I believe that when watching the people that pass through an airport, you can usually tell when someone is, or isn’t, an experienced traveler. In most cases, an experienced traveler will have a minimal amount of “stuff” with them and is prepared with all the important items that they need. Smartphones make it easy to check-in without having to go the the counter, unless of course you need to check a bag, and you have your boarding pass on your phone. One less thing to carry…awesome! While on my last trip I was gifted with quite an array of characters to watch, with various temperaments. But more on that in a bit.

 I just got back from a recent trip to Las Vegas, one that definitely gave me all the people watching I could take. As I mentioned, you can always tell a seasoned traveler. Most time the first-timers have a distinctive cross between apprehension and excitement. One of the many first-time fliers I saw was a rosy-cheeked little girl of about 5 or 6 years of age. With supreme gusto, she pulled her child-sized green Hulk SMASH luggage behind her, trying to race ahead of her mother. I respect her choice of luggage, it was easy to spot.  The mother, with her own luggage and a large shoulder bag, kept telling her to slow down, and that they would “get there soon enough”. Mom clearly was calm and had her stuff put together quite well. The same could not be said for the young lady.

 “Come ON, mom!” the excited little voice kept urging her mom along, clearly determined to get to their destination.

 It happened that their flight was departing from the gate right next to mine. While I patiently waited for my own plane, this little girl could hardly contain her energy. She constantly flitted between her mom and the windows, looking for the plane. Mom would call her over, telling her to sit down, which she did. For almost a full minute. Then she jumped up to chat up a stranger sitting near by.

 “I’m going to Seattle!” She announced to a salt-and-peppered business man in a suit, who was relaxing with a newspaper. “I’m going to see my grandma and we’re going have cake. Does your grandma give you cake?” To the man’s credit he just smiled and nodded his head. “Well, my grandma makes me chocolate cake, does your grandma give you chocolate cake?” Another head bobble from the man was her answer.

 “Anna!” Her mother called her over again. Anna said her good-byes and sat back down in the delightfully uncomfortable gray seat next to her mother. This time her mom gave her a book to look at. By the time the book had been causally set aside, the plane had taxied up to let the passengers disembark from the plane. Anna jumped up and nearly slammed her little body onto the glass to look at the plane.

 “M-O-O-O-OM! It’s he-e-e-e-e-e-ere!” I could see her little faced smushed up on the glass. Someone would be taking Windex to that soon enough, I’m sure. Mom wordlessly walked over to pull her back to the seat. “Can we go on now? I get to sit in a grown-ups chair right?”  Anna got a sigh and a confirmation from her mother, who was getting their items put back into their bags. I was beginning to think that Anna wasn’t going to last long confined into that seat on the plane.

 Understandably, when the call to board came, bouncy little Anna tried to run up. “S’cuse me. S’cuse me please. Please let me in. I have to get on the plane.” She said to those around her as Mom quickly and carefully pulled her back. When the all familiar early boarding call for servicemen and women, or families with small children came, Anna’s mom stood up, raised her arm and walked her to the door.  

 “Mom I need my paper!” she implored, and her mother obliged, handing her the boarding pass. The attendant smiled at the mother knowingly. She probably sees this all the time.  Anna mustered up all of her height, standing on her tippy-toes to hold the pass up to the scanner. She struggled a little, and when the attendant offered to help, she was informed by Anna, that big girls do NOT need help. The scanner seemed to sympathize with the little girl’s plight and beeped loudly as if to say there you go kiddo. And with that, she disappeared down the ramp, off to devour grandma’s chocolate cake.

 As I mentioned before, temperament while traveling can always be…uhmm…interesting. Part of my return trip involved a 5-hour layover in O’Hare Airport. Not my idea of a rip-roaring good time, but there are worse things in life. When I initially landed in the Windy City, I was prepared to find my terminal, get a coffee and get settled in with my latest book find. I was able to locate the Starbucks in my terminal (cue the heavenly music) and I stepped into line behind an older man, who was perhaps in his 70’s. Nothing seemed amiss as we waited our turns, and he even said hello to the barista. But when he asked for a Tall decaf Amerciano, the barista informed him that they were temporarily out of decaf and asked if there was something else he would prefer. The man thought that this was completely unacceptable.

 “What do you mean you’re out of decaf?” he yelled. “I need my coffee to be decaf!” 


 The barista suggested that perhaps one of the other Starbucks booths might have one, he stated that he wasn’t going to walk all the way to another terminal just for a coffee. She offered to call one of the other booths and have them bring some, but he told her that he wasn’t waiting that long just for a coffee.   She offered a smoothie or a tea instead, he said he wasn’t going to drink that weak stuff.  Aaaaaaand that is when he told the young lady “Now here’s what you’re gonna do…”. That’s the moment my head jerked up from my phone, Candy Crush was going to have to wait. Having worked in retail for a number of years, I can tell you that this kind of reaction will get you either one of two things: kicked out, or exactly what you want. Please though, don’t test this. Really. Just don’t.

 “You’re gonna give me a Venti Americano for the price of the Tall.” Credit to the young lady behind the counter, she calmly told him that she will need to get her manager to do that for him. When she went to get the said manager, the grumpy old man turned to me and said “So much for customer service.”

 Now, I would like to preface this by saying, I believe fully in the customer service experience. I work very hard to get my own customers the best that I can, not only in products, but in my attention and service.  And giving the benefit of doubt, sometime they are having a bad day and you happen to be the face they take it out on. Okay, I can handle that.  But there are times when I draw the line. And this guy just jumped over the line into my sandpit.

 “You sir, are getting no sympathy from me.” I told him. His face slackened. “You are acting like an entitled child and they have every right to tell you to take a hike. She gave you several reasonable options and you turned your nose up at them all. You’re expecting a Cadillac for the price of a Pinto. Frankly, if they give you what you’re demanding you are getting far better service than you deserve.” The manager apparently caught all this because he suddenly appeared, the corner of his mouth tweeked a little.

 The old man grumbled something about “damn kids” to which I answered. “Actually, I’m an adult. What’s your excuse?” The young barista politely and professionally completed his transaction and then took my order, a Venti Mocha by the way, after which I put a $5 bill in the tip jar. “You earned this” I told her.

 It really is the strangest thing, but my coffee came up right away. I picked up my drink from the end of the counter, thanked the barista, and then as un-sarcastically as I could, told the grumpy old man to have a nice day. I admit, it was not one of my brightest moments. But getting upset with an employee because a business has temporarily run out of something is like getting mad at the weather man when it snows in June. There is only so much that one can control.

 I spent much of my layover enjoying the printed words in front of me, slowly sipping my coffee. Well, not too slowly. Because I’m pretty sure they also gave me a bonus shot or two.

One thought on “People Watching – Coffee and Cake

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