Well, I Suppose That’s One Way to do It

Dress nice for travel and get treated nice.  Well, I guess you have to do what works best for you.

I have zero notion of who the author is.  His picture doesn’t betray his age very well.  But I can tell you this:  I’m turning 49 and I’m at that point in life when my physical comfort is third only to getting there in one piece and on time in travel priorities.  I don’t, for example, travel with a damned belt trying to hold in my girth, especially not on airplanes.  Those damned seats are already about six inches too narrow for me, and if I have a neighbor to one side so I can’t spread my elbows out, then at some point the circulation in my arms cuts off (yes, I’m that overweight fat).

My travelling duds are my Liberty bib overhauls.  Dammit.  I’ve got ample pocket space and in the zippered bib pocket, if I lose whatever’s in there in anything short of an armed mugging, I was going to lose it anyway.  I can let out the side buttons and take my ease.

Being treated nicely?  I find I’ve had marvelous success with “please,” “thank you,” “ma’am,” and “sir,” all delivered with a soft Southern accent.  I also find that phrasing questions and requests in less-than-banal language amuses people and prompts a desire to be just that little bit extra helpful that makes the difference.  Instead of, “Where’s the fax machine?” which produces a blank stare and a, “Down the hall on the left,” I try something along the lines of, “Excuse me, but if I were a fax machine, where might I be hiding around here?” That usually gets me a smile, a laugh, and detailed directions.  Or instead of, “They told me you could give me a <BLANK>,” our author might try, “Your learned colleagues over yonder allowed that I might be able to talk a <BLANK> out of you.”

Remember, the people you deal with while travelling are used to dealing all day, every day, with importunate jerks.  People who are fed up with the hassles of travel in the modern world and are more than content to work that shit out on anyone who pauses in their field of fire and who (they think) can’t fire back.  That ol’ please an’ thankee that your granny tried to teach you, whether or not with the aid of a switch cut from a sapling out back, is your way of communicating to those folks that hey, I know you’re probably having a lousy day and I wish you weren’t, but I do need some help and you’re the one who’s getting paid to provide it, and how about if I try to give you three seconds of pleasantness right now in the middle of your day.  People who seldom get treated nicely themselves generally react not just well but nearly effusively to being treated nicely when they’re not expecting it.

OK, class, multiple choice.  Which of the two is likely to get that smile of “however lousy today is, for this one moment I’m smiling” from the harried counter-clerk at whatever swamped-with-shouting-Americans travel-related service business is in question:  A:  “I want a <BLANK>.”  B:  “Might I so far impose on you as to organize a <BLANK>?”

I wish our author well in his pressed shirt, creased pants, and closed-toe shoes (what male travels in sandals?).  Maybe his fashion sense overwhelms his interlocutors, such that they fall over themselves to do his bidding and seek his benediction.  I’ll just stick with ambling up to the lady at the counter who’s trying, desperately, at the fag-end of her shift to look as pretty and put-together as she did when she left the house that morning (especially if she’s identifiably young — which at my age works out to 35 and down — or identifiably older, by which I mean over 60), standing tall — don’t slouch; it tells people you’re not taking them seriously — putting on my most lost-as-last-year’s-Easter-egg look, and observing, “Excuse me, ma’am (caveat:  the older the lady you’re addressing, the more you should consider addressing her as “Miss”; some find that flattering, others offensive, and you can’t really predict which will break one way versus the other), I can’t seem to find the <BLANK>.”

Thank you.

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