With the festive season upon us, which often includes traveling, I thought I would write about something off the beaten track and share an interesting experience I had recently.
A couple of weeks ago I had just returned to Boston after a trip to London. As usual I had taken the latest flight possible and it was night by the time the plane touched down at Logan airport. When I got out of the airport the first thing that struck me was how much colder it was in Massachusetts compared to England (a common misconception is that England is an extremely cold country, but being a small island it’s actually quite mild compared to other countries at the same latitude).
I had a short bus shuttle ride with my two large suitcases to where I usually park, and was delighted when I saw my car, knowing that my home and warm bed were only a few minutes away after such a long day. But when I pressed my key fob button—horror—nothing happened. I pressed again and again, and sure enough quickly realized that the car battery must have gone flat. Great. I went back to the people who manned the gate to ask if anyone could help jump-start my car. They tried, but no luck. I called AAA (thank goodness I renewed my membership recently) and the parking lot folk were kind enough to invite me into their small freestanding building while I waited in the warmth.
The series of events that happened next produced a clash of two worlds in my mind, and in the haze of my tiredness, somewhat disoriented me as to where I was.
As soon as I sat down, I glanced at the notice board behind me that had a list “open shifts” over the holidays. Very few names had signed up under the openings. “That’s interesting,” I thought to myself.
A few minutes later I overheard one of the people sitting at the window next to where the cars drive up complain that she had worked two Thanksgivings in a row and that there should be a policy to never have to do so. Ah, what a coincidence, I just heard someone else say that recently in my hospital.
Almost immediately after, one of the managers came out of an adjoining room to ask her if she could work longer that evening because the night person was late. He went on to lament how difficult it was to find regular night shift workers even though they were paid more. The manager then diverted his attention to the notice board above me and shook his head, moaning about the number of open shifts coming up and how despite his multiple emails and calling people, nobody was signing up for them. “That’s interesting,” I thought to myself again.
The manager appeared stressed and before he left to go back into his office warned that he expected a late surge of customers that night because it was a Monday and there were early flights due to leave. “We know it always happens, we need to better prepare ourselves when our numbers go up.”
Anyway, I continued to wait patiently. AAA had told me they could be at least an hour, so I got my book out and started reading to help pass the time. Several minutes later a gentleman walked in, the same person who had attempted to jump-start my car. He began speaking to one of the other employees about a difficult interaction he had that day with one of the sub-contractors, who had come to look at something that was wrong with the barriers in the car park, attempted to fix it, but didn’t communicate what was wrong to anyone who worked there. Hmmmm.
At that point another employee asked if I wanted something to drink but apologized that the coffee machine hadn’t been working and that they were lobbying their parent company for better facilities in their office. “No worries,” I said. “It was really nice of you to ask.”
I continued to wait silently for the next hour, reading my book and overhearing the many conversations around me regarding manpower shortages, surges of customers, bad communication with sub-contractors, needing a better office space and lastly, wait for it—two other subjects that caught my attention: a new but suboptimal IT system that they found painstakingly difficulty to navigate and then how their salaries and benefits compared to nearby rivals.
Finally as my eyes started to close in my chair, my cellphone rang. It was AAA, announcing the arrival of their truck. Fortunately they were able to quickly fix my car (it needed a stronger jump-start). I was almost two hours late and felt like I couldn’t stay awake any longer. As I was leaving the parking lot, the same lady who had been sitting in the room with me a few minutes earlier scanned my prepaid voucher and realized that I was a “frequent flyer.” She smiled and announced a special discount offer if I came back within 30 days. Okay, that was it. I needed to go home and have a nice glass of wine before bed!