Club Lounge Compassion

The worst human beings in an airport can be found herded into a single location. Not the security queues, or the ticket counter, or the 10am pub crew, or the Duty Free salespeople. Its the passengers in the premium club lounges.

Here you have an amazing set-up. Free wifi, comfy chairs, space to breathe instead of squished together shoulder-to-shoulder, free food, coffee, & drinks, free newspapers and news stations, and some of the best staff in the airport. But heaven forbid it takes 30 extra seconds to check-in or they have temporarily run out of orange juice, or heaven forbid someone asks if they can store your baggage in their holding area and all hell breaks lose.

You have people with a “don’t you know who I am” attitude being treated just the same as other people in the lounge. “How DARE you … don’t you know who I am? … I’m flying business class/million miler status/1k/diamond” or whatever BS rewards level they measure their self-worth by.

I saw it this morning at the Barcelona airport with all 3 guests in front of me and a pair of guests right behind me. The greatest offenders were the pair of elderly ladies on business class flights back to the US who reminded me so much of Netflix’s Grace & Frankie. They were affronted when they didn’t need to use their Amex Centurion pass because their business class tickets already granted them access.

When a member of the staff tried to make it better by offering to store her luggage in their secure room so she wouldn’t have to haul it the 25 ft to the lounge chairs one of them blew up. I was close enough to hear a few choice words hurled at the staff. While I didn’t hear these words, it wouldn’t have been out of character for this woman to hurl a solid “Why can’t you just speak English properly” to punctuate her ranting.

As I sit here writing this I see her in a comfortable leather lounge chair, with a cafe con leche, some Iberico Ham and Manchego cheese, and a mimosa … pouting – literally sad and upset at the world.

While I have been full of judgement this morning I should take a step back and ask myself “Maybe she has had a hard trip and just wants to go home. Maybe she recently lost someone. Maybe she is sick or injured. Maybe … Maybe … Maybe.” There could be reasons she could use to justify her actions but it held up a mirror to me and my behavior.

I’ve been that person before, its a long day, a long flight a head of me or behind me, and I just want someone to take care of me. I’ve lashed out inappropriately or just been internally frustrated at the situation. Lord knows it happened a lot in dealing with the bureaucracy at Oxford where my rant came out in the form of “Don’t they teach LOGIC at this University!?!” in trying to get something accomplished. (note: they don’t, they only ask if there is precedent so they are covered if it goes topside)

I don’t know if it is Spain’s relaxed vibe, if it was Costa Rica’s “Pura Vida” motto, if it is the fact of writing these post each day and staying in touch with myself through them, or if it is something else. But I’ve found myself more and more approaching people who normally have to deal with entitled people like myself all day and instead of getting frustrated I get to know them.

I ask sincerely how they are doing, how long they have been working today and how long they have left. I joke that perhaps they need another coffee or offer encouragement that 2 more hours can go by quickly. I smile, I try to see them as a human and in return they see me as a human as well. Immediately I stand out and am remembered in a good way and they take care of me better than if I were just a jerk.

On flights I’ve seen this when I offer a small bag of mini-chocolates for the crew along with a sincere thanks for a job that may often seem thankless. While it started out as an attempt to get free perks, it has grown into a small and simple way to be a better person. On the last flight I did that one of the flight attendants caught me on my way back from the bathroom and remarked how – when she looked me up in the system – she was surprised to see that I was a Platinum medallion. She commented how she has almost never seen that basic human kindness from a medallion member.

Why is it that those who have so much take so much for granted? I enjoy flying because it is a way to remind myself about the humanity around me and a chance to practice empathy for those around me. They are calling my flight so I’ll post this now and I hope to get something out tomorrow before the Jet Lag kicks in.