Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Holding Myself Accountable

I'm to my weight-loss goal, and have been successfully holding steady for three weeks. In three more weeks, I will become a Lifetime Member of Weight Watchers (you have to maintain your goal weight for six weeks for that to happen). I assume there's some sort of coronation ceremony for this. Maybe a crown embellished with broccoli florets will be placed on my head and I'll carry a carrot sceptre topped with a grapefruit. Dottie, my leader, will help me take the oath: "I, Lifetime Member Dena, solemnly swear to uphold the tenets of the Points System and will not abuse the powers of FlexPoints bestowed upon me by the people of Weight Watchers. I will endeavor to earn the ActivityPoints I so desperately need and will not surpass the budget thereof." And I'll wear a pretty dress.

But then what? I find myself still a little shaky on my relationship to food. I'm increasingly (rather than decreasingly) obsessed with how much food goes in my mouth and what happens every time I go over points just a little. Will that ice cream put me back where I started? Will having pizza ruin everything? Are my jeans going to suddenly not fit tomorrow because I drank that wine? It's a running discourse in my head, pretty much all the time. I know that's not a sustainable way to live if I want to be a happy, comfortable person. Being thin shouldn't mean being a nutcase, nor should it mean an obsession or compulsion to deny myself things I love. I know that constant worry and denial will not lead to long-term success, and I know that if I'm good most of the time, an occasional splurge isn't going to throw me off course. And if I gain a few pounds, I can lose it again. Weight gain is not like cement setting on my butt or anything.

But the fact is that making my brain accept this new version of food reality is a lot more difficult than actually losing the weight was. This has me surprised and nervous. I thought it would be easier to be on maintenance, but it turns out this is where the work really begins. Physically changing was one thing. Emotionally changing is quite another.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Delta Delta Delta Will Not Help Ya Help Ya Help Ya. (Part 2)

Okay, so part two, which is the equivalent of day 2 of our misadventures with Delta Airlines, the most idiotic, thoughtless, inconsiderate and terrible of all the airlines. Part 1 is just below this entry.

8) The following morning, Mom and I show up at the check-in gate at 9:30 to claim our two guaranteed seats. Of course, we were barked at to try the "automated" service, but I said, "No, your airline screwed us over last night and we were told to talk to the agent instead." She backed off us and moved on to barking at the rabbi in front of us, who tried to be patient and kind, but with only a tenuous grasp on success. When Mom and I approached the agent, she handed us "seat requests" and told us we'd have to inquire about boarding passes at the gate. Mom and I both verbally balked, and she said, rudely, "Don't beat me up. I'm just the messenger." Grrrrrrrrrrr. So I replied, "Ma'am, I'm sorry but your airline has been beating us up for 36 hours." She said there was nothing for us to do but go to gate C37 to ask about passes.

9) After a little holdup at the security checkpoint, we got to terminal C. Just out of habit, I checked the departure board. Lucky decision. Our gate was not C37 but C32. Not a huge difference, but another example of the idiocy and lack of basic competency of Delta Airlines. We got to C32 and I inquired about boarding passes. The guy looked at the monitor behind him which said, "Lansing, MI" in order to obnoxiously point out to me that I was early and/or had the wrong gate. I calmly (but not pleasantly) informed him that we were on edge about being messed up again with our flight and I wanted assurance as early as possible that I was getting boarding passes. He told me I'd have to go to C2 to get more information. A full 10-minute walk back the way I had just come.

10) I left Mom sit and booked it back to C2. While in line, I learned about the couple (probably my parents' age) who had been screwed the night before. They had run to make their connection, and the husband made it while the gate was still open. He pointed to his wife who was no more than 30 seconds away, not being able to run as quickly as he could. The DELTA GATE AGENT SHUT THE GATE ON HIM and said, "Too bad." DELTA DIDN'T WAIT 30 SECONDS for a lady to make the connection. Then the plane sat there for 10 minutes before leaving anyway. Yes. Another girl had been trying to get to her destination for two days but had been bumped or had flights cancelled every time. The people behind the older couple had also been trying for two days. This did not bode well.

11) When it was my turn, the lady told me my flight was full. I said the lady last night had told me there were seven and I was guaranteed two. She said, "You shouldn't have been told that. It all depends on weight restrictions and the gate agents choose who would get to go on the plane." At this point, I realize Mom and I are not getting on that flight without a fight. So I pulled out the heavy ammunition: my Huisman temper. I said, "So, you're basically telling me we are fu***d. Is that what you're telling me?" [Ed note: I did not use asterisks in the original conversation. So sue me.] She looked at me evenly and said, "Probably yes." I said, "So the lady last night lied to me about there being seven seats and that I was guaranteed two of them? And that if I showed up at 9:30 this morning, I could pick which seats I wanted?" Reply: "She shouldn't have told you that." My reply: "Well she did. But now you're telling me that, in spite of that guarantee, I. Am. Fu***d." She said, "Yes." Then I really lost it. I expressed what entire bullshit that was and I wasn't accepting this as possible. Then she took my boarding passes--sorry, my "seat requests"--and went to the nearest gate. She spent several minutes there...and came back with two boarding passes.

12) The only thing she said to me when handing them over was, "She shouldn't have told you you had them guaranteed." Oh, for cripes sake. How the heck is that MY problem, incompetent Delta lady? Seriously? So I said, "Ma'am, I'm sorry I yelled, but you have to understand that your airline has terrible customer service, terrible communication patterns, and terrible scheduling problems. Do you see that?" The response (predictably) was, "Yeah. She shouldn't have guaranteed you those seats." ARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So I again said, "Well, she did guarantee them to me, but that just proves my point that you have terrible customer service, terrible communication, you lie to people and you are completely unorganized!" She just said, "Yes, it's bad communication." Holy shit. It was like talking to freaking Rain Man. So I just said, "Thanks for the boarding passes," and off I went, leaving all the poor other schmucks behind me begging to get on a plane, any plane. Please just get us where we need to go. That kind of thing. Going back to the first point in the prior posting, when they overbook all their flights, they don't leave any room to deal with the people they screw over by being late. If they're going to screw up their schedule so much that they have permanent areas dedicated to rescheduling, they need to AT LEAST have some seats available (i.e., not overbooked) to accommodate this!

13) Finally, it's time to board, only not. We are told it would be another 10 minutes. Fine. About 15 minutes later, we're told it will be another 10 minutes. About 40 minutes later, we are allowed to board. I mean, really. Would it be so difficult to be honest with their customers? Would it kill them to say, "Ladies and gentlemen, there's a delay, and we're not entirely sure when the plane will arrive. We hope within 30 minutes. We'll let you know more as we get information." Honest and completely lacking in condescension. Ugh. So we finally got home about an hour late. Well. Actually about 18 hours late, but who's counting?

Honestly. This is not exaggerated. This airline is so inept, incompetent, arrogant, rude, and pathetic. One might argue that this is a fluke, but A) the other passengers on my NYC-Detroit plane and in line behind me the following day suggest otherwise, B) the permanent kiosks and overall familiarity with DELTA-specific vouchers suggest otherwise, and C) the similarly rude and incompetent experience I had with Delta last summer from NYC-Minneapolis suggests otherwise. This is a pervasive and ongoing problem. Delta Airlines SUCKS. I personally have vowed never to fly with them again, which is particularly sucky given that I have few options out of La Crosse, and even fewer in general when you consider how many airlines are owned by Delta. But I'd rather stay home than give Delta Airlines one more red cent of my money. And keep in mind that saying this is a person who loves to travel and does it as often as I can.


Delta Delta Delta Will Not Help Ya Help Ya Help Ya. (Part 1)

I was lucky enough to fly to Ireland for a whole month, and get paid for it. I'm a person who experiences a great deal of good fortune. I should be grateful for the opportunity to see so much of the world. But here I am whining anyway. I'm sure Delta Airlines would rather I accentuate the positives, but I don't care about how Delta Airlines feels. I want to share with the world (or some tiny fragment of it) just what I experienced through this god-awful, terrible, no good company. A company that is among the worst of an already pretty terrible industry. Below is a list of the idiocies I experienced. Share with your friends.

1) On the way over to Shannon, Ireland, one of my students was on the same flight. She made the error of assuming she had reserved a seat on the plane when she made her...reservation. Unfortunately, she and about six others were told their reservations had been for nothing because Delta, as always, overbooked the plane. My student had to stay overnight in NYC to get on the next night's flight. This involved an extra trip back to the airport from the first hotel that turned them away because Delta had made no reservations for them there. Yes. This theme will return later.

2) On the way back to the U.S., Mom and I flew into JFK airport on time, with nearly three hours to spare till our flight to Detroit. We were feeling pretty confident, in spite of the fact that JFK airport is a sinkhole of doom and delays. About 15-20 minutes before our scheduled boarding time, an announcement was made that our gate had changed to another one a little ways down the concourse. All of us scrambled down to the new gate to be greeted by a wide-eyed and very confused desk agent who wanted to know who we were and what we were doing there. Turns out our gate hadn't changed...the OTHER flight at the original gate was supposed to move. So we all book it down back to the original gate, only to find the other flight was being told they were not to move.

3) At about this point, we find out that our plane was delayed by "weather." Apparently, if there's a light overcast, it's bad weather. Shortly after being fed this obvious pile of crap, the sun came out. Too late, though, because we were already being bumped back on departure by at least an hour. I waited in line to find out if it were possible to get to Chicago instead, where my dad could pick my mom and me up from his meetings there. I was told no, but there was a plane from Detroit to La Crosse the following day at 12:40. Our best scenario, barring making our tight connection, was to stay over in Detroit. No compensation, of course, because they were still claiming "weather" as the cause of the delay.

4) While waiting in line, a lady asked if this was the gate for Barcelona. This was the OTHER flight that was supposed to leave from our gate, but maybe now was supposed to be at the other gate now (unclear). So I told her I wasn't sure but I think that was now the other gate. The poor lady asked the ticket agent and was told to stay here because this was the right gate. No more than five minutes later, the loudspeaker announced that the Barcelona plane left out of the OTHER gate. The poor lady looked confused and exasperated (a feeling I well understood).

5) About 2 1/4 hours late, we finally took off for Detroit. The pilot, bless him, got us there as fast as he could, but we arrived no more than ten minutes late for our connection. We were told hastily to go "over there" to get rescheduled. We took off for "over there" but saw no "there" to go to. By this time, I was getting really hacked. I saw a Sky Miles kiosk, where a woman was trying to sign people up for the program. I figured she would know where "over there" was so I approached. She cheerily asked me if I wanted to get a free Delta flight for signing up. I said, "Actually, no. I don't plan to fly Delta ever again." The guy signing up looked up in surprise and asked if they were really that bad. The lady hastily said, "No! They are NOT that bad!" and gave me a dirty look. Unphased, I said to the guy, "Well, this is the second time in less than a year that they've left me stranded overnight, so you do the math." The lady asked what I wanted and sent me on my way.

6) It turns out "over there" was a designated gate with information and phones specifically for all the Delta customers who, like us, had been jacked over. It's pretty telling to me that there's an entire area cordoned off to deal with all this. I mean, this was not a temporary setup but a permanent, carpeted, furnished area. Ugh. So we were barked at to scan our boarding passes to get replacement flight. Delta planned to get us home the following day via Indianapolis via Minneapolis to La Crosse. Three more flights on Delta? I don't think so. The lady there barked at us to call in to get something better. The lady on the phone (the designated Delta phone bank in the permanent area set up for customers they screw over) told me she didn't know why they had done that when there were seven seats available on the direct La Crosse flight at 12:40 the following day. Seven seats. She said she had me marked down for two of them. All we had to do was to show up at 9:30 to the airport the following morning to claim the two that we wanted. I said, "So you're telling me I am guaranteed two of those seats tomorrow morning. You have guaranteed me two seats?" She said yes. Two seats guaranteed. Okay.

7) Now. I have to say something decent here. Delta did put us up at a hotel (mom and I each got our own rooms instead of sharing) along with $18 in meal vouchers. The funny thing is that when I called the pizza place to have dinner brought to our rooms and said I had some vouchers, the lady on the phone said, "Oh, you mean Delta vouchers?" So clearly this was not a novel situation. Mind you, she didn't ask if they were airline vouchers. She asked if they were DELTA vouchers. DELTA specifically. She KNEW THEY WERE FROM DELTA BECAUSE DELTA SUCKS.

To keep these short(ish), I'll start the following day's events in the next posting...