Eight people want to talk to me at once and you're the ninth. Hold on a second."

Species evolve, conquer the Earth and become extinct.

"Okay, what was that itinerary number?"

"It's, um, MQ3.."

'Hold on. I WANTED PICKLES ON THAT, STEVE! How can you mess up a simple request? Sorry. What was that again?"


"Sorry. PICKLES! Um…give me that again."


Lots of clicking and tapping. Lots of throat clearing. In the background, someone drops something and someone else sharpens a pencil.

"Okay. Here it is. Going from somewhere in Colorado. Never heard of that place. [3] To Bangkok. Right? In October? Well…hold on. Oh, wait, you were supposed to buy this fare yesterday."

"But the email said I had 48 hours to decide."

"That's just a technicality. Now lookit here, I'll do ya a favor. I'll look up some other fares and see if I can get you something in the same price range."

Someone yells something in Chinese. It is not me, and it is not her.

"Um. Okay."

Hours pass. The phone rings.

"This is me again. I have you a fare. Now, I managed to find you something on the same day and at the same price."

She quotes me a much more Byzantine itinerary than I had before. What was once here-Salt Lake City-San Francisco-Taipei-Bangkok had now become here-Salt Lake City-Phoenix-San Francisco-Tokyo-Taipei-Bangkok. On about four different airlines. Essentially, an entire week in an airplane.

"Now, you're real lucky, because these flights just opened up. But you're going to have to buy this ticket now."

"So that's $790?"

"Uh, yeah. But that doesn't include your tax, which is about $100, or our service charge, which is another $100. And we also charge you shipping to send your ticket to you."

"How much is the shipping?"

"$25. Which includes a tracking number."


"Um, can I think about this? That's a lot of money for a service charge."

Silence. I could hear her breathe, and she reacted with the same fury she previously had only reserved for people who forgot the pickles. "No, you have to buy this now! I can guarantee you're not going to find anything cheaper, and if you wait until tomorrow, the price will go up to $1800."

"Sorry, um, no. Thank you for your time."

All sweetness and light again. "Don't forget, we also offer travel insurance. Don't forget us for your resort needs."


Still, I did it. I bought a ticket to Thailand. Los Angeles to Bangkok, $720. That was the crucial part, and there weren't many seats left at that price, so I figured should act relatively soon -- out of my own self interest, not because some harridan with a quota to make screamed at me over the phone. I got the dates I wanted -- leaving October 17, returning December 2 [4] -- and the times I wanted.

As long as that's taken care of, I'm relatively calm. There are many possible ways to get to Los Angeles. I'll probably fly, and even taking into account the price of a ticket from here or Denver to LAX, it'll still be cheaper than the Sad Travel Agent's price.

Of course, now that I have a ticket -- that means I have to go.

Which is a different thing entirely. Now I'm getting equal amounts of nervousness and excitement and fear all gasping for my attention, and I'm sure I'll give them all due time between now and October.

[1] Not her real name.

[2] An important phrase. I wasn't just fucking around or crank calling her, I actually wanted to spend money. You'd think that that might entitle me to some better service, but you and I are both completely wrong.

[3] This is not me being coy and trying to disguise where it is I live yet again. She really said that.

[4] Yes, that is six weeks.

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