August 2006 - Per Inquiry

Hot August Flights

By Rick Petry

Ah, summertime, the season when we all take to the air to mix business and pleasure. So when an ERA event arises, I am invariably asked, “Are you bringing the family?” Here is the long answer: A few years ago, in one of those not so rare moments of misplaced logic, my wife and I decided to take our two-year-old with us to Europe. Shortly after take off, I decided to calm my fussy daughter crammed beside me in a car seat in coach by feeding her chocolate. When the sugar kicked in, those tiny feet began to wail on the seat in front of her with the velocity of an automatic carwash brush. The French recipient of this pummeling leapt across the aisle to tackle the flight attendant with the exhortation, “Ziss child is driving me cray-zee!” Fortunately, there were only eight hours to go.

But that tale is nothing compared to what happened to a colleague of mine traveling with his toddler. Instead of playing hide-and-seek with his fellow passengers like some punch-drunk jack-in-the-box, this boy preferred to satisfy his inquisitive nature by wedging his head between the seats directly in front of him. Upon the sound of the in-flight ding signaling the race to the lavatory by all those vente latte-wielding passengers, the woman in front of him disappeared into the can, whereupon the tot proceeded to projectile vomit into her Prada handbag. Valiant masked crewmembers swept in like one of those HAZMAT-suited emergency teams from Monsters Inc.

It’s that sort of reality check that reminds me to quit my complaining and happily assume the position in my bulkhead seat that requires me to fold my legs underneath myself. The very same position I have been trying to avoid when declining my wife’s repeated entreaties to join her yoga class. In response, you might say, “Why not upgrade?” which brings to mind the story of yet another colleague’s child and her travels. Seems this college sophomore en route to Italy got to her domestic connection and realized she had left her passport on the copier machine at the local market back home. Some 20 hours and untold tears later, the essential document arrived and a compassionate airline agent upgraded her to first class. She telephoned from Florence exclaiming, “Dad, that was great! We should always fly first class.” After all, the difference in ticket price was only $8,000.

While we may abhor these various indignities, every one of us in this industry-whether we are selling to the public or a supplier-are in some form of a service industry and that makes us appreciate both how difficult it is to please our frequently fickle clientele and the value of a proactive or kind gesture. I guess what I’m saying is: we’re all in this together. That was certainly how air travel felt in the months following 9/11. So when the yutz who just vacated the airplane washroom ahead of you leaves behind his soapy water (among other things), one can only remark, “Hey, thanks for sharing!” Yes, that giant sucking noise is draining. It’s the sound of “other duties as assigned.” There are a good many in this life.

Rick Petry is chief marketing officer of Downstream. He can be reached at (503) 226-1944, or via e-mail at [email protected]
stream.com
. Or, visit www.downstream.com.

 

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