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Wednesday, July 26, 2006  

Kick in the Bus

While M. Small's day care provider is on vacation in a couple of weeks, Trash's mom is coming up from Iowa to pick up the slack. Which looked like it was going to be difficult when her car broke down.

We considered options. Go down and get her? Buy her a plane ticket? Send a cab? Mail her a pre-paid FedEx box with airholes and snacks? Worst of all, put her on a (shudder) bus?

My mother-in-law picked the bus. I know, but it was her choice. "We'll see if she still thinks that's the best option when it's time to go home," I told Trash.

Trash got to work researching the details. She also looked into the train option. How cool would that be? Nobody ever gets to take the train in the Midwest. Trash quickly found out why. It only works for my mother-in-law if she wants to make her 200-mile trip into a cross-country odyssey that will take her from Des Moines to Minneapolis via Sacramento, Portland, and Seattle. And people wonder why Amtrak isn't doing better.

No, I'm kidding. People don't wonder why Amtrak isn't doing better. Everything else in that paragraph is completely true.

So bus it was. Trash contacted not Greyhound, but one of those other bus companies where the passengers take turns behind the wheel (yes, I just referenced an old Jay Leno joke. Please come to my house and shoot me in the face). She happened to know about it because one of her old clients at her job is some sort of bigwig there. A position, I might add, that Trash helped him get.

After having any number of conversations with her mom working out the logistics and the timing, Trash is ready to call and order the tickets over the phone. She accomplishes half of her task. That is to say, she calls, but she does not order the tickets. That's because the person on the other end of the phone won't sell them to her.

I don't mean that there's some kind of systemic or regulatory obstacle in the way of Trash purchasing the tickets. I mean that the guy simply flat-out refuses to sell her tickets. Period. I'm not sure what else he's doing that prevents him from selling her tickets. Maybe he's too busy at his job, which is…let's see…SELLING TICKETS. I don't know.

Trash becomes stymied, and actually starts laughing in confusion. "I don't understand," she says. "I know it's less than two weeks away, but I'm willing to pay the extra fee."

"I'm not willing to sell them to you," he insisted.

Trash persisted, until he offered to transfer her to someone who could help her. The lack of hold music after he clicked off was her first clue as to what had actually happened. The dial tone a minute later closed the case.

Trash did a little more research, and called back. "Can I buy these tickets?" she said. Nope. No, no, and nope. "Is there someone else I could call?" she asked. Here, at last, the guy actually did something helpful, and rattled off an 800 number.

Trash called the other number. "Thank you for calling Greyhound," the operator answered. "Sorry," Trash said. "Wrong number."

Trash called Not-Greyhound back and got the same operator. She asked to speak to his manager. "I am the manager," the guy said. Trash asked to speak to a different manager. "I'm the only manager," the guy said. Trash actually asked to speak to someone under him. He hung up on her. For the second time.

She called back again. The same guy answered. "How can I help you?" he asked. Trash asked for his manager again. "How can I help you?" Trash again asked for the manager. "How can I help you?" Trash asked for his name. "How can I help you?" he demanded. How, indeed? This was going beyong Seinfeldian and becoming downright Kafkaesque.

Trash isn't the kind of person to throw her weight around. But she felt she owed it to her former client -- the bigwig at this company, you'll recall -- to give him a heads-up that this kind of thing was going on in his company. She didn't get him on the line directly, but she left a message and then did get a call that very afternoon from another higher-up, who listened to her whole story, apologized profusely, and offered her a free ticket. Trash declined, because everyone else at the company had been great, but the bus company did prevail upon her to let them waive the usual service charge and FedEx the ticket to her mom. I would have suggested letting the bus company buy her a plane ticket, but I wasn't the one in charge of negotiations.

As for the "customer service" guy, the lady from the bus company told Trash that this guy -- the only guy in the call center, by the way, so nice giveaway, dude -- had done this same thing weeks before. On that occasion, she had gone down to fire his ass, only to find out that he'd been taken away in an ambulance. So she cut him a little slack. He'd been recovering from back surgery ever since, and who knows what kind of pain he'd been in on the previous occasion?

This was his third day back. One wonders if this time he's going to try to blame his behavior on generic Oxycontin or something. Either way, something tells me that it's going to take more than an ambulance ride to save his job this time around.

posted by M. Giant 10:06 PM 2 comments

2 Comments:

Ahh, yes. I was already thinking the guy was hopped up on the goofballs, but you said it. You gotta love the drugs people are on post-surgery.

"It's opiates. Hoorayyy, opiates!"

By Blogger Febrifuge, at July 28, 2006 at 11:59 AM  

I think Greyhound is really not that bad. I've ridden it across the country horizontally and vertically both and met all kinds of interesting people, only three or four of whom were genuinely unpleasant. And I could say the same of air travel. Your Amtrak quip was hilarious!

By Blogger Nancy, at August 1, 2006 at 6:56 AM  

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