Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Battles Still Raging

We stopped to pick up an elderly man. Even though we were a little early he was sitting outside on his scooter. He was dapper in his Legion jacket and he had a small carry-case beside him. As he was locked in beside me we began chatting. He told me that he was flying half way across the country to visit family. There was a faint whisp of pride that, though he was an old man, he was still capable of making extraordinary journeys.

I asked him how he has fared, travelling with a scooter as he was. He said that his airline was very good with him and his scooter. It was always right there waiting for him. I was pleased for him and, as we were well on our way, we fell silent. I had this huge internal battle raging, I wanted to tell him that I admired him and the men of his generation who went into battles raging. I admire the courage and the determination of men who fought and died for my freedom. I want to thank him but don't know how.

Suddenly we are at the airport pulling into Terminal One. I know his airline flies out of Terminal Three. As we pull to the curb I say to him and the driver, 'This is the wrong terminal, his airline flies out of Three.' The driver, who had heard him talk about which airline he flew, picked up the trip sheet which was clipped to a clipboard and flicked his finger on the sheet while saying, 'He booked One.' I glanced at my fellow passenger, thinking I'd made a mistake and said, 'Don't you fly out of Three.' He nodded and said to the driver, 'I need to go to Terminal Three.' The driver, again, flicked his finger at the trip sheet and said, 'You booked One.' Fear filled the face of the old man as he tried to imagine how he was going to get over to the other terminal.

The driver unlatched his scooter and walked in with him to the terminal. I knew, from conversations with other drivers that WheelTrans has a policy that you must be dropped off where you book to be dropped off. I even understand why they'd have that policy. I understand the issues of liability, I've worked in the field of human services my whole life. But I also know that for every rule there is an exception, that it's important to be able to think through situations and deal with them as they come, that a call to a supervisor can deal with rules. But I know something else, I am only a passenger and after the driver returns I will be alone with him. I don't want him angry with me. My safety is in his hands. I am becoming a coward because of my own vulnerability and this makes me furious, quiet but furious.

He gets back on and says, 'I tried to find someone that could help him but couldn't.' I thought, 'but you were the person who should have helped him.' In fact he was in with the old guy looking for help longer than it would have taken to drive over to the other terminal. So I rode to work.

I got in and immediately called customer service. The woman there couldn't understand my concern, I told her that the driver did nothing technically wrong but his actions were still very wrong. She said in a bored voice, 'So you want to make a complaint against the driver.' I said, 'Well, no, I want to talk about the problem and the solution and the need for flexibility and the provision of options.' There was a pause, 'You'll need to talk to a supervisor.'

And so I have, but that will need to be the subject of another post.


Moose said...

Policies without the ability for some flexibility are always bound to fail. If you don't allow your employees the ability to say "There's been a mistake, let's try to fix it" you're only going to make things miserable for everyone.

All he had to do was be allowed to call in and explain the situation and the fix. And if their tracking system can't handle that, they have more problems than just poor policy.

Belinda said...

Oh my. Pardon me while I scream! Loudly!

Liz Miller said...

What Moose said. Exactly what Moose said.

Kristin said...

Exactly what Moose said!

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg said...

Yup. Moose nailed it. May common sense reign!