I have been staying with my daughter, Dominique, and her husband Troy since I was coughed up by the Greyhound Bus after a twenty hour ride on rough roads. The fact that somewhere along the journey my suitcase that I foolishly dropped my medications into and that was full to the gills with Christmas Presents had gone veering off in a separate direction from my bumpy trajectory could not lessen the experience of arriving.
Firstly, seeing my daughter was wonderful. Secondly, just being able to stop the alternating of the rough jostling with being kicked out into the yellow-green slime of light that coats all the surfaces in the small “cafes” lining the route was a cause for celebration. Had I been able to unbend my knees sufficiently to dance, I would have. However being in hedgehog-fetal position to try to fit onto the seat through the night precluded anything more than being calmly thankful that I had enough stamina left to disembark.
Lastly, I had the practice. My mind wanted to run to the first window which was victim. Oh poor me. No suitcase. Then came the second window which was blame.
“You stupid twit, why did you put your medications in the suitcase. You traveled all over Europe. Twice. And you knew enough not to separate yourself from clean underwear and medications.” But because I have been basting my brain with Buddhism, the last part of that alternative of bad vision was minimized. I managed to shut the curtains shortly after, “You stupid twit.”
Then came the use of the practice…. being patient. I asked to file a missing luggage form but was told by a very terse woman (who had previously hung up on my daughter) that they waited five days or more before filing a lost report.
Now my mind did its work. I saw that the woman was angry. I saw that her life wasn’t working. I saw her treat people without respect including hanging up on another caller as I watched and I wondered, “How’d you get that way?” Reading Wayne Dyer and How to Win Friend’s and Influence People taught me a few skills.
I was patient. I didn’t crowd the woman but I didn’t go away either.
I came back to the depot three times, phoned three times. Politely. I explained that my daughter would be living with a werewoman after my withdrawal from my bionic woman meds. My poor little waifs of grand daughters would be deprived of their Christmas presents.
And lastly I went for the heart or the jugular. I said I had no other clothing and needed a change of underwear after 21 straight hours on the bus. What human being could resist that plea?
During the recounting of my tale, it spilled out that I had purchased my ticket on line. The woman’s face shut down like a castle gate under attack.
“On line. We don’t want you to purchase tickets on line. We don’t get any commission for finding lost luggage for people who purchased a ticket on line.”
Poison words. I had poisoned my case and now had to begin reworking our relationship. She was mistress of that desk and I a mere suppliant. The very repetition of the phrase, “on line” was for my benefit because I was obviously an “idiot.”
Part way through the days of sweet persistence, she deigned to fill out a form while asking me questions. I described my luggage in laborious detail. When we were done, she handed me a slip of paper indicating that I now had permission to pick up my suitcase. And when the detailed, adjective rich depiction of my suitcase was complete the line for description on this power-of-pick up form simply stated,” suitcase.”
To understand the depth of mini-autocracy at work, I had talked to this woman daily. She is working at a depot with only two people. Both people had been included in the conversations I held with them. So as I took the paper which said that I could pick up my luggage should it ever arrive and present it to the only two people in this tiny, unadorned closet of a depot to make sure that it was official, I was silenced by the sheer force of convoluted logic. Perhaps the idea was to get rid of me by sending me away with a white scrap of hope.
She could, apparently rule her kingdom with an iron will.
So I called the Greyhound national office… It is in Texas. The woman who answered gave me the Canadian corporate headquarter’s phone number. And thus began my Christmas conversation with Emmanuel. I explained to this savior the details of my plight… now for the eighth time. It was good practice. I was becoming more succinct and gently hopeful while maintaining my dogged persistence with each retelling of the saga of the lost suitcase.
He said I should call the national office in Texas. I told him that I had. He said,” You should ask the depot to put a trace on it.”
I said, ” I asked the depot immediately.Yes. Yes I have tried for three days, six different times,” I informed him.
“Why don’t you go to another depot and fill out the form?” he asked.
I fell for a moment into a pool of confusion. Whaaaat?
“The nearest town with a depot is four hours away and I took the bus. I don’t have a car with me, ” I said starting to blank out from the sheer confusion of those I was dealing with.
“Well, I don’t really do that, the tracing. But I can ask for a trace if I file a complaint at the same time,” he offered.
And there it was. The rune in the full moon light. The switch to the sliding bookcase. An opportunity to educate the Houston, B.C. Greyhound Depot staff on the company policy. A chance to help those poor fools who thought they could call a business and ask a question without having someone slam down the phone. My intention was to stay out of anger and just keep the attitude that everybody was going to be alright. Even my dark blue almost black, 35 lb, cloth covered suitcase with a pull handle and wheels.
On the fourth day, Donna, who reigns supreme, allowed me to fill out a form. From then on everything changed. She actually looked at my face when we talked. She immediately faxed the request to the stations along the way where some, in her words, “idiot” could have miss-routed my luggage.
The next day after the fax went through to the six stops along the way, my luggage showed up. The woman was actually happy for me. Her face had softened. She said, “Now your grand daughters have their Christmas presents.” She let me hug her.
I will write a letter. But now it won’t be a letter of complaint. Communication is the problem all down the line. The mistresses of the desk needs to know that, yes, a trace can be filed immediately. The company needs to know that a review of procedures will help bring in more customers. And the driver needs to know not to leave Christmas parcels out in the parking lot where some “idiot” will back over them.
My body is now nicely humming along with all of my bionic woman meds, I have clean underwear, the Christmas presents are under the tree. I have learned so many things about travel, about loss of focus when packing, about compassion and not least of all about why I want to be rich enough to fly first class.
Merry Christmas everyone. Blessings out.