And let me tell you: once travel plans have been fucked, it is pretty hard to unfuck them. There is no 're-virgin' contract in the world of domestic holiday travel, my friends.
I am not, in the best of situations, a patient person by any means. not even a little bit. Not even at all. I'm pretty sure, though, that the hold music -- it had jazz flute, and was a cover of Rolling Stones song and there may have been birds twittering in the background -- played on a loop for a half hour would be enough to make Gandhi start beating people with his stick. So it's safe to say that by the time I was finally allowed to talk to a real person, I had already begun a slow boil. By slow boil, I mean that I was taping my fingers, pursing my lips and staring a burning hole into the confirmation sheet that I was gripping tightly in my white knuckled fist.
"For God's sake, this is absolutely ridiculous," I barked at the carpet when the hold music had been playing for forty five minutes. The carpet refrained from verbal comment, but I felt that the way it absorbed my spilled coca cola was sympathetic.
When a high pitched, heavily accented and inappropriately enthusiastic voice chirped "HI THERE! HOW CAN I HELP YOU TODAY!? MY NAME IS MINDY!!" into the other end of the phone I was so startled that I jumped, but I regrouped.
Now, one thing that has to be understood about me is that when I'm angry or displeased, my voice drops several registers. I clench my teeth and force my words through them like so much cheese through a grater. I chop off the ends of my words, and in general channel a certain Bette Davis-esque superiority over the rest of man kind.
"Well, Mindy," I grated, "I have a problem, and you're going to fix it for me."
"WELL, THAT'S GREAT! TELL ME WHAT I CAN DO YOU FOR!" she happily chorused.
I told Mindy what I needed to have done - namely a full refund, and a new ticket immediately. Mindy, who by now I had figured out was physically incapable of not speaking in capital letters. Naturally, Mindy was no help whatsoever, which ratcheted up my rage, and lowered my voice considerably. The contrast between the two of us in a conversation was like the contrast between James Earl Jones' speaking voice and a castrati.
More striking than her voice, though, was Mindy's enthusiasm. Her wildly inappropriate enthusiasm and generally casual approach to our conversation. Mindy seemed to believe that she was "just folks" and that everyone else was too.
The problem with that approach was two fold in our conversation: 1) when I am angry, I don't want to be thought of as "just folks", I want to be thought of as an Empress, a God, in short, Norma Desmond descending for her close up -- terrifying, yet fascinating and 2) "just folks" doesn't play well with me when it's used to cover up a seemingly boundless pit of ignorance and oceans of incompetence.
Mindy, I truly believe, knows nothing about anything related to her job. That doesn't stop her, though, from exuberant exclamations like, "WHAT ABOUT WEDNESDAY! BY GUM, I SURE LOVE TO TRAVEL ON WEDNESDAYS!!"
The level of excitement she was able to generate about Wednesday makes me think that she's the kind of person who would manage to be just as happy to see a man remove his coloscopy bag as she would be to see box filled with kittens.
"Mindy," I grated not long into our conversation, "I think I need to speak with your supervisor."
Another mind numbingly long period of time spent wandering lost and alone through the desert of Muzak, and I was on the phone with a man who sounded like he was trying to swallow his bow-tie. I can tell you with a pretty high degree of certainty that this was a man who wore knee socks with sandals, and while he'd heard of the concept of a joke, he'd never told one in his life. He'd probably never even wanted to. Talking to this man made me feel like I'd been chewing on sawdust.
He didn't last long with me, nor did his supervisor, or the next guy they shunted me off to. Finally, though, I found exactly what I'd been looking for: a yes man. This was the guy who had been trained to agree dociley to everything I said, the man who was paid to agree with me, and compliment my patience, and generally get me off the phone as quickly as possible. This guy was The Lion Tamer.
At this point, though, I was so angry that I'm sure there were humpbacked whales in the Pacific somewhere, who were wondering where the hell that extra low frequency noise was coming from, and why it kept saying "You've lost my business, you can be sure of that" over and over.
"I'm sorry," the Lion Tamer said, backing behind his chair and cracking the whip over head. "Would you like a full refund?"
I lunged at this sign of weakness, with my claws extended. "Yes! And I want to fly out today! Or tomorrow! With an upgrade!"
"Okay," the Lion Tamer said in the kind of tone usually reserved for people getting ready to jump off the side of a building or use someone else as a human shiled, "thank you for flying with us."
"As if I have a choice!" I snarled, but the Lion Tamer was already reeling off my confirmation number and hightailing it away from the tall grass where I was gnashing my teeth.
Angry as I still was, when I hung up the phone, I felt fufilled. I had done my duty, and I had done it well. The pride lands had been defended, and I was looking out for my money. I was standing up for myself. I was being agressive, and assertive and --
"We're sorry," the woman at the counter said, when told of all the things I had been promised by the Lion Tamer. "That's impossible."
"Well," I said, my voice begining to lower as my body tensed for yet another round of holiday travel roulette. "We'll just see about that."