About a year ago our flight was delayed coming back from a business trip in California. Really delayed, as in minutes before we were about to board some observant technician noticed that one of our engines was not going to keep us in the air. I was flying back with a good friend and business partner. We were in California talking to investors.
I'm sure he'd tell this story differently, but here goes nothing.
The problem occurred during a layover in Vegas. You know how those things go, at first it's an hour delay, then two, then three and eventually you'll take off. Except we were on hour six and no sign of ending. One man started going to each of the passengers saying "F--- this, let's ditch this flight and charter a plan." If I remember correctly, he was trying to recruit ten willing passengers, at $2,000 each. I didn't take him up on his offer.
Eventually they canceled our flight all together. No hope of repair. My friend called his mother, who is a travel agent, to figure out what was going on with the flights, and what was available to rebook us.The problem was that systems were apparently out of sync or some kind of miscommunication was going on (I'm not sure of the details with how these systems all tie together). My friend started speaking louder as he was at the counter talking to the flight attendant and his mother on the phone. Louder turned into screaming, which turned into profanity. The airline had locked up the rest of the flights while they figured out how to reassign passengers. The problem was that everything was for a flight tomorrow. Not only was this extremely inconvenient, but all parties involved in the dispute didn't necessarily believe that the airline was doing their best to accommodate us.
After a bit more arguing, my friend walked away from the counter and continued to loudly deride the airline while on the phone. I had felt that he had just done more harm than good for our cause, so I walked up to the same attendant and just said (in an extremely pleasant and calm manner), "Excuse me but I really need to be in Philadelphia by 10:00am tomorrow morning. Is there anyway you can make that happen?" I smiled. She smiled. It was the first smile she'd seen in ten hours of people yelling at her. She said "Let me see." and about 30 seconds later she asked "Are you traveling with anyone else?". I laughed and turned around to look at my friend who was about 20 feet away but clearly audible and still yelling. "I'm sorry he's an asshole.", is all I could muster. We both laughed and she reserved two spots for us that would get us home well before when I needed to be.
I thanked her, turned around, and walked to my friend. I interrupted him and said "It's taken care of." He had this look of disbelief. His response was "How?". I responded, "I asked nicely."
Our original flight did eventually get repaired and we didn't need to use the reserved flight. In this instance things would have worked out either way, but being nice to others has single handedly gotten me further in life than any other quality or trait that I possess. It's easy. Few do it. Even fewer mean it when they do it. Honestly, the bar is set so low that a "Thank you!" and a smile will get you half way around the world.
About the author
I'm Steve Krenzel, a software engineer and co-founder of Thinkfuse. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.