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I’ve been a longtime listener of NPR (although of late I’ve come to think of those initials standing for National Palestine Radio rather than National Public Radio given their slanted reporting with respect to Israel). Anyway, every Wednesday morning they have a commentary by Frank Deford who has an alternate personality known as the Sports Curmudgeon (not to be confused with the other Sports Curmudgeon whose true identity escapes me) who periodically speaks on annoying things related to sports (professional, collegiate, and otherwise).

Recently, I’ve discovered that I have a Curmudgeon in me. Normally I’m an easy going individual. Live and let live has been my motto for a long time…I’ve never felt the need to impose my opinions on anyone. However, of late, I’ve been noticing things that have…well…annoyed me. At first I didn’t think much about it…but as time went on I’ve realized that inside of me was another “person” — someone who gets rankled seeing things that are just plain wrong and wants to say something. That is my Curmudgeon. I’ve finally decided to give him a voice…(in the style of Frank Deford):

On Sunday The Curmudgeon was running his morning run when he was passing by the entrance to the Northwest Branch Trail entrance on Kemp Mill Rd in Silver Spring. The Curmudgeon knows the Northwest Branch Trail quite well as he periodically runs along this trail as well as goes hiking on it. The trail is meant for foot traffic only – human or horse. There is an explicit sign at the entrance to the trail on Kemp Mill Road that states no bicycles or motorized vehicles are allowed. As he was running by he noticed a silver mini-van parked near the entrance. The husband and wife had gotten out and had their dog with them as well and were getting ready to go on the trail. However, the part that really bothered The Curmudgeon was the fact that the husband and wife were on bikes and were standing right next to the entrance to the trail where the sign indicating that no bicycles are allowed on the trail was clearly on display. Perhaps they weren’t able to read the sign? No…the sign also included a symbol similar to the one below:

There’s a reason why bikes are not allowed on the Northwest Branch Trail. It’s a soft trail which gets torn up easily by the bike tires. The trail has been eroded to such a state where water now stands, breeding mosquitoes, on parts of the trail and people have taken to simply cutting a new trail around the pools of mud and water. It would be very hard not to understand the meaning of that sign The Curmudgeon thought but apparently these two individuals didn’t think that it applied to them.

But this is not the first time that he’s seen this behavior of people who think that the rules do not apply to them. Ok…The Curmudgeon lives in the Washington, D.C. area and he sees this kind of thing going on all the time with politicians…but of late he’s been seeing this sort of behavior more and more in the neighborhood where he lives. Whether it’s cyclists who think that trail restrictions don’t apply to them or people who water their lawns when there are mandatory water restrictions due to emergency work needing to be done on a major water pipe in the region – this behavior seems to becoming more and more prevalent. “Why?” asks The Curmudgeon. “We all have to live together and work together as a community. I follow the rules…why do others think that the rules don’t apply to them as well?” So The Curmudgeon gets rankled more and more when he continues to see examples of “law-abiding” people who are “law-abiding”…but only when it suits them. He shakes his head and laments the fact that in our society we see politicians, athletes, and entertainers consistently do things that break the rules and then get the all too easy “pass” on their actions…simply because of who they are. And this behavior is trickling down, in a pathetic imitation of the trickle-down economic theory so that even in a nice neighborhood such as his, people feel that they have the right to ignore the rules…when the rules get in the way of their doing what they want to do.

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After my experience with Delta Airlines a few weeks ago I did what I could only do – I complained about it and I blogged about it. I wrote a complaint to Delta Airlines and also submitted that same complaint to the Department of Transportation as well as Airsafe.com. In addition I spoke with the corporate travel person at the company where I work. I figured the best I could get was the satisfaction that I at least complained. Boy was I wrong.

About a week after I filed my complaint I received an e-mail from Delta Airlines apologizing for the problems I encountered on the flight. As compensation Delta was refunding me (or, more precisely, my company) the cost of the original itinerary to Spokane, WA. The next day I received an e-mail with a letter attached from Delta Customer Service again. This time, however, they indicated that they had received a notification from the Aviation Consumer Protection Division over at the Department of Transportation regarding my complaint. As a remedy for the problems I encountered, Delta was now refunding both the original itinerary to Spokane as well as the ticket I had to purchase to return home to DC from Detroit that night and they were awarding me 9500 SkyMiles points as well. I felt happy at that point since I had achieved my goal of getting both tickets refunded as I didn’t believe that my company should have had to pay for either the original itinerary (since I never made it to Spokane) as well as the ticket to return to DC (since I wouldn’t have been in Detroit if Delta had been able to fulfill my original travel itinerary).

The topping to this whole thing came on Friday when the Delta Airlines account manager for my company’s account called me and apologized for the whole situation and gave me a voucher for $400 for any flight in the continental United States as well as moved me up to Gold Medallion status in the Delta SkyMiles program. To be honest, this was quite unexpected, but very welcome. I wish it didn’t have to come this way but I can honestly say that Delta made good on the whole situation by going beyond what I originally expected in compensation for their mistakes that night. I was looking to just get the two itineraries refunded but Delta went one better than that. That’s how customer service should work! Kudos to Delta on this one.

Yesterday I was supposed to fly from Washington, D.C. to Spokane, WA, our corporate headquarters for meetings this week.  My original itinerary had me on a 5PM flight from Baltimore (BWI) to Salt Lake City (SLC) on Delta flight 1347.  En-route, there was to be a plane change in Detroit (DTW) from the DC-9 aircraft of the BWI – DTW leg to a 737 aircraft for the DTW – SLC leg (but the flight number would remain the same however and, as far as Delta was concerned this was one and the same flight – only one “leg”).  The aircraft at Detroit was scheduled to leave at 7:15PM for Salt Lake City.  The total flight time for the BWI – DTW leg was, according to the flight attendant, 1 hr. 41 min from gate to gate.

I arrived at the airport at 3PM (2 hours prior to my flight) and got through security without a problem.  I waited at the gate (C13) for the flight to Detroit and then on to Salt Lake City.  At gate C14 there was another flight leaving at 5:50PM going directly to Salt Lake City and then on to San Diego.  As I waited for flight 1437 I began to hear rumors and whisperings that the flight was delayed till 5:30PM.  Not a problem I thought, I think I could still make the continuation flight.  I went to the gate agent at the counter for gate C13 and spoke to her about my concerns on making the continuation flight.  The agent looked at the situation and said – “You may not make the continuation flight – you probably won’t.”  So, calmly I asked for alternatives to which she replied “Looks like you’ll be staying overnight.”  Of course that’s not what I wanted to hear.  What I wanted to hear was “Let me see if something can be done,” not a “sucks to be you” response (although that’s not what she actually said). So, I went to gate C14 to the direct flight to Salt Lake City to speak to the gate agent in hopes of faring a little better. The agent there was helpful and said – “Let me see what I can do.”  She calls Delta customer service on the phone and tries to get me situation on a different flight from Detroit to Minneapolis/St. Paul and then on to Spokane. Unfortunately the person she speaks with over at customer service screws up her efforts and totally undoes it.  Back to square one.  She was kind enough, however, to put me on the standby list for the Salt Lake City flight leaving from her gate – just in case – but she said that I still had 20 minutes before the flight would close before she would know if she had room for me. I hung out and waited – my original flight was later than expected in arriving and boarding was taking a long time. In the end the direct flight checked in full…no joy there – and I was back on my way to Detroit.

The flight from BWI to DTW boarded and the door was closed at 5:35PM. However we were delayed an additional 25 minutes as the ground crew loaded the bags onto the plane. However they could not figure out how to enter the cargo load in the aircraft into the Delta computer system. In the end we pulled away from the gate at 6:10 PM.  Once the aircraft finally left BWI it arrived at DTW (wheels down) at 7:15PM and we arrived at the gate (A15) at 7:25PM. I was able to exit the aircraft fairly quickly and ran to the gate for the continuation flight (A4) arriving there at 7:30PM.  The aircraft was still parked at the gate however the gate was closed and the agents were gone.

I then went to gate A8 to see if I could get on the flight from Detroit to Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) but was told I needed to go to the service desk.  I went to the service desk at gate A18 which was unmanned and scanned my boarding pass for the continuation flight of 1347 to SLC into the automated system.  I was provided a boarding pass for the flight from SLC to Spokane (GEG) (flight 3030) and a $6 meal voucher.  At that point I decided to call our corporate travel service to see if they could help.  I spoke to the rep from corporate travel who called Delta and was put on hold.  I gave the corporate travel rep my cell number and he suggested I go speak to another gate agent about this while he waited on hold (the approximate wait time was 20 – 30 minutes at that point).  I went to the gate agent at gate A18 and told her my situation.  She looked it over and told me that I had made the flight from DTW – SLC (the continuation flight from Detroit to Salt Lake City) since I had checked in to which I explained that I did not since I was standing in front of her.  She then told me to go to the service desk at gate A43.

This is where things spiraled downward. I went to the service desk at gate A43 and waited in line for approximately an hour and a half.  During this time in line I spoke to a co-worker who suggested that I get a seat on the Grand Rapids – Minneapolis/St. Paul flight and then continue on to Spokane from there.  I spoke to corporate travel service rep and told him that plan as well as having a need for a car to drive the two hours in the dark to Grand Rapids, MI.  The rep thought it was a good plan and put a hold on seats on those flights.  He also told me that Delta’s customer service representative on the phone with him said that I had to speak to a customer service representative in-person and that Delta’s customer service refused to do anything for me over the phone since, according to Delta, I checked into the flight 1347 continuation flight and therefore I must be on that plane.

At that point it suddenly occurred to me that if I took the Grand Rapids – Spokane flights then my return flights from Spokane on Thursday, June 17th would get canceled.  The rep from corporate travel said that it was very likely that that would happen.  I reached the agent at the service desk at gate A43 and explained to her my situation.  She looked it over and told me that she could only get me on a flight from DTW to MSP for 8PM the following evening (Monday June 14th) and then on to Spokane.  I told her that was unacceptable as I had meetings to attend in the morning and then explained to her the idea of driving to Grand Rapids and flying from there on to MSP and then Spokane.  The agent indicated that if I did that then my return ticket from Spokane to DC would get canceled and all that she could do would be to “document” in the itinerary notes the situation.  If I wanted to try and save that segment I would have to talk to Delta reservations.  I asked her if I could speak to her supervisor and she told me that I could find the supervisor at gate A45.

I went to gate A45 and spoke to the supervisor about the situation and she concurred that as soon as I missed the SLC to Spokane leg that evening my return flight would be canceled and I would have to rebook it through Delta reservations.  The only catch being that in that time someone else might get my seat and I would not be able to get on those flights.  Delta refused to do anything else at that point – neither provide for a hotel room for the night at DTW or any solution whereby I would not be spending an entire day (on top of the 5 hours I had already spent on Sunday) trying to get to Spokane.   It was at that point that I decided I would rather return to D.C. that evening and sort this whole mess out from there.  I spoke to the corporate travel agent and he booked me on the 9:35PM flight from DTW to Reagan National (DCA).  I ran to the gate (A68) and just made it on the plane. Interestingly, Delta held that plane for a full 30 minutes past it’s departure time in order to accommodate late arriving and last minute passengers – now if only they had done that with the plane from Detroit to Salt Lake City I would not be writing this blog entry! In the end I got home at 1:30 AM – nearly 12 hours after this whole escapade began.

It is ridiculous that Delta made little if any effort to accommodate me in this situation and chose rather to claim that I was on the 1347 continuation flight even though it was clearly evident that I was in the Detroit airport.  At this point I’m going to work with our corporate travel folks to see if we can’t get the entire original ticket refunded since Delta failed to meet their contractual obligation to get me to my destination – not due to any fault of my own but through their own incompetence.

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