The airline app read “please see gate agent for check-in.” Anticipating the headache I was going to have to endure, I left the house early to make my 7:30am departure. I parked close and started to make my way to the counter. As I tried to enter the line, the ” line guard ” (that’s what I call them) pointed to the kiosk and screamed (yes literally) “sir! sir! you have to go to the kiosk first!” She didn’t care to ask or find out my needs, she just forced me to the kiosk. I knew what the kiosk was going to do, it was going to print off that slip that looks like a boarding pass actually has one message on it, “unable to check-in, see gate agent.” I again turn towards the line, the line guard screams “sir, go to the kiosk,” I flashed my slip, she looked at it, moved out of the way, and pointed me to enter the line without saying a word or making eye contact. I guess it was a ticket, not to the airplane but to the line to see the agent. Ok, past the first hurdle, on to the next!
When I approached the counter, there were three agents. Two had on red coats and one with a blue coat. I’m wondering, “which of the three can help me and who would I want to work with?” Before any conclusion, one of the red coat agents says out loud at me while working with another passenger, “sir, if you don’t have any luggage, proceed to the gate.” I responded with “my ticket says see gate agent.” She points me to the agent in the blue coat who is already helping another passenger. I guess now I know who is the right person to help me. When it was my turn, she invited me over and asked for my ticket and ID. She was smiling and courteous. She identified a problem in the computer and said that she couldn’t check me in without a ticket number that I needed to obtain. She gave me room on the counter next to her and said she would help other passengers (line was forming behind me) while I obtained it.
At this point, I felt my emotional intelligence declining. I had followed all the rules and did everything I was supposed to do (even show up earlier!) up until this point, and was still being handed off to someone else. She observed my frustration, and instead of ignoring me, she said very kindly with a smile, “sir, I can help get you on this plane if you can help me by calling and getting the ticket number.” She reminded me that she was empowered but needed me, the customer, work with her as a team. This restored my confidence and established trust. I was influenced and willing to participate. The number I called said “desk is closed, call back later.” After she finished with the next passenger she checked in with me, I told her the desk was closed, she responded “i think I can help.” While she was working on the computer, she picked up the phone, got an agent on the line and then handed me her phone to use. She said, “talk to them, I’ll help a few other passengers in the meantime.” I’m on the phone explaining what happened and what I need. I was probably on the phone for 15-20 minutes. While helping other passengers, she would check in with me. The departure time was approaching. She checked in one more time, as soon as I mentioned to her that from my phone call it sounded like I was going to get what she needed, she called down to the gate letting them know that I was with her and that I would be making the flight (otherwise, they would of bumped me and gave my seat to a standby passenger).
As a frequent traveler, I had been in that exact situation many times before. There was one thing that was exceptional about this agent that inspired me to write. She kept smiling. At every roadblock, she kept smiling. When she spoke and when she looked at me or wasn’t looking at me, she kept smiling. Her smile created a positive energy that was contagious. It encouraged me to keep enduring forward and made me feel like we were on the same team.
Smiling at and with others through ease and difficulty is the single most powerful tool in Illuminating ourselves and others.
This agent, Illuminated me when my light was starting to dim in face of a stressful situation.