Thursday, November 04, 2010

At least one other idiot

AOG, Madrid

Customer service from hell. That is what my friend just told me on the phone. Courtesy of Iberia Airlines. He called, it seems, to confirm that the airline had his and his partner's names correctly, which they didn't since one of them said "Ms" on the ticket. 
The lady on the other side of the phone line, ("for help in English, press one"), after listening to what my friend had said, merely replied -slightly irritated- that if they wanted to do a prebooking change, they had to contact their agent.

So my friend (Taurus) explained to the lady (inept) once again that he merely wanted to confirm that they had their names right. They are flying down to Uruguay for Christmas and New Years (And I so envy them!). 

Again, she didn't listen to a word he said and just told him that if he wanted to prebook his ticket, he had to contact his agent.

Now, if you can read what my friend was saying, and you can read her replies, it is obvious that she wasn't listening to anything he was saying.

How often in life does that happen? I would venture that it happens quite a lot. 

I now that very often I respond to what people say, but somehow, things get "lost in translation" from the time they leave the person's mouth to the time they reach my brain. They say one thing, and I hear another.

It is so easy to get confused. I often tell Madame Mère to listen to what I'm saying, and not to what she thinks I am saying. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. 

However, I too do that. 

I react to what I think is being said and not to what actually is being said. There is obviously a breakdown in communication. We hear, but we just don't listen. 

And sometimes we don't care to listen because we think -and therein lies our error- that we know it all. 

That we are possessors of the truth, or at least, our truth, subjective though it might be, we own nothing but that which lives in our heads, and we care very little for that which lives in the heads of others since, and we all know this to be true, we are always right.

What a great disservice to mankind, as well as to ourselves this is, isn't it? 

The great Civil Rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, "Herein lies the tragedy of the age: not that men are poor, - all men know something of poverty; not that men are wicked; - who is good? not that men are ignorant, - what is truth? Nay, but that men know so little of men." And he was right. 

We know very little about other people, even those close to us, but we also don't care to know anymore than what we do since we spend precious little time getting to know anybody these days. 

Ever heard of speed-dating? You talk to someone for 5 minutes (or less) and them move on to the next person. Now I ask, can you be your fabulous self in just 5 minutes with 20 different people? 

 No, of course not. "Its a great way to meet new people!" they tell us. But it isn't. Not really. 

I think that beyond a physical impression, little else will be retained by us. And after talking to 20 people, I think most men will agree, who will you go back for? The person who stimulated your brain the most, or the pretty face with the wicked smile and killer ass? 

Exactly. So why pretend?

Facebook, Twitter, online chats, it is all so immediate, so quick. But I dare say that it was always like this. I don't think speed is responsible for our shortcomings. Perhaps it just made a bad situation worse.

And I do wish it were different. Personally speaking, I love it when I meet a like-minded person. 

Why? Because they make you feel like you are not the only idiot in the Universe who thinks like you do. There is, at least, one other idiot like you! 

Isn't it comforting to know that you are not the only one of your species?

And what better than getting to know someone you think you can learn something from? 

Yes, I know that this is not always the case, but it would be folly to think that we can't learn something from everyone we meet in life. However small.
"One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions," wrote the American XIX century writer Oliver Wendell Holmes. And how right he was.

In the end, after the lady in question hung up on him, exasperated as she was by all her effort, my friend called back, pressed #2, and spoke to a Spanish speaking operator who fixed his problem. 

There's a lot to be said for manners and good customer service, but that is a post for another day.

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