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Chet McDoniel

Recognition: The Friendly Skies

I am beginning a new series today entitled “Recognition.”  When bad things happen and I am wronged in some way, I am very quick to take to social media or an email to customer service to complain.  While there are legitimate times to voice a complaint, it is usually not in the heat of the moment.  To help combat my “quick to gripe” attitude, I am on the lookout for amazing service and plan to write about each occurrence here.  Not only will this help me focus on the positive, but maybe, some folks will get the recognition they so truly deserve.

We begin last Friday night.  After a week-long business trip to California, it was time to head home.  We had a later flight out of John Wayne Airport and so we didn’t land until after 10PM.  As is our custom, my wife and I remained in our seats while almost every passenger deplaned.  My wheelchair weighs 350 pounds and is very difficult to maneuver without me at the helm, and so we are used to the process taking extra time.  Once the plane had unloaded, though, we walked to the jet bridge and found…nothing.  My wheelchair wasn’t there.  No crew members were there.  No one from the airport was there.

Now, to their credit (and before you think this is a gripe), it was very late, and the one service person at our gate was helping an elderly woman who needed an aisle chair.  It felt good to stand up after a three hour flight, so we didn’t mind.  However, the minutes ticked by and still no wheelchair or personnel.  Finally, one of the flight attendants came out to see why we were still waiting.  She went to the top of the jet bridge to check and when she came back down, she told us that my wheelchair was waiting at the top of the jet bridge.

Great, except one problem.  I can’t walk that far and no one was there to push me in a manual wheelchair.  Joni was with me, but she was carrying three bags, and it was quite a steep hill.  So, the flight attendant called for another service helper to come to our gate.  She also notified the pilot.  After another five minutes, no one had showed up.  To our surprise, the captain of our flight (Capt. John) came out and told us that we had waited long enough and that he would push me up the jet bridge.  Not only is such a task not a part of Capt. John’s job description, but many people in positions of command would see the job of pushing someone in a wheelchair as beneath them.  Not Capt. John, though.  He pushed my wheelchair up, waited until I got in my powered wheelchair and then he went back down to finish his piloting duties.

After Joni and I got situated, we parted ways.  She headed to the baggage claim and I ventured off to the Sky Link to head to the terminal where we had parked before our departing flight that past Monday.  As I got on the Sky Link, Capt. John happened to board with me.  We made small talk and he asked where I was headed.  After I told him, he questioned as to whether my path would be impeded from the Sky Link to my van.  He was asking if he needed to come with me to my van.  Yet again, I was blown away.  He had been working all day and yet was willing to follow me to my van to make sure I could get there.

He didn’t have to…it wasn’t a part of his job…but he did it anyway…and for that,  I give Recognition to Capt. John of American Airlines flight 2389 (on Nov. 20).

Tweet to American Airlines about Capt. John

You Get What You Need

Prior to our arrival at Disney’s Polynesian Resort last week, I had requested a certain area of the resort to be close to some certain amenities I thought were desirable. Upon check-in, I learned we had been assigned the direct opposite of what I had requested. Now, it was simply a request, but a little part of me was disappointed. Isn’t that the natural response to not getting what you want?

We proceeded to the building where our room was located and I discovered two things:

1. Due to changes in refurbishment schedule that I had seen while planning the trip, the area I had originally requested was under heavy construction. Even if they could have put us in that area, we most certainly would have been disturbed by the noise.

2. The room that we were assigned had a perfect view of the monorails as they whizzed by. This proved to be the very thing that my kiddos wanted. I can’t tell you how many times Olivia (our two year old) simply sat and watched the monorails with a huge smile on her face.

I thought I wanted something else, but what I was given could not have been more perfect. So many times, we ask God for what we think we need only to be disappointed when something else comes our way. We may think it important to get a better job, or have an easier path in life. For many years when I was younger, I wanted arms. I thought they would make life easier, and that’s what I prayed for.

But God knew that arms are not what I need.

I need patience.
I need grace.
I need love.

And, to put it bluntly, I need to glorify God. If arms were needed to accomplish that goal, I would have received them in the first place.

So, I no longer pray for arms. Rather, I pray for opportunities to use my lack of arms in His name. And…that’s what I need.

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Please Remain Calm

Who would have ever thought changing health insurance companies would cause such a stressful day?  Apparently, my naiveté was responsible for yesterday’s tiring experience. Upon attempting to get a prescription refilled for the first time on our new insurance, I was told I had no prescription benefits. Well, since we have a fairly nice, shiny new policy, I did the only thing I could.  I got mad.  I didn’t take out my anger on the pharmacy tech (who apologized profusely over what was going on).  No, I prepared myself to let the health insurance customer service agent truly have it.  I dialed the number, and many frustrating automated prompts later, I was warmly treated to


Here I was in line at the pharmacy window and this new company, who had so gladly accepted my first premium payment, did not even have the decency to put me on hold? My anger level had increased from a simmer to a boil.  I came home and sat at my desk, dialed again, and finally was placed in the queue.  The next escalation of my frustration came when the robotic voice said my hold time was likely to be “in excess of 60 minutes.” Now, I had left simmering and boiling, and had moved straight to explosive!  Especially since the hold music I was forced to listen to only had two songs, both of which could only be described as terrible elevator music.

I tried to get some work done in the meantime.  I tried to settle down.  But, the longer they made me wait, the greater my headache grew.  It was around the three hour mark in my hold-time journey that something snapped in me.  All of the sudden, my thoughts were not on how rudely I was being treated, but on how rough of a day the customer service reps were having.  The job of these representatives is to listen to people complain all day long, and here they were with a hold time that they had no control over.  Imagine the screaming and yelling that had been directed at them all day long.

My attitude changed.

And, when, at the three hour and twenty-three minute mark, Trevor answered the phone, I was no longer angry.  I even tried to empathize with him by asking him if he was surviving this tough day.  His answer, “You’re the first person to ask.  I’m hanging in there, but thanks for asking.”  He fixed my problem, and the pharmacy was able to process the refill (for free due to my new benefits, I might add).  Just before I hung up, he wished me a good day, and I know I heard a smile on the other end of the line.  Maybe it was a smile that helped Trevor survive the rest of the day.  I pulled my emotions back in line, and instead of ruining someone else’s day, I made his day better.

What would the world look like if making someone else’s day brighter was our daily goal?