Why most of my Rantz are generated by a travel experience I cannot say. What I will say is travel has become a nightmare. Let me first give the TSA agents at all the airports around the country a vote of thanks for sticking out the recent government shut down which caused them to work for several weeks without pay. I know some of you called off sick but, overall, the system continued to run and presumably kept air travelers and America safe. Hats off to you guys.
Oddly enough, my ire is not directed at anything in the plane or terminal. Yes, the plane was crowded and cramped but we took off on time and arrived on time. No, my annoyance really did not begin until I went to get my rental car.
There are about 8 rental companies in this particular building and at the time I arrived long lines were snaking thru the black-ribboned barriers with which we have all become too familiar. I let my wife sit and I entered the Que. I could see only four rental car agents helping customers in a circumstance that could have used four more. I had a brief vision of immigrants on the southern border trying to enter the US legally, and I felt their pain.
Standing in a long slow-moving line gives you time to observe and think. The first thing I noticed was that the people in this line did not close up their ranks as someone was called to the counter agent. This meant that it felt like the line was moving much slower than it was. You get the same feeling waiting in traffic when the car or cars in front of you leave too much space between them and the car in front of them. Really an issue when you have to make a turn light. I tried bumping into the guy in front of me and coughing a good bit of the time to alert those further ahead in line to move up. Most were deeply involved with their cell phones and were unaware of the progress we were making.
As I rounded the corner into the last line, I began to focus on the people being called to the counter. They seemed slow to respond when called. Some people had to be nudged to alert them that it was their turn. Why weren’t they ready to sprint to the counter in record time? I focused on the people at counter, why were they taking so long? Most people had made reservations and the sign-in should have been just a formality, yet the agent kept typing and talking and soon the customer had his elbows on the counter and appeared to be engaged in some friendly chit-chat. Soon the agent would stop typing and be laughing with the customer over some unheard pleasantry. The more they laughed the more annoyed and angry I became. I vowed not to be part of this needless delay when it was my turn to talk to the counter agent.
Finally, I was ready to leave my position in this death march. I was “next”. With a wave of his hand, and without any pomp and circumstance, I was summoned to the counter. Remember I was not going to slow things up. I presented my reservation and the typing began but in the middle of it all my agent abruptly got up and walked to the end of the counter to get a drink of water. Water bottles are not permitted on the counter next to the computer. Initially, I was ready to jump over the counter and run after him but, owing to my formidable patience, I was rewarded by the fact that he returned.
The sign-in process seemed to take forever. I began to wonder if others were now viewing me as a barrier to their counter time. Suddenly, I found myself being handed a folder with my rental car number and location neatly written in magic marker. Feeling somewhat disoriented I realized I finally was finished. I walked from the counter staring at the poor wretches still hours away from being “next”. I felt a sense of pride usually reserved for soldiers returning from a fierce battle that they had won. Armed with my folder, I grabbed my wife, my bags and set off to the parking area to find my car. I had endured. I had prevailed. I needed a drink.