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Sunday, November 05, 2006


Fawlty Service (two anecdotes)

[Note - names have NOT been changed]

My company sent me on a last-minute trip to Chicago, so I could cover a roundtable discussion event.

So i'm checking in at the Ritz-Carlton, where the event is going to be held, and whilst I'm talking to the receptionist, a tall, distinguished-looking brit in camel's-hair coat, with glasses perched on the end of his nose, interrupts and says, "Can you tell me why my room hasn't been done up?"

The receptionist frowned slightly and shot an apologetic glance at me. I nodded, adding an imperceptible eye-roll at the stuffy gentleman. (If nothing else, the interlude would serve to cement a small bond between me and the receptionist - a good thing should I need help later.

"What's your name, sir?"

"Churchill! Lord Churchill," he sputtered.

"What's your room number, sir?"

"I don't remember my room number! Fifteen-something! There's no sign for me to put on the door, asking that the room be done up! I want it done up!"

The receptionist began typing his name into the computer, to check the status of his room.

Lord Churchill leaned in close, wagging his cell phone to emphasize each point. "Look, I don't need you to check anything. I need you to get the room done up!"

The receptionist, trying to maintain her composure, said, "I need to confirm your room number..."

Lord C. turned to someone on the other side of the lobby and barked, "What's my room number?"


He turned back to the desk. "1510!"

The receptionist typed it in and discovered that the room was registered under the name Spencer. When she mentioned this, Lord C just stormed away, muttering.

I smirked at the receptionist and said, "Now I know why we felt the need to break away from the British Empire."

She smiled and said, "Oh, he's just a typical British type."

Now, I've been to London and even gone as far north as Windsor Castle, and I never encountered anyone behaving like Lord Lout. So I'm going to reserve judgement on the rest of British society and declare, for the record, that I am very proud to be an uncouth and uncultured American today.

Too-Friendly Skies

On my way back to New York, I used a self check-in kiosk at Midway. The machine spat out a boarding pass – but I was quite sure I requested an aisle seat, and this one had me in a window. Then I took a closer look at it. It also had me as Lynn Blakely, flying from Atlanta to Myrtle Beach.

I pushed another button, and the machine spat out my boarding pass. Now I had two. I flagged down a uniformed man and asked him whether he worked for ATA. “No,” he said, “but what’s going on?”

“I got an extra boarding pass.”

“Oh, you can just leave it there in the machine.”

I was incredulous. “What? I can’t just leave a valid boarding pass unattended!”

He threw up his hands, essentially saying, “Whatever, man. I don’t want to get involved.” Then he walked away.

So I stood on line and handed it back to a human agent, who thanked me kindly.

But still – shouldn’t someone look into that? I realize that the pass wasn’t even for a flight originating at Midway, but a clever person who picked a busy line at a peak time could probably breeze through security holding that boarding pass. And I don’t want to have that on my conscience.

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