Friday, June 25, 2010

Reflux Redux

I was reminded again just this week of how quickly time passes. By this time next week, we shall all be gearing up for the 4th of July. It seems as if it was only yesterday that Memorial Day was the national holiday squarely in everyone's sight line; right? In fact, as of Monday it will have been four weeks - already - since Memorial Day. Where did the time go?

My reminder as to the rapidity of the passage of time came in the form of an otherwise innocuous e-mail I received from yet another wing commander in the employ of the most incompetently run corporation in these United States. It was on my trip home from Colorado on the day after Memorial Day that Continental Airlines worked its magic and made my luggage disappear. About a week after that happened, frustrated as hell at the institutional ineptitude at Continental that revealed itself to Margaret and me more and more every time we spoke to someone from the airline I submitted my completed Claim Form to them with a cover letter expressing my love and admiration for them and the manner in which they conduct their business.

At the time I submitted my Claim Form (which I sent via FedEx to ensure that the idiots at Continental Airlines would not be able to lose this parcel in transit) I spoke with a woman from the Claims Department who told me - quite candidly - that the airline had no idea where my bag was and she considered the likelihood of them finding it to be quite low. She did tell me (much to my amusement I must point out) that Continental Airlines immediately assigned (upon receipt of my completed Claim Form) a retriever specifically to the task of searching for and recovering my bag. Yes folks it is true. If you are willing to have valuable and irreplaceable personal items lost due to the carelessness of Continental Airlines then you to can have access to your very own Luggage Retriever. An honest to God human being whose task it is to retrieve your lost article. Safe in the knowledge that nothing more at all was to be gained from screaming at this amalgam of idiots I decided to sit back and wait for my retriever to........well who knows exactly.

As it turns out, the Luggage Retrievers at Continental Airlines are apparently selected from the people in the applicant pool who do not quite pass muster as Luggage Handlers. After having heard nothing for almost two weeks - and deciding that there was nothing to be gained from calling them to inquire as to my bag's whereabouts other than another 20 points or so on my next blood pressure test - Wednesday afternoon brought an update from my PLR (those of us in the know like to "drop" the acronym for Personal Luggage Retriever into our day-to-day chat now and again. It gives us street cred.)

Into my inbox at about 1:00 o'clock on Wednesday afternoon popped an e-mail from Tracy Anderson of Continental Airlines. Tracy is my PLR. I know not whether Tracy is a man or a woman, which is why he/she and I appear to be on a first-name basis. Regardless of gender, the purpose of Tracy's e-mail was to express regret about the fact that my bag was lost. Well, then again not really. The e-mail said that, "I am sorry that the bag did not arrive with you at Newark." Interesting word choice; right? I appreciate the fact that Tracy elevated my luggage to the status of a trusted traveling companion. However, I resent the implication that my bag either missed the flight to Newark or, exercising free will normally reserved for luggage of steamer trunk size or larger, opted to blow me off. To jilt me and to pursue its fame, fortune and freedom out there on the open tarmac.

After the expression of condolences, Tracy got right down to the heart of the matter. "I am finishing the final search for it now." I was pleased to read that considering that Tracy has been on the case for close to two weeks. Actually I was a tad impressed. I had visions of my PLR all jazzed up with climbing gear and night vision goggles, searching every nook and cranny of the Continental Airlines' empire for my bag (sort of like Nicolas Cage in National Treasure). Sadly, my enthusiasm was sucked right out of me when I read the next line of her e-mail asking, "Other than your personal identification, did the bag have any other outstanding features on the outside?"

An odd time to ask that question, is it not? Would you not have asked it at the commencement of the search? It would seem to be the sort of question that would be asked prior to undertaking the task; right? "Hey disgruntled customer whose bag we have lost! Before we start to look for it would you please tell us everything you can about it that might make it stand out as that will help us immeasurably in our search?" I would ask what sort of idiocracy waits until it has already allegedly spent almost two weeks in a recovery operation before asking for a bit of guidance in the performance of its task but being a Continental Airlines customer I know the answer to that query.

The final line of her e-mail did little to re-warm my little heart's cockles. "I will finish up with a physical search here in our warehouse." Two thoughts leaped immediately to mind. First, now the process of looking in Continental's warehouse actually starts? What the hell has the search to date consisted of? Second, these idiots lose enough luggage that they actually have a warehouse in which they keep the bags that their intrepid staff manages to separate from its destination? Shit - I would have felt better had Tracy told me that she needed to check their storage locker or their cubicle. A warehouse? Talk about looking for a needle in a haystack of needles.

My kingdom for a seamstress.

-AK

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