Tag Archives: British Airways

Lost and found

When I first came to America in 1994, my mum insisted that I should try to stand behind tall people at every opportunity. Not so that I wouldn’t be able to see the sights of cities such as New York or Boston, but actually so that I would reduce my chances of being shot. Given that I’m 6ft 2in tall, and I don’t have many NBA stars in my address book, I’ve had to take my chances over the years. Just don’t tell my mum, OK?

The fact is that there are plenty of people in the world who think that America is a land of crime and misdemeanour. After all, US law and forensics shows suggest that murder is a central part of day-to-day existence, and even Scooby Doo has a plethora of amusement park owners who would have got away with everything if it wasn’t for some pesky kids. Sometimes though, something happens that just restores your faith in American humankind.

Moving house last week, The Special One and I rented a Zipcar to move our valuables safely from one place to the other. At least that was the theory. In reality what happened was that I got distracted by the fact that we were blocking the entire pavementsidewalk as we unloaded the car, and may have unwittingly left my work bag and expensive camera behind the passenger seat by accident.

(Of course, it could conceivably be argued that The Special One might have considered checking the car when she dropped it back at the car parklot, but when I began considering formulating this admittedly flimsy line of defence, The Special One activated her ‘Don’t Even Think About It’ forcefield, and I dropped the idea with immediate effect.)

With Brit Out Of Water Senior in New York this weekend, and the Zipcar in question seemingly booked out on a near permanent basis since we returned it, I’d kind of given up on ever seeing the bag or camera again. After all, the whole point of this service is that you just rent it for an hour or so at a time, so a dozen or so people could have been in the car since we left it.

As a result, it was a bit of a surprise this morning to find that somebody had been through my bag, found my business card, and left a message for me at work letting me know that she had found my stuff in the car, and had put it in the boottrunk for safety. The car had even been taken for a service by Zipcar all day today, and the items had still remained firmly untouched.

The tragic thing is that the only British experience I have to compare this to is a recent trip to the UK for work. Despite flying British Airways business class, and being the last passenger to leave the weird little upstairs cabin, there was strangely no sign of my brand new iPod when the cleaning staff came to clear the plane shortly afterwards. British Airways didn’t bother responding to my email of complaint, and their lost property agents Excess Baggage denied all responsibility in a terse twenty-word email. Customer service – you can’t beat it.

And yes, I should probably be more careful with my valuable in future. If I have to be on the receiving end of one of The Special One’s unique ’equal measures of disappointment and disbelief’ looks again in the next few months, I might be back in (deep) water before I know it.

A new kind of justice

It’s remarkable how being ‘out of water’ makes you much more sensitive to people’s attitudes and behaviours, regardless of where you are in the world. When I’m in the UK, for example, I’m intensely aware of the sullen questioning of waiters or waitresses who are not so wholly dependent on tips to ensure that they can eat at the end of the week. I’m currently in the south of France, and even though there’s a ban on smoking in public places as there is in Britain or New York, it’s noticeable how much more committed people still are to their ‘death sticks’.

Thankfully, the world is an endlessly diverse place, and we should be eternally grateful for that.

But sometimes – just sometimes – I wish that there were universally held social mores that people adhered to regardless or country of origin, class, race, sexuality or religion.

Travelling back to New York from London this week, The Special One and I had a glass of wine in Terminal 4 (OK, I had a glass of wine, and she had a glass of English lemonade, which she appears to be endlessly enamoured with) before making our weary way to the gate to be prodded and poked into our seats like the rest of the onboard cattle. Even though the flight was relatively empty, most of the seats around the gate were full of sombre passengers preparing themselves for the eight hours of sitting in three-and-a-half inches of legroom eating rapidly chilled-then-furnace blasted food.

Having already flown down to London from Manchester, and laden down with heavy bags, neither of us were particularly in the mood for sitting on the floor or – worse still – standing. Fortunately there were two spare seats next to a pleasant-enough looking couple, with nothing more than an Arran jumpersweater and a bag or two occupying the seats. A man was sat adjacent to the vacant seats, studiously working on his laptop.

Seeing the chance to take the weight off my legs, I approached the man and asked to sit down, and he cordially removed the sweater from one of the chairs. When I apologetically made it clear that there were two of us and that we needed both seats, things started to go downhill rapidly.

The man, who appeared to be German but seemed to talk with a New York accent, simply refused to move his things, firmly stating “I’m not putting my stuff on the floor”, smirking casually as he said it. He even repeated it after my ears refused to believe what they had heard.

At that point, the British and New York sides to my personality were immediately put into intense conflict. The British part of me instantly apologised for the inconvenience of the man being asked to lift up his inanimate and non-precious possessions to place them on the carpeted floor. But within milliseconds, my inner indignated New Yorker reasserted control and insisted that he clear the chair so that The Special One and I could sit down.

Again he refused. This time with more vigour.

By this point I was irate (though utterly calm), and the presence of 150 or so other travellers wasn’t going to prevent me from making myself heard. Clearly nothing I could say was going to make him give up the spare seat, but that didn’t mean that I was going to let him get away with such behaviour without a mild-but-obvious rebuke.

In the ensuing diatribe, it is possible that I made it clear – to him, and to the watching audience – that he was an obnoxious man with little or no moral fibreer. And asked him how he managed to be so self-involved that a couple of bags were more important than a couple of living breathing human beings.

Again he smirked, held his ground, and we walked off to two more seats that had been vacated a few yards away. As I turned to give him my deadliest death stare (a stare that has been known to cause the onset of rigor mortis in perfectly healthy adults), he laughed to his humiliated partner.

This was too much for even my inner eccentric English gentleman, and I heard myself call him out for his manners again, telling him to stop laughing as his attitude was simply pathetic. Still no response though, and the man buried himself in both his laptop and his over-arching sense of self-congratulation as The Special One and I sat down and vented privately.

What goes around comes around though. Our bags were pretty much the last ones to arrive off the luggage carousel as the JFK terminal shut down for the night. And the last sight we saw, as we wandered off to get a taxi back to Brooklyn, was Mr Obnoxious and his wife consulting with British Airways staff on what to do about their suitcases which tragically appeared to have gone missing in transit.

And that, my friends, is karma.